Parsing the questions - Politifact and Jeep
Rich Gardner | 01.18.2013
In which I parse statements from Politifact and The Weekly Standard and conclude they're both wrong, but that Romney deserves to be condemned anyway.
The Weekly Standard is outraged, outraged, I tell you!, the Poltifact apparently stretched the truth when it said that Mitt Romney lied during the closing days of the 2012 campaign. They give us a general description, based on Politifact's statements, of what Romney allegedly said:
"It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign -- that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China."
Now, to me, the word "moving" is extremely critical. That doesn't just suggest that Jeep was planning on opening up factories in China, it suggests that Jeep is letting Americans go and re-locating American jobs there. Here's Romney's statement as quoted by The Plum Line:
“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney said at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, home to a General Motors powertrain plant. “I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair America will win.”
Sounds to me as though that's exactly what Romney is saying. The Weekly Standard goes on to show that Jeep is indeed opening up factories in China to serve the Chinese market and flourishes this fact as though it proves their point that Politifact is being dishonest. But the WS quotes a Jeep executive who says:
"Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China," Ranieri wrote..."
Again, the question for me is not whether Jeep was opening up a factory in China, it was, but whether it was doing so at the expense of American jobs. Could Americans have been producing Jeeps in the US and then shipped those cars to China? As WS says:
To recap, Jeep Patriots—oh irony, you capricious sprite!—that were heretofore exclusively produced in America and sold overseas are now going to be made and sold overseas. [emphases in original]
Probably, but let's keep in mind that Japan makes Japanese cars in the US for the US market, so it would be hypocritical for Americans to complain of Jeep producing cars in China for the Chinese market. From a Forbes piece that makes it sound as though the US is fast becoming the Mexico to Japan's US (A country that is assembling products for the wealthier market), Forbes states that:
The Japanese carmaker [Honda] has invested more than $2.2 billion in its North American operations over the past two years, enabling it to increase production capacity in North America from the current 1.63 million to 1.92 million units per year in 2014.
Now, what precisely did Politifact condemn Romney for?
PolitiFact has selected Romney's claim that Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs as the 2012 Lie of the Year.
WS correctly points out that, yes indeed, Jeep is indeed producing Jeep models in China for the Chinese market, just as Japan is producing Japanese cars in America for the American market. So yes, Politifact goofed up and accused Romney of the wrong thing. Why did Romney's statement draw so much fire at the time? My own "ruling" is that Romney suggested that Americans would lose their jobs and that those jobs would be moved overseas. So yes, Romney's statement that "Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” [emphasis added] is very clearly false and Romney very clearly had good reason to know that it was false and that his statement richly deserved condemnation.
So, when it comes to fact-checking, an endeavor that's worthy and something all reporters should do, Politifact demonstrates that it's far from an exact science or...well, that they're really not very good at doing it. I feel that Romney was rightly condemned for making an inflammatory statement that he knew full well was false, or at the very least highly misleading, but that Politifact deserves condemnation for making a statement that they, in turn, also had reason to know was false. Yes, Jeep was indeed planning to set up factories in China and yes, they condemn Romney for saying just that, but Romney deserves condemnation for suggesting that Jeep would do so at the expense of American jobs.