False-Equivalence Watch: A Positive Sign

From today's front-page NYT story by Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg, with an overview of the Romney strategy for the getting-serious-now stage of the election:

The Romney campaign is airing an advertisement falsely charging that Mr. Obama has "quietly announced" plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries, a message Mr. Romney's aides said resonates with working-class voters who see government as doing nothing for them.

The crucial word is, of course, "falsely," in the reporters' own voice.
  - Not "the Romney campaign says that the Obama administration has dropped work requirements for welfare; Mr. Obama's spokesmen deny the accusation."
  - Nor "an advertisement promotes what some critics consider inaccurate claims about..." 

  - But instead "an advertisement falsely charging...."

On the merits, this isn't a close call. Of course the claim is false. You can start with Conor Friedersdorf's dissection on our site and then search for others. But having reporters go ahead and say that is an important step -- and perhaps an extension of the inklings I mentioned a week ago.

On the other hand, here is how CNN today "explains" the relationship between the Republican party and America's racial struggles:

CnnRace.png

Of course it is true that:
  - 150 years ago, the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln was the party of anti-slavery and of Union;
  - 50 years ago, the Democrats still dominated the white vote in the "Solid South" and numbered among their members George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, John Stennis (whose Democratic predecessor was Theodore Bilbo), Lester Maddox, Jesse Helms, the young David Duke, etc; while the Republicans had a significant Northern liberal-moderate wing that included Nelson Rockefeller, John Lindsay, William Scranton, and the first African-American member of the Senate since Reconstruction, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts.

But what the article doesn't even mention is that 40-plus years ago the Republican party under Richard Nixon began its deliberate "Southern Strategy" of converting the white Southern vote from the Democrats' base to the Republicans'. Of course this followed Lyndon Johnson's support of civil rights legislation in the 1960s and his forecast that his stand would hurt the Democrats in the South for years to come. Nixon's strategy worked so thoroughly that many Southern Democrats who were still running for office in the 1970s and 1980s switched to the Republican party -- including Thurmond, Helms, Duke, and rising Texans like Phil Gramm and Rick Perry. Now we take for granted that, on the one side, the South is a lock for the Republicans in the Electoral College -- and, on the other, that a recent NBC-WSJ poll showed Romney-Ryan getting zero percent of the African-American vote.

Here instead is how the CNN item "explains" the GOP's recent evolution -- again with the reminder that the item is dominated by a picture of Lincoln and a headline saying that the anti-slavery drive provides the roots of "today's GOP":
When Herbert Hoover ushered in the Great Depression, the Republicans were driven into retreat.
It would be 20 years until they won the White House again, under Dwight Eisenhower.
But since 1969, they have been largely back to their winning ways [with victories by Nixon, Reagan, and the two Bushes]....
Now Mitt Romney is hoping to restart that tradition.
 [Update: If you watch the clickable video at the CNN site as opposed to just reading the transcript, the bogusness of their "explanation" is all the more dramatic. If CNN and Tom Foreman didn't know about the post-1960s chapter of history, that's pretty bad. If they did, it's worse.] Oh well. Let's look on the bright side and say congrats to the NYT. Thanks to readers MS and EG.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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