Thursday, October 29, 2015

Who Was The Biggest Liar In The CNBC Republican Debate?


The above rant-- about Marco Rubio lying his ass off-- by conservative former Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL) is the sort of treatment normally reserved for Hillary Clinton. But, yes, Rubio flat-out lied in front of 14 million people during the Boulder debate. What Scarborough was referring to was this exchange between moderator Becky Quick and young Marco:
QUICK: Senator Rubio, you yourself have said that you've had issues. You have a lack of bookkeeping skills. You accidentally inter-mingled campaign money with your personal money. You faced foreclosure on a second home that you bought. And just last year, you liquidated a $68,000 retirement fund. That's something that cost you thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties.

In terms of all of that, it raises the question whether you have the maturity and wisdom to lead this $17 trillion economy. What do you say?

RUBIO: Well, you just-- you just listed a litany of discredited attacks from Democrats and my political opponents, and I'm not gonna waste 60 seconds detailing them all. But I'm going to tell you the truth.
And he just wandered off into the bio section of his stump speech. He never responded to any of the serious (and far from "discredited") charges-- and she never said a word about how that "second house" in Tallahassee was the notorious party house he and his henchman, serial criminal David Rivera, shared. Long before it was foreclosed on, the house was a party scene filled with generous lobbyists, call girls and cocaine. Imagine if Betsy had brought that up! The facts of the foreclosure have been public record, at least in Florida, for many years. She let him off light on everything... she didn't even mention the Republican Party of Florida credit card he was using illegally for personal services like getting his back shaved-- paying it off after he got caught-- as well as funneling money to his household through his wife. And Rubio's cascade of lies just kept coming all night, until you wonder whether you've fallen through a worm hole into some kind of an alternative universe, instead of realizing that modern day GOP politics is an alternative universe.

But when you think of the current crop of Republican candidates and the word "liar," first up has to be the always veracity-challenged Carly Fiorina, followed closely by Trump, and Carson. Let's look at Fiorina first. I'm guessing the "Pants-On-Fire" Moment Politifact was referring to was when she put on her sternest, most self-righteous demeanor and spoke in the most authoritative tone she musters-- always a sure-fire give-away that the Big Lie is coming. This morning, Neil Irwin spelled it out succinctly for the NY Times: Carly Fiorina’s Flawed Portrayal of Female Job Losses Under Obama
Carly Fiorina said that “92 percent of the jobs lost during Barack Obama’s first term belonged to women” as part of a discussion of gender differences in compensation.

The assertion is flawed. In January 2009, the month President Obama’s first term began, 66.9 million women were employed in the United States, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In January 2013, when his first term ended, that number had risen slightly, to 67.1 million. Overall employment similarly rose slightly, from 142.15 million to 143.32 million, meaning the pattern of employment among women in Obama’s first term was similar to the pattern among men.

In other words, overall employment among both women and men rose during Mr. Obama’s first term, though very slightly. That said, the unemployment rate among both groups was higher at the end of his first term than the beginning, with the jobless rate among women rising to 7.8 percent in January 2013 from 7 percent in January 2009, reflecting a growing population.

Trump's biggest lie of the evening-- as you can see, the evening was packed with them-- was a poker-faced response to a couple of questions by Becky Quick about a visa dustup between Rubio and Trump in which Trump denigrated Rubio as Facebook honcho "Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator," a fairly accurate assessment. But, incredibly, Trump denied he had ever said it-- "I never said that; I never said that... Somebody's really doing some bad fact-checking."-- a bold-faced and easily disprovable lie. The phrase was instantly found on Trump's own website, in the much-vaunted immigration section:
Increase prevailing wage for H-1Bs. We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs, yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program. More than half of H-1B visas are issued for the program's lowest allowable wage level, and more than eighty percent for its bottom two. Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas. This will improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.
When Quick pressed him after a commercial break, he just swatted her away like a fly, not in the least bit concerned that he had just been exposed as a liar in front of 14 million viewers. Trump had 10 "Pants-on-Fire" moments, 27 false statements and 6 mostly false statements, last night. Virtually NOTHING he said all night was true. (And polls show that he was the winner of the debate.) Let's move on to Dr. Ben.

Carson was asked by Carl Quintanilla about his long-standing, well-documented  relationship with Mannatech, basically a snake oil company that claims it can cure cancer and just about anything else that ails you if you use their supplements, supplements that Carson hawks for them in infomercials (which have earned him hundreds of thousands of dollars). He looked straight at the camera and said he had "no relationship" with Mannatech. He was lying, albeit with a very different demeanor from the more bullying tone that Fiorina and Trump employ when they're trying to put one over on everyone.
Quintanilla: There’s a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a ten-year relationship. They offered claims that they could cure autism, cancer. They paid $7 million dollars to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas, and yet your involvement continued. Why?

Carson: Well, it’s easy to answer. I didn’t have an involvement with them. That is total propaganda and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda. I did a couple of speeches for them, I did speeches for other people, they were paid speeches, it is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with them. Do I take the product? Yes. I think it’s a good product.
Here's the soft-spoken doctor hawking Mannatech's products. He sounds so convincing, doesn't he? He even invokes God-- and God spelled backwards too-- on Mannatech's behalf!

Carson first spoke out in favor of Mannatech products over a decade ago when he claimed that the Texas-based company’s “glyconutritional supplements,” which included larch-tree bark and aloe vera extract, helped him overcome prostate cancer.
The company doctor “prescribed a regimen” of supplements, Mr. Carson told its sales associates in a 2004 speech. “Within about three weeks my symptoms went away, and I was really quite amazed,” he said to loud applause, according to a YouTube video of the event.

The candidate today is cancer-free after surgery. He told associates of the company, Mannatech Inc., that he initially considered forgoing surgery and treating the cancer with supplements only.
As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Carson’s relationship with the company deepened over time, including “four paid speeches at Mannatech gatherings, most recently one in 2013 for which he was paid $42,000, according to the company.” The company disputes that Carson was a “paid endorser or spokesperson,” according to the Journal, and claims his financial compensation went to charity.

National Review also highlighted Carson’s connections to Mannatech in January and how Carson’s team went to great lengths to distance themselves from the company. Some of his video appearances have been removed from the Internet, but those that remain appear to show a deeper affiliation than Carson claimed during Wednesday’s debate.

In one video for Mannatech last year that remains online, Carson discusses his experiences with nutritional supplements while seated next to the company’s logo. “The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel,” Carson explained. “And that fuel was the right kind of healthy food … Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine or as a mechanism for maintaining health.”

Carson stopped short of making substantive medical claims about Mannatech’s products. “You know, I can’t say that that’s the reason I feel so healthy,” he said. “But I can say it made me feel different and that’s why I continue to use it more than ten years later.” His apparent hesitation is understandable. Seven years before Carson appeared in that video, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who was elected governor of Texas last year, sued Mannatech for running a illegal marketing scheme under the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Abbott claimed that the Dallas-based company and its sales representatives repeatedly exaggerated the medical efficacy of their products.

“Texans will not tolerate illegal marketing schemes that prey upon the sick and unsuspecting,” Abbott's office said at the time. “Aided by an army of multi-level sellers and their fictitious claims about its products, Mannatech has aggressively marketed supplements to countless unwitting purchasers.” Abbott also emphasized that the company’s claims were “not supported by legitimate scientific studies, nor are its products approved as drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

Mannatech paid a $6 million settlement in 2009 in which the company admitted no wrongdoing. “Under the agreed final judgment, Mannatech agreed not to advertise or otherwise claim that its dietary supplements can cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent disease,” according to Abbott’s office. The settlement also levied a $1 million fine against company founder Samuel Caster and banned him from working for Mannatech for five years.

Carson is neither the first nor the only high-profile doctor to endorse nutritional supplements with dubious scientific backing. A Senate subcommittee excoriated Dr. Mehmet Oz last year for promoting “miracle” pills and “magic” weight-loss solutions on his nationally televised daytime talk show. My colleague James Hamblin noted that Oz’s endorsements helped fuel a “sordid, under-regulated” market for self-proclaimed miracle cures. The industry is largely shielded from regulatory scrutiny by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which does not require dietary and nutritional supplements to be approved by the FDA before their sale in the United States.

The debate question could have provided Carson with an opportunity to clarify his relationship with the company and his views on nutritional supplements. Instead, his denial will only increase public scrutiny of his interactions with a controversial industry.
I doubt that there will be any more public scrutiny at all. Republican primary voters are raised on Hate Talk Radio and Fox News-- fact-free zones. They could care less. And Dr. Ben's not going any further than that crackpot crowd anyway. So... I bet Hillary's oppo-research team isn't even looking up how to spell Mannatech. But, regardless of all the lies, last night's big loser, easily, was... Monsieur Low Energy. 


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