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Obama should stick to the facts tonight

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Here’s a suggestion for President Barack Obama as he prepares for his big moment on stage at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. tonight:

Embrace the fact-checkers.

If Mr. Obama and the Democrats aim to stand out from the fact-free zone that was the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., then this week, facts, and lots of them, will matter.

There are plenty of partisans on the left and the right (and journalists) who occasionally take issue with the latest journalism craze of fact-checking sites, from PolitiFact to FactCheck.org, and Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.

Minus their tendency to be too-cute-by-half by yelling "pants on fire," (as PolitiFact does) most of the fact-checkers do a fair, responsible job of checking statements made by politicians so voters can know whether they’re stretching the truth or just outright lying.

Fact is, the campaign for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has made it clear that its respect for facts comes somewhere far down the priority scale from political expediency.

At least they’re honest about that.

Here’s what Mr. Romney’s pollster told a forum during the Tampa convention:

"We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," pollster Neil Newhouse said.

That strategy couldn’t have been more obvious during vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech, widely labeled by numerous fact-checkers as completely dishonest.

Mr. Obama should take a different tack tonight in Charlotte.

Tell the truth. And not just about the stuff that makes you look good.

Admit to the American people, for instance, that you should have come out stronger in favor of the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction plan now pushed by many leaders in both parties. While Mr. Ryan failed to mention that he was on the commission and refused to endorse its conclusions because they included tax increases, you can tell the whole truth.

You were too slow to embrace it, in part because you knew Republicans like Mr. Ryan would block you. Now you support most of the concepts in Simpson-Bowles, including, yes, tax increases. (And, please, let’s stop calling them revenue enhancements or whatever Democratic strategists have adopted as the sugar-coated phrase of the day).

Tell the middle class the truth: That you can’t just tax the rich at reasonable levels and solve all the country’s financial problems. Some middle class tax breaks will have to be on the table, too. Some people might have to retire a couple of years later to save Social Security. Some senior citizens might have to give up a few Medicare perks to save the program for everybody else.

Talk about the continued quagmire in Afghanistan, and the growing concern over Syria and Iran, and contrast your measured approach to violence in the Middle East with the rush-to-war attitude that Mr. Romney seems to be adopting.

While you’re at it, mention that you ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

It’s the truth.

And talk about your executive decisions to ignore bad federal laws that discriminate against gays and the children of immigrants. Would it have been better if your policies to respect everybody’s human rights were enacted through Congress? Of course it would have been, but it’s tough to do when the Republicans have declared that their No. 1 priority is defeating you at all costs.

We’re all in this together. Tell the American people that.

 

—McClatchy Tribune Services

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