Surely you’ve had the experience of gazing into your refrigerator, hungry for a snack, when your eyes fall upon something tasty that has been there for a bit longer than usual. As kids, my brother and I would ask Dad if it was edible. Inevitably, he’d advise us to open the package and take a sniff. “If it stinks, throw it out.” Good advice for the refrigerator and for politics.
In recent days we’ve seen a heated debate between the Obama and Romney camps concerning portions of a speech given by Obama in Virginia on July 13th. A transcript is available on the White House website HERE. One line in that speech has drawn a great deal of attention. All sides to the debate agree that the president stated the following: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Past that, there is no agreement whatsoever. Along with Rush Limbaugh and certain GOP leaders, Team Romney insists that the comment demonstrates Obama’s disdain for capitalism and the sacrifices made by those who invest in and grow businesses. Members of Team Obama point to several sentences immediately preceding the comment, insisting that Obama was referring to our nation’s infrastructure. Here is the pertinent paragraph:
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”
Now let’s imagine for a moment that you are a genuinely impartial voter. You want to know what the truth is about this matter. You want to be informed. You like to think for yourself. So you use an Internet search engine to locate some assistance. Like many others, you might find your search engine pointing to an entry on this matter located on a website known as FactCheck.org. The website is clearly marked as “a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center” at the University of Pennsylvania. By clicking on the “About Us” button you quickly discover the following statement: “We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” There is even a classroom version of FactCheck, known as FactCheckED.
As you study the FactCheck “nonpartisan” commentary you discover that it leans heavily in favor of President Obama, though admitting that the manner in which he spoke was “inartfully phrased.” The commentary then goes on to demonstrate that even Romney agrees that there is a role for government in making our nation successful.
There is a great deal about this commentary that I like. The fact is that even constitutional conservatives like me agree that government is a necessary reality. But that’s not the debate. The debate is about the size, scope, and expense of government. The debate is about how much good and how much harm is being done in the name of government.
That seems clear enough, and even the folks at FactCheck state that Obama’s comments “invite a debate not only over the role of government, but how much responsibility the private sector has to help fund it.” (I’ll leave it to your wisdom to ask if that statement itself demonstrates a bias, as I believe it does!)
It starts to get cloudy if we analyze the background activities of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. The organization claims to be nonpartisan. In other words, it’s supposed to be neutral when it comes to political wrangling. But this doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
In fact, the Annenberg Public Policy Center is about as biased as they come. Would you like to take a guess about which side of the debate they favor? You can decide for yourself from the evidence below. I have included live links to make your efforts easier.
To begin with, the Director of the organization is an academic by the name of Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Just in time for the 2008 presidential election, Jamieson joined with another author to publish an attack on conservative media in the US known as Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment. The premise of the book is that Limbaugh, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox News have turned their audiences into what Publishers Weekly calls “a balkanized cohort.”
But there is more to understand about the “nonpartisan” foundation headed by Dr. Jamieson. It is funded in great part by the similarly named Annenberg Foundation. This foundation awarded nearly $50 Million to a reform project for Chicago public schools that operated from 1995 to 2001. A founding member of the organization was Bill Ayers. On the board of directors was none other than Barack Obama. For more details about the cozy relationship between Obama and Ayers (a self-admitted bomber and terrorist), see the article by Dick Morris that was published about a month prior to the 2008 presidential election. It may be found HERE. By the way, the Chicago organization was known as the Annenberg Challenge Foundation. Morris says it was founded in order to increase the political activism of Chicago students, if we are to believe the grant application submitted by Ayers. It did nothing to increase academic performance.
Does any of this prove anything of importance? Perhaps not. But it surely suggests some interesting connections between organizations and the people within those organizations–especially when they all bear the name of the same donor.
Bill Ayers applied for the money for the purposes of increasing political activism in Chicago schools. Barack Obama saw that the money was spent. We may never know exactly what went on as part of this organization, but one thing is sure. We have good reason to doubt the claim to political neutrality that is so proudly proclaimed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Trust what you sniff. You may not know exactly what’s going on, but you can still throw it out if it stinks.
Oh, for the record: there’s nothing wrong with being partisan. Just be honest about it.