Selective lip service

The old saying goes that someone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts. But the fact of the matter is most facts tossed around during elections are subject to interpretation. And that’s a fact.

The campaign spotlight right now is turned on the Republicans and the media is in high fact-checking mode. Paul Ryan used his acceptance speech for the vice presidential nomination to launch into a dizzying array of claims that had his acolytes buzzing and nodding their heads while pundits and fact-checkers went into full gotcha mode to see what was true and what didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Dan Kennedy does a very good job of rounding up some of the more notable critiques. One that had everyone’s attention was Ryan’s claim that President Obama failed to keep a General Motors plant in Ryan’s hometown in Wisconsin open despite a promise by then-candidate Obama that he’d make sure the plant would “stay here for another hundred years.” The plant didn’t stay open and actually closed at the end of 2008 – a month before Obama took office.

But not all claims are so easily debunked. Take Ryan’s touting of Mitt Romney’s record as a budget-balancing, job-creating, bipartisan chief executive during his four years as Massachusetts governor.

“He was the Republican governor of a state where almost nine in 10 legislators are Democrats, and yet he balanced the budget without raising taxes,” Ryan told the true believers in Tampa last night. “Unemployment went down, household incomes went up, and Massachusetts, under Mitt Romney, saw its credit rating upgraded.”

Every bit of that is true but a bevy of fact-checking sites gave the claims a modicum of credit for truth-telling while minimizing Romney’s accomplishments. Under the Massachusetts Constitution, the budget has to be balanced, so what Romney did is no different from what every other governor before and after has done. And the claim “without raising taxes” does not take into account that Romney raised a number of fees and closed some tax loopholes to trigger about $750 million in additional revenue.

Many of the fact-checkers don’t want to give Romney credit for lowering unemployment when other factors were equally important. Or they question the claim that he raised incomes when the figures cited were not inflation-adjusted, according to some experts. But does that make the claims false? Isn’t Gov. Deval Patrick taking credit for a relatively robust state economy with an unemployment rate below the national average on the same plane as Romney’s record?

Romney and Ryan are also being taken to task for hammering Obama for claiming Medicare savings totaling $716 billion through the Affordable Care Act without mentioning Ryan’s budget proposal uses the same figure. And while Ryan zinged Obama for failing to adopt any recommendations from his deficit reduction panel, some say Ryan is being disingenuous for failing to acknowledge he was a member of that panel and voted against many of the suggestions.

Most media outlets were once content to report the claims and counterclaims and allow readers, viewers, and listeners to come to their own conclusions. Now, that appears to be changing. Big media outlets are adjusting to the “post-truth age,” the Atlantic’s James Fallows writes. Fallows’s colleague Derek Thompson says the GOP’s indictment of President Obama’s jobs record should be resonating, except that they’re jumbling the argument with meaningless distortions. Paul Krugman argues the GOP’s five strongest campaign themes are all untrue.

Who has the corner on facts?

                                                                                                                                               –JACK SULLIVAN


Brockton’s municipal unions have made a proposal on changing the health plan that would bar the city from adopting the state health insurance law until 2018. The mayor has countered with an offer that would delay acceptance until 2015.

A Fall River city councilor wants the state to clarify its approval of an expansion of the city’s landfill.

This Foxborough trash hauler fight is filthy.

A bankruptcy judge in Pennsylvania orders Harrisburg to raise its income tax, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.


A Florida federal judge blocks restrictions on voter registration.


Paul Ryan keynotes Wednesday’s RNC, pledging to restore “missing” leadership in Washington. Ryan signals that he and Mitt Romney will press ahead with their Medicare attacks, despite a thorough New York Times debunking last week that held reversing the cuts they decry would accelerate Medicare’s insolvency. The Times looks at Romney’s campaign overhaul as a corporate restructuring effort; this is bait Gail Collins simply cannot resist. Ron Paul’s delegates make their last stand, against the GOP’s delegate selection structure. Speculation is fierce over who the mystery speaker is in the Thursday RNC lineup. The spotlight is glaring brighter on the racial incidents that have occurred during the convention. The Republicans in Tampa tiptoe around the Bush presidency.

Sen. Scott Brown hits Tampa on Thursday, and he can’t get out of town quickly enough. Ayla Brown, his daughter, sang the national anthem on Wednesday. Both Brown and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren court Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, but Menino remains coy, the Wall Street Journal reports.

US Rep. John Tierney and Republican challenger Richard Tisei are at odds over debates, the Lowell Sun reports.

Suffolk Superior Court Clerk Maura Hennigan is in a nasty race against her former assistant, Robert J. Dello Russo Sr., the Globe reports.

Sean Bielat, running for the Republican nomination in the Fourth Congressional District, is plagued by campaign finance missteps, the Globe reports.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren says he will run for a second term, the Globe reports.


A proposed disaster relief program for the New England groundfishery calls for $100 million in buyouts, the Gloucester Times reports.

Verizon now says 8,000 customers lost phone, Internet, and TV service after a fiber optic cable in Lawrence was damaged when a homeless man’s bedding caught on fire under a bridge, the Eagle-Tribune reports.


The Massachusetts Historical Society sells a suit worn by Ben Franklin to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The price was not disclosed.


The state Department of Public Health announced seven more cases of West Nile Virus and some communities such as New Bedford are taking up spraying in their neighborhoods on their own. The AP (via WBUR) says only one of the cases is confirmed, the other six probable. Nationally, the number of West Nile cases is soaring and may hit a record this year, USA Today reports.

Reforms in Utah fail to trim the ranks of the uninsured; records indicate 13 percent of the population lacks health insurance, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.


Gov. Deval Patrick dismisses the state transportation board as he prepares to expand its numbers from five to seven, the Globe reports.


The Springfield Republican hails the Cape Wind project, now poised to begin construction after the FAA announced that the project posed no danger to aviation. The paper says that the turbines must be looked at as “symbols of progress.”

Chatham closes its beaches because of shark sightings, the Associated Press reports (via WBUR).


Newton’s police chief is placed on administrative leave for making abusive comments to a female secretary, WBUR reports.


The Globe won’t identify the author of an editorial that it lifted from WBUR.

Keller@Large wonders what’s in Massachusetts water that makes so many of the state’s politicians run for — and sometimes win — presidential nominations.

Documentarian Erroll Morris says in a new book that Jeffrey MacDonald did not kill his wife and kids, the Daily Beast reports. MacDonald was the focus of Joe McGinniss’s best-seller Fatal Vision.