May 17 2010
“Television to brainwash us all and Internet to eliminate any last resistance.”
- Paul Carvel
The ‘Obama is anti-military’ talking point
You see it in your emails, hear it on the radio and watch it on TV. A concentrated effort to portray President Obama as anti-military. Using terms regarding the president’s actions that range from indifference to the traitorous, opponents of the administration pull out all the stops to make the powerful voting community of military veterans and service personnel and their families and friends firmly believe this.
We’ve seen little reduction in the number of emails circulating and pundits spewing misinformation. Yet each new allegation or poorly supported op-ed piece gets people riled up and helps to confirm the narrative the opposition has been attempting to write. But what has been the reality of how the president has conducted affairs of state since he took office as compared to his campaign promises?
Luckily, the folks over at PolitiFact have had a running ‘Obameter’ to track campaign promises and what has happened since the election. They have a specific subsection of the Obameter dealing directly with military issues.
The system used by PolitiFact is best described from their site:
PolitiFact has compiled more than 500 promises that Barack Obama made during the campaign and is tracking their progress on our Obameter.
We rate their status as Not Yet Rated, In the Works or Stalled. Once we find action is completed, we rate them Promise Kept, Compromise or Promise Broken.
The Obameter collected 33 campaign promises made by then-Senator Obama in his run for the office of the president that were specifically about the military. All 33 promises have been acted on to varying degrees and so far there hasn’t been a single one broken. Many have stalled, some have been kept, there has been one compromise and most are ‘in the works’. Here’s how those promises and ratings break down:
- Send two additional brigades to Afghanistan
- Strengthen and expand military exchange programs with other countries
- Make greater investment in advanced military air technology
- Make U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional on anti-terror efforts
- Appoint a White House Coordinator for Nuclear Security
- Bolster the military’s ability to speak different languages
- Ensure the Guard and Reserves can meet their homeland security missions
In the Works
- Begin removing combat brigades from Iraq
- Increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps
- Increase special operations forces and civil affairs
- Make military deployments predictable for troops and families
- Limit Guard and Reserve deployments to one year for every six years
- End the “Stop-Loss” program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments
- Fully and properly equip troops
- Work with Russia to move nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert
- Review weapons programs
- Modernize ships and invest more in small vessels
- Set standards for when the government should hire defense contractors
- End the abuse of supplemental budgets for war
- Create a system of incentives and penalties for defense contracts
- Work to end NATO restrictions on forces in Afghanistan
- Train and equip the Afghan army
- Better integrate efforts of federal agencies with the military through new Mobile Development Teams
- Spend $5 billion over three years on cooperative programs with foreign intelligence agencies
- Expand federal bioforensics program for tracking biological weapons
- Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy
- Create a specialized military advisers corps
- Create a military families advisory board
- Restore 24-month limit on cumulative Guard and Reserve deployment time
- Make National Guard leader a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Establish transparency standards for military contractors
- Clarify legal status for defense contractor personnel
- Call for a consultative group of congressional leaders on national security
I strongly recommend that you visit the site here for more details on each individual issue above.
PolitiFact – Checking the source
While PolitiFact has proven extremely reliable over the years, there are always forces at work behind the scenes that are almost always partisan. So the source of ratings and information must be examined. From their site:
PolitiFact is a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in politics.
Every day, reporters and researchers from the Times examine statements by members of Congress, the president, cabinet secretaries, lobbyists, people who testify before Congress and anyone else who speaks up in Washington. We research their statements and then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter – True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True and False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get our lowest rating, Pants on Fire.
We also rate the consistency of public officials on our Flip-O-Meter using three ratings: No Flip, Half Flip and Full Flop.
So who is behind the St. Petersburg Times? We follow the rabbit hole down by taking the red pill, mixing analogies, and bring up Google, which leads us to wikipedia (sadly quickly becoming the most fact based source on the internet):
The Times traces its origins to the West Hillsborough Times, a weekly newspaper started in Dunedin, Florida in 1884. By 1912, the paper had been sold six times, had been relocated to St. Petersburg, and was published six days a week. Publisher Paul Poynter bought the paper in September 1912 and published it seven days a week. Paul’s son Nelson Poynter took majority control of the paper in 1947. Nelson Poynter died in 1974, having willed the paper to the Poynter Institute. In 2003, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described the St. Petersburg Times as a “usually liberal” newspaper
Another brief stopover in Googleland takes us to a website curiously focused on Russian politics for a Florida newspaper. We kick ourselves for not noticing the .ru extension and click on ‘back’ (ok we checked out that one story first).
With an adjusted search term we find a reliable dictionary that confirms the belief that they are left leaning. Via NationMaster.com:
Encyclopedia > St. Petersburg Times
The St. Petersburg Times is a daily newspaper based in St. Petersburg, Florida, that serves the larger Tampa Bay area. The Times sells 334,742 papers per day Monday through Saturday, making it the largest paper in Florida and the 23rd largest in the United States. On Sunday it sells 420,251 papers, and the Times estimates about 755,000 people read the daily edition, while on Sundays it is approximately one million.
It traces its origins a newspaper that started in Dunedin, Florida, in 1884. Its editorial leanings are generally considered to be liberal, in contrast to its more conservative-leaning competitor, the Tampa Tribune.
The Times is published by the Times Publishing Company, which is owned by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school in St. Petersburg directly adjecent to the University of South Florida campus in St. Petersburg. The Poynter Institute is a school and resource for journalism, located in St. Petersuburg. The University of South Florida (USF) is a public university located in Tampa, Florida, USA, with branch campuses in Saint Petersburg.
In comparison to the rest of the pundit and pundit watch universe, PolitiFact is center of the road, especially in this partisan atmosphere. What’s more important however is their track record. And the information they have put out over the past two years especially has been solid, fair and analytical. Watching several sites constantly gives you a good feel for who to trust and who to visit to look for material. PolitiFact is certainly in the former category.
So what does this mean to us? That depends on who you are and how you feel about President Obama. There are facts and there are lies, on both sides of the spectrum. But if people believe that President Obama is actively working to harm the military family they probably have not consulted the proper evidence available to them. That information likely came from sources of opposition to the president, and there has been no shortage of misinformation from those sources. By all evidence available and cross checked with other sources, President Obama has been pro-military and pro-military families in his first year and 4 months. The trust level seems to be rising slowly and subtly, but it is on an upward track. Facts have a way of making it out, and are pretty resistant to attempts to destroy them. Even if it takes a long time and usually, unfortunately, it is too long to make a difference and we all give ourselves a collective facepalm. History is full of examples.
(My pre-emptive apologies for offending anyone as well as the usual disclaimer that this is not necessarily an opinion of MOAA in this editorial is by now a tacit understanding, right? If not or you are new to the site, there you go.)
Our political and social leanings determine our level of enjoyment of sources, and we naturally trust those sources to provide correct information. We associate debunking and counter-propaganda with the ‘other side’. It is the nature of Americans to be as competitive as possible at all times. We don’t have a realistically existential threat to the nation right now, so as usual we become more competitive with each other and protective of the borders, and as we have seen recently we sometimes combine them for an extra level of strife. Let’s just keep the fringes on the fringe and make sure rhetoric doesn’t lead to violence and going places we won’t be able to come back from as a nation. So question everything, all the time. Post your counter evidence and speak your mind, or do like most people have and leave it all behind and speak from your gut with the assumption that the other person is lying. But at the end of the night, everyone turn off their computer and get some rest. We all need it.