Politifact sounds like a good idea, in theory.
Operated by the Tampa Bay Times, reporters and editors from the Times and affiliated media outlets “fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups”
That good idea has had its share of problems, doubters and dissenters, from Republicans casting it as a liberal, left-wing operation to Democrats casting it as a conservative, right-wing operation. So, depending on the topic, the individuals involved, the political views of the readers, Politifact can be on the money or off the rails.
This means that the Trump-O-Meter PolitiFact will launch this Friday, following the swearing-in of Donald John Trump as the 45th President of the United States, could be wildly fantastic or wildly fabulous as it tries to keep up with promises the Donald has made on the campaign trail and in the months following his national magic trick win of the presidency.
Poised to be a failed president even before he’s inaugurated, Trump’s many wide-eyed promises include, but are not limited to, bringing coal jobs back to West Virginia, bringing manufacturing jobs back to Michigan, fixing the inner city of Baltimore and the airports in New York, cutting taxes and growing the military, creating paid family leave, balancing the budget, building a wall along the Mexican border, killing Obamacare, protecting Social Security and taking care of veterans.
“For the past six months, PolitiFact has been cataloging promises Donald Trump—who lost the popular tally by nearly three million votes—made to voters in speeches, appearances, interviews and debates,” Tampa Bay Times reporters Aaron Sharockman and Allison Grave wrote.
“Today we launch our Trump-O-Meter, which will track 102 of the most significant pledges emblematic of his unconventional campaign,” they said. The Trump-O-Meter will measure whether Trump is able to accomplish what he told voters and ultimately rate each promise as “Kept, Broken or Compromise.” The reporters said it remains the same process previously used to track the campaign promises made by President Barack Obama.
In shorthand, the Trump-O-Meter run by PolitiFact “combines old-fashioned beat reporting with online structured data to create a Web-based catalog of Donald Trump’s campaign promises. We define a promise as a guarantee of prospective action that is verifiable.”
Donald Trump—who a plurality of Americans think he will be a “poor” or “terrible” president—may be the most mercurial president in the nation’s history, saying one thing one minute and something totally different or confusing the next. It’s just a matter of time, maybe seconds, after the Trump-O-Meter rates one of his statements “Pants on Fire,” the highest rating for lying, that President Trump will tweet-attack as over-rated, dishonest or fake news.
Like Politifact’s fact-checks, each promise is assigned a rating with a report that explains why it was rated as it was. A promise fulfilled, or largely fulfilled, rates Promise Kept; a promise not fulfilled rates a Promise Broken; and a rating of Compromise is assigned to outcomes that are substantially less than the original pledge, but still achieve something significant consistent with the goal. Prior to PolitiFact’s final judgment, promises can be rated In the Works, Stalled or Not Yet Rated.
Promises are rated based on outcomes, not intentions. If Congress blocks Trump’s pledge, it rates a Promise Broken. The decision on this method was made after realizing that it would be impossible to rate whether a politician intended to keep a promise or put in enough effort.
It’s anybody’s guess, in the brave new world of “post-truth” facts, where facts don’t add up to much for many people who don’t like the answer they point to, and where fake news and massive dis-information is the new order. Whether the Trump-O-Meter will be helpful or just another set of views some will champion while others will disparage is unclear.
New Rating Suggestion: “Country On Fire”
What is clear, though, is that the Trump-O-Meter won’t change minds or bring people together. The giant abyss of hyper-partisanship, wrought over decades that turned federal government into the nation’s new enemy, has created an inability by most quarters to back down, apologize or see the world from another point of view, after their beliefs are shattered by fact-based-reality.
It’s tough to talk mathematics with Einstein, when he knows 2+2=4 but you think 2+2=5 or 6 or some other number. There can be no productive, progressive discussion.
For everyone at Politifact, here’s a little forecast that’s not intended to steal your thunder: Don’t be surprised when Donald Trump’s promise to deliver affordable health care, at a cheap price for everyone after he deregulates private insurers and let’s them run wild again, earns what should be a new rating category, scaled to size for the Donald’s outsized ego and bold braggadocio, “Country on Fire.”