After last night’s Republican debate over national security and foreign policy, CNN called upon Tom Foreman to check some of the facts asserted by the candidates, in a segment entitled “Keeping Them Honest.”
It soon became clear that Foreman and CNN were not interested in checking the candidates’ facts–which were correct in each case–but in checking their opinions, while misleading viewers about the candidates’ honesty.
First, Foreman checked Mitt Romney’s list of the Obama administration’s proposed defense cuts. Foreman had to admit that “He’s got all the numbers right. All of those cuts are correct, the ones he named.” Yet he objected to Romney’s alleged exclusion of “context” such as the fact that the U.S. spent $700 billion on defense, “more than the next 17 nations combined.” Hence he rated Romney’s statement “true, but incomplete.”
That’s not fact–that’s Foreman’s own apparent opinion that Obama’s defense cuts are irrelevant as long as the U.S. remains the world’s pre-eminent military power. Foreman begged the question of whether we are spending as much as our potential enemies, rather than considering America’s existing commitments and unique leadership role. It was, essentially, an anti-war critique of Romney’s view–not an analysis of his facts.
Second, Foreman considered Newt Gingrich’s statement that U.S. oil production should be increased to “replace Iranian oil.” Foreman claimed Gingrich’s statement was a “trap” because it would require U.S. oil production to increase by 50 percent. That would, in turn, take time and investment–too much, Foreman suggested, to be a useful way of pressuring Iran. He therefore labeled Gingrich’s statement on Iran as “misleading.”
That was, once again, opinion masquerading as fact. In September CNN itself reported that the oil industry was prepared to “increase domestic energy production almost 50%.” Gingrich’s argument did not hinge on whether that could be done overnight; he was discussing policies the U.S. could adopt alongside other steps. Foreman added a false context, perhaps informed by anti-war or anti-fossil fuel opinion, to slam Gingrich.
Third, Foreman took on Michele Bachmann’s concern about Pakistani nuclear weapons. He called her view “misleading”: “Pakistani security is considered fairly strong, and their nukes are kept dismantled, with different parts in different places. So the idea that terrorists would get them together, as she suggested, somehow have them operational, get them out of the country, get them to the United States…is a real stretch.”
Foreman did not cite any evidence for his conclusion. Bachmann, however, could have cited a recent report by NPR–hardly a bastion of conservative thought–that Pakistan was moving intact nuclear weapons around its territory in delivery trucks–“literally, they are using vans.” Once again, it was Foreman’s own opinion–not the statement of the candidate–that was misleading, especially since it was presented, falsely, as fact.
If Foreman’s analysis had been based–as advertised–on facts alone, he ought to have rated each statement as “true.” But he and CNN apparently cared less about “Keeping Them Honest” than about keeping their viewers skeptical of the Republican field.
For their unfounded suggestions of dishonesty by the candidates, and their blatant attempt to substitute opinion for fact, Tom Foreman and CNN both deserve a bright red “False.”