Ever compete against ballplayers who cheat?
You know the type -- the runner who tags early on a sacrifice fly. The pitcher who scuffs the ball for better break in his curve. The base-stealer out by a mile who spikes the shortstop.
In the ballgame of political punditry, Rachel Maddow is that kind of player. And apparently it matters little to Maddow that her team, with Obama as its captain, is way ahead in the score.
Most recent example: Maddow twice making a demonstrably false claim about remarks by President Bush in his final press conference on Monday. In previewing a segment during her MSNBC cable show that night, Maddow said this --
Today, still-President Bush insisted the federal response to Hurricane Katrina wasn't slow and that he inherited the recession.
You caught it too, right? "The" recession. OK, so it's one word, no big deal, I told myself upon first hearing Maddow make this claim. Then she did it again several minutes later, and, to mix metaphors, the foul was more flagrant --
Coming up next, you do realize that President Bush inherited this recession and that he's been unfairly accused for the current economic freefall, right? That's what he said today and that's why we're doing a Lame Duck Watch special report tonight.
When it came time to air a clip of Bush's remarks, Maddow avoided repeating her earlier claim, since to do so risked making its falsity immediately apparent. Here's what Bush actually said --
In terms of the economy, look, I inherited a recession, I'm ending on a recession. In the meantime, there were 52 months of uninterrupted job growth.
Contrary to what Maddow wants her viewers to believe, Bush never said he inherited "the recession" or "this recession." That implies Bush blames his predecessor, Bill Clinton, for our current economic woes while also believing we've suffered recession for the entirety of his presidency. Suffice it to say, Bush believes neither, though the First Amendment certainly allows Maddow to claim otherwise, regardless of accuracy.
Adding insult to revisionism, Maddow said this about the initial recession cited by Bush --
The first was a mild economic downturn which started in March '01. And you know, back in 2001, March came after January, which is when Bush took office. So it makes it kind of hard to call that one something he inherited.
What's actually "kind of hard" is what Maddow does -- imply that Bush, who served in neither the presidential administration before his, nor the Congress, had anything to do with creating the "mild economic downturn" that began weeks after he took office.
Sigh ... another missed bag in Maddow's dash to home plate.
Seeing how Maddow is so fond of citing specifically when recessions start and end, let's look at the one that came before the 2000 recession. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, it began July 1990 and ended in March 1991, while George H. W. Bush was president -- and six months before Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton announced his candidacy for president.
You'll recall Clinton's signature issue in that campaign -- "It's the Economy, Stupid" -- even though the recession ended more than 18 months before the '92 election. A more honest slogan would have been, "It's How the Economy is Perceived, Stupid" -- as Maddow would readily attest.