WaPo Fact-Checker: Cory Booker On Trump Stealing Michigan Is Biggest Liar Since Barack Obama
In many ways, Wednesday was Cory Booker's night. In a debate that was mostly boring, tedious, and poorly thought-out, he landed some zingers and clearly had some fun, sparring with Joe Biden over his crime bill record and saying, "If you want to compare records, and frankly I'm shocked that you do, I am happy to do that." Elsewhere, he had a fun moment when he clearly got the best of Biden, who responded by calling Booker the "future president." As Amanda Marcotte notes at Salon, Biden was trying to land a zinger of his own, but Booker was the one who looked more presidential in that moment.
But the line from Booker we personally loved was when, in response to a question about how to make sure Democrats win back Michigan in 2020, he spoke a hard truth that too many in the lazy mainstream media and the Democratic Party seem terrified to say out loud:
This is one of those times where we're not staring at the truth and calling it out. And -- and this is a case for the Democratic Party, the truth will set us free.
We lost the state of Michigan because everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African American voters. We need to say that. If the African American vote in this state had been like it was four years earlier, we would have won the state of Michigan. We need to have a campaign that is ready for what's coming: an all out assault especially on the most valuable voter group in our -- in fact, the highest performing voter group in our coalition, which is black women.
And so I will be a person that tries to fight against voter suppression and to activate and engage the kind of voters and coalitions who are going to win states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
And the crowd went wild, and the Washington Post's dumbass fact-checker Glenn Kessler just called Booker a liar. And not just any liar either, but a FOUR PINOCCHIO liar. We thought the Post's fact-checker might be better at checking facts than that, but we are kidding, we didn't think that at all.
What's so odd about Kessler's verdict is that he painstakingly lays out the evidence that Russian and Republican voter suppression depressed turnout and gave Trump the paper-thin 10,700-vote margin he needed to prevail in Michigan. (It should always be noted when considering that margin that it's remarkably similar to the paper-thin margins Trump "won" in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the two other states that handed him an Electoral College victory, while he retained an embarrassing loss in the popular vote, which measures the will of actual human beings and doesn't grade on a curve for people who live in Buttfuck McFlyover.)
There is substantial evidence that Russia tried to discourage African Americans from going to polls in 2016 via social media.
Yes, there is! In fact, the Trump campaign specifically said it had voter suppression ops going, targeting "idealistic white liberals, young women and African Americans." And it had those ops going in the Rust Belt! MEANWHILE, Russian trolls were very coincidentally targeting the very same people in the very same places. Could it be because Paul Manafort was handing Rust Belt polling data to a Russian spy to give to Putin's favorite oligarch, so that it could be transferred to the Russian troll farm operation that needed guidance on exactly whom to target? We are not certain, but it's mighty strange! We'd probably know more if, as the Mueller Report states outright, Manafort and others didn't delete and conceal their communications during the time in question.
As it is, we still don't have a definitive answer to the question posed by Senator Mark Warner, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, about how the Russians magically knew exactly whom and where to target.
Kessler notes cautiously that correlation does not equal causation (you know, except for when it does), but grants that it was indeed depressed African-American turnout that made the difference in Michigan. He then spends about 150 words on the evidence that nothing was amiss, and black voters just didn't turn out for Hillary Clinton like they did for Obama. He also says Michigan actually wasn't that bad when it came to voter suppression, mostly noting that Michigan hasn't recently enacted any bad voting laws, because we guess that's the only way Republicans ever do "voter suppression." (To be fair, it is the way they do a lot of it!)
Then Kessler lays out the evidence on the other side of the case:
- He cites several reports stating that the Russian troll ops focused most exclusively on targeting false messages and propaganda against Hillary Clinton to black voters.
- He links to the Mueller report, where it states that the Internet Research Agency's fake Facebook groups like "Black Matters" and "Blacktivist" amassed hundreds of thousands of followers, and that the IRA's messaging reached "tens of millions" of Americans. And then he notes that there was a bizarre uptick in voters who simply did not choose a candidate for president, while voting all the way down the rest of the ticket. Voting machine fuckery? Propaganda? They just hated Hillary Clinton that much all on their own? We just don't know.
Kessler allows that we just don't know, but cites a couple of experts saying they haven't seen evidence that Russian voter suppression worked, and they must be right, because they are the experts.
Notably he doesn't get around to Paul Manafort passing Rust Belt polling data to the Russians, we guess because it's not important, because his "experts" say the Russians weren't successful, so who cares what Manafort did, we guess.
At the end, Kessler decides how many Pinocchios to give Cory Booker for being such a liar, and gives him FOUR, because here's why:
With a narrow margin of less than 11,000 votes, anything is possible, but election experts say there is no evidence the Russian or GOP efforts were successful. Instead, the most likely explanation for the loss was that Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, was on the ballot, so turnout by African American voters returned to pre-Obama levels.
Oh sweet lord, if the goddamned Washington Post is still this chickenshit, we are doomed.
We don't -- yet -- have exact numerical evidence of what would have happened if Russia and the Trump campaign hadn't spearheaded voter suppression efforts against black folks in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And here's the thing -- we may never. It's kind of hard to count people who probably would have voted but then they kept seeing these fucking ads on Facebook that said Hillary Clinton secretly hates black people and when voting day finally came, they decided it wasn't worth the trouble.
But one thing we do know is that every single time news comes out about the reach and the effects of Russian interference in 2016, the story gets bigger and darker and more damaging to the integrity of the 2016 election, and strengthens the case for the alarming possibility that the election itself was illegitimate. The story got worse when the Mueller Report came out. It got worse again last week when the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee released part of its report on Russian incursions into America's voting systems. (Read Josh Marshall's editor's note that day, which grapples with the question, "Do We Really Know The 2016 Results Weren't Altered?")
it's hard for those of us who want to have faith in our system, who desperately want to believe that clownfuck pretend elections are something that happens somewhere else (Russia, for example) and not here. (It's the same thing that makes it hard for many to wrap their heads around the fact that yes, Donald Trump is running concentration camps on the southern border. That can't happen here either, can it?) It's devastating to contemplate that it may not be true, at least for the 2016 presidential election. That's why Cory Booker called it a hard truth we have to stare in the face.
And we get why much of the mainstream media, at least at first, sucked on to the narrative that there was some sort of massive groundswell of white "economic anxiety" voters, some kind of silent majority, who gave Trump the election, even though Trump really didn't improve upon Mitt Romney's 2012 numbers by all that much. It was easier, and the mainstream media likes lazy narratives. But for fuck's sake, it is now 2019, and we are heading into a presidential election year with a president who may have had his election stolen for him, and who has expressed a desire for hostile foreign actors to intervene on his behalf again.
It's time to grow up and get out of denial. We get that Glenn Kessler is a "fact-checker," and therefore is looking at things empirically. While we are fairly certain in our personal gut that we will, in our lifetimes, find out that 2016 was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, an illegitimate election, we recognize that the evidence that Kessler needs to rate Cory Booker's statement as fully true simply isn't available yet.
But get a grip, dude. FOUR PINOCCHIOS? As in, the biggest grade of lie the Washington Post can give out? Fuck you. And by the way, the Post has a grade for what Booker's statement actually was, and if Kessler were being more honest -- or had the courage to stare the truth in the face, as Booker said -- he could have rated it appropriately:
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