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News Political Spin

  1. Sep 7, 2012 #1

    russ_watters

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    Spin is the art of presenting facts in such a way as to make yourself look good. The best spin, IMO, utilizes accurate facts (to avoid being shown a liar), but utilizes cherry-picking and carefully worded descriptions to paint a picture much more favorable than another view might present. In the coming election, spin is going to be critical because the economy is not in good shape right now and Obama is going to have to present it as getting better and 'not my fault'. Romney, in turn, will have to present it as 'his fault' and not getting better fast enough. All four of these positions will have defensible facts associated with them, however I believe that the less spinn-y facts go against Obama. In other words, Romeny can in a lot of cases state a plain, clear fact and Obama will have to weasel around it, adding qualifications and cherry-picking the date range. This will be big in the election. Case in point, jobs.

    One important self-label of incumbents is "Job Creator"(though just being a net positive shouldn't be a win, since the population is continuously growing). Obama will not be able to use this label without qualification -- with only one more jobs report to come out before the election, he is virtually assured of having a negative overall jobs record. So he'll have to move the goalposts and cherry-pick sectors in order to present himself in a positive light. Case in point:
    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-m...ack-obama-says-us-has-gained-half-million-ma/

    This is a beaut. It mostly blames his predecessor, including blaming him for job losses in the first year of his own term and turns a net loss (in his term) into a gain (over part of his term).

    Now the goalposts themselves in this issue are an interesting factor. People tend to like to focus on the exact start of a President's term because it is easy. In the past, that's worked out pretty well for Democrats, but this time goalpost shifting is going to be needed. The reality is, it isn't even necessarily wrong to do: It was October of 2009 before the unemployment rate peaked for Obama, but realistically there wasn't much he could have done for most of that time. But the same applies to Bush and unlike Obama, he wasn't lucky enough to have the job losses of his predecessor start before he entered office. The economic cycle's nadir was ligned-up about six months later for Bush than for Obama's.

    There are a lot of straightforward issues that separate the candidates (abortion, gay marriage, universal healthcare, etc.), and there isn't much spin that can go into those. But because the economy is still kinda crappy, I think this election will mostly be about how each candidate spins the economic facts in their favor.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2012 #2
    Re: Spin

    You've included a tiny bit of spin of your own there. You say "job losses in the first year" which seems to imply that jobs were lost during the entire first year of Obama's term. Unemployment only increased until October of 2009, which is only 9 months. [1] I don't think it's too unreasonable to blame Obama's predecessor for those losses, since Obama's policies wouldn't have had a chance to take effect until then.

    On the other hand, economies tend to come out of recession regardless of what the executive branch does, as long as it doesn't do anything wacky. So, I feel that the biggest spin from the Democrats is giving Obama credit for the recovery, when it was probably coming anyway, in one form or another. But, that's ubiquitous in politics. Executives from mayors to presidents take all the credit for jobs created and none of the blame for jobs lost during their term.

    I credit Obama for not actively making things worse and not doing anything crazy. Anything else regarding the recession and recovery, in my opinion, is spin.

    On social issues, on the other hand, you're right. There are stark differences, and I am in much stronger agreement with Obama and the Democrats on those, no spin required.
     
  4. Sep 7, 2012 #3

    russ_watters

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    Re: Spin

    I didn't intentionally pick the range; it was a guestimate based on Clinton's statement of 2.5 years of gains. Obama has been in office for 3 years and 7.5 months (3.625 years) . 3.625-2.5= 1.125 years. I didn't dig into Clinton's claim to pinpoint the inflection points.

    But since we're nitpicking, there is a difference between "job losses" and "unemployment". Unemployment is heavily affected by people entering and leaving the job market and as a result, unemployment can be stabilizing while job losses are still occurring. This happened in Obama's term: Job losses continued until March, when he'd been in office for just over a year and a month. This is also why unemployment ticked-down in today's report, despite job gains below required replacement level (gains aren't enough to reduce unemployment over the long term: you need job gains to be faster than working-age population gains).
    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/non-farm-payrolls

    So Clinton had it pretty close.
    Well I guess, but that's "spin" that has little in the way of facts to support or counter. It is pretty tough to prove or disprove a "what if". Obama has to convince people that his stimulus sped up the recovery and Romney has to argue that it didn't -- or didn't enough, at the expense of the debt. What I find more interesting is the real facts (as opposed to the speculation) that can be used in opposite directions. Also, for the purposes of this election, Obama is probably better at the kind of spin you're referring to. Romney will have to stick to the other kind.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2012
  5. Sep 8, 2012 #4

    BobG

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    Spin: 96,000 jobs created in August, the 30th straight month of adding jobs instead of losing jobs.

    Except you need to add about 150,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth.

    Combined with a slight drop in unemployment rate (which can also sometimes be deceiving), you have a bad month that can be presented as at least making a little bit of progress.

    One key is presenting the information, yourself, as soon as possible, before you're trying to defend yourself against the spin your opponent would like to put on it.
     
  6. Sep 9, 2012 #5

    Pythagorean

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    I find that Half-truths are significant aspect of spin. The majority of ratings for both candidates are "Half True" according to politifact. Obama with 105 Half truths (25% of his ratings) and Romney with 26 Half truths (28% of his ratings). So about a quarter of their ratings. Obama talks more.

    Some of these half-truths are probably not intentional, not sure if that still qualifies for spin. Whatever the case, Obama's a better spinster;

    The chairs of their respective parties, however, have the majority of their ratings in "False".
    the DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Shultz has been caught spinning a lot lately. The RNC Chair too too.


    full stats for candidates:

    Obama:
    True - 94 (23%)(94)
    Mostly True - 97 (24%)(97)
    Half True - 105 (26%)(105)
    Mostly False - 48 (12%)(48)
    False - 58 (14%)(58)
    Pants on Fire - 6 (1%)

    Romney:
    True - 27 (17%)(27)
    Mostly True - 21 (13%)(21)
    Half True - 46 (28%)(46)
    Mostly False - 26 (16%)(26)
    False - 27 (17%)(27)
    Pants on Fire - 15 (9%)
     
  7. Sep 9, 2012 #6
    I find it interesting that Romney tells falsehoods significantly more often than Obama. It was Romney's campaign, afterall, who claimed that their campaign won't be "dictated by fact-checkers."
     
  8. Sep 9, 2012 #7
    I find it more interesting that falsehoods told by Romney are more likely to be more egregious. Obama doesn't tell you the whole truth (per Pythagorean, 73% of the time Obama is telling at least half the truth, and tells you most of the truth nearly half the time). Romney flat out lies to your face (41% of the time, Romney is telling at least mostly lies).

    Romney shouldn't have to lie to make his case. The economy is bad; it is getting worse; and Obama could have done more. If he were honest about these three facts, and could present some policies of his own that weren't rehashes of Bush the Younger, he would likely be much better off today.
     
  9. Sep 10, 2012 #8

    russ_watters

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    On that, we agree and that was kinda my point for starting the thread: Romney really doesn't need to do anything but give straightforward, naked statistics, then say "Obama's fault". Obama is the one who needs to be able to spin.
     
  10. Sep 10, 2012 #9
    Yes certainly true Romney has nothing to defend but his personal life. Aren't we comparing apples against oranges? Romney only need to be offensive while Obama will be quite defensive about his policies in last few years.
     
  11. Sep 10, 2012 #10
    Neither of them have to spin. Romney can say "Obama and Democrats had two years of unobstructed legislation to fix the economy. They didn't. How about you vote me in and let me take care of it?" Obama can turn around and say, "The economy was getting better - until the Republicans took over in 2010 and started blocking things like my jobs bill and made repealing Obamacare their #1 focus." Both are 100% accurate, and both make compelling arguments to their respective bases and to independents. So why can't Romney just stick to his side of the truth? Obama, at least, is sticking mainly to his with relatively minor spin.
     
  12. Sep 10, 2012 #11
    Economy's really complicated, there are many variables, and you won't see any substantial changes in the short run IMO. Best is to cherry pick stats here and there and mis-represent them.

    Edit: And, I forgot to point out the lag between policies and effect of those policies. You don't just throw in a policy and have jobs generated next day. It can take many years or decades to see the effects of a policy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  13. Sep 10, 2012 #12
    When Romney ignores the positive and emphasizes the negative in his attacks, that's not spin. Spin is when Obama defends himself by ignoring the negative and emphasizing the positive.
     
  14. Sep 10, 2012 #13
    I think that's all Romney will need to do for this elections. He doesn't need any spins unless he want to defend the past Republicans economy policies.
     
  15. Sep 10, 2012 #14
    Sharp as a tack.
     
  16. Sep 10, 2012 #15

    Evo

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    Unfortunately, it won't be enough to convince the American public to overlook his failings.

    Let's see who's ahead in the polls. :smile:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/us/general_election_romney_vs_obama-1171.html

    Oh, it's Obama!!

    And to be honest, for Romney to get ahead in the polls, he's going to need a ton of spin to make Americans forget why they don't like him, IMO.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2012
  17. Sep 12, 2012 #16

    BobG

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    Romney's whole political life has been spin when it comes to some issues. Romney's stand on abortion and stem-cell research:

    The Conversion

    And one of the reasons people don't like Romney is that he's used so much "spin" that people aren't sure who he is.

    He needs a better way to spin his spin!
     
  18. Sep 12, 2012 #17

    mheslep

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    I think the sense of proportion is out of whack on flip-flopping when by contrast we have a sitting President who was elected with a clear position against gay-marriage, but now has changed his position in office to support gay marriage. In his case he's said to have "evolved". There are numerous other examples, the day one promise to close Git Mo "within a year" which remains open, etc. But it is Romney that uses too much spin and flip flops?
     
  19. Sep 12, 2012 #18
    (my bold)
    Changing an opinion is not flip-flopping. I don't begrudge Romney if his views on abortion have changed, nor do I begrudge Obama if his on gay marriage have changed.

    However, Obama's view on Gitmo has not changed, as far as I can tell (or at least, he's given up on trying to convince an overwhelming portion of Congress to close it). He can't close it onhis own - he's not a tyrant, despite what others might opine.
     
  20. Sep 12, 2012 #19

    mheslep

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    Neither do I, for either man, to the extent it is an honest change of opinion versus a craven political move. My problem is that the media spin is Romney flip flops while Obama changes his opinion, typified by Bob's post and link above.

    You mean maybe that he can't unilaterally bring the detainees into the US under current law. Of course he has the power to close Git Mo or any other US military facility on the planet with a phone call; at any moment he could fly the lot to, say, the camp at Bahgram AF base in Afghanistan, or even release them all. Of course sending the 911 master mind off to a Pakistani or a Yemeni resort would not go well with me, or I imagine the US voters in general.

    Edit: As daveb points out, Congress setup some transfer limitations in 2011
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012
  21. Sep 12, 2012 #20

    russ_watters

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    Obama is commander in chief of the military and it is a military prison, so yes he can close it. The problem is mostly one of conservation of mass: closing it doesn't make the prisoners disappear. This issue was a head-scratcher to me in the last election. It seemed to me that due to Obamamania, people believed him when he said he could do physically impossible things.

    I do agree on Obama being judged more leniently. While some is about presentation (he didn't try to hide the flip), that still just mean people are falling for his spin. He presents this as a flip based on doing the right thing, but few people then look at the other side of the coin: until last year, he was knowingly doing the wrong thing, for political gain. There is no nobility in such a flip and it dismays me that people can so easily ignore such a clear demonstration that he isn't who he proclaims to be. He is not "Change".
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012
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