The Worst Ombudsman Ever Strikes Again!

"Wait! Wait! It wasn't that good a story! Why did you have to pay so much attention to it? Now Our friends are all mad and everything!"

Patrick B. Pexton, whom Ethics Alarms dubbed The Worst Ombudsman Ever last Fall, has cemented his title with yet another example of bias and incompetence. By rights, he should be in a spirited battle for WOE with New York Times “public editor” (a.k.a ombudsman ) Clark Hoyt, who, among other derelictions of duty, has refused to criticize Times columnist Charles M. Blow for blatant anti-Morman bigotry. At least Hoyt writes about journalistic ethics, which is his (and Pexton’s) job to do, though not always well. The ombudsman’s proper role in any organization is to serve the public interest by answering and resolving complaints against the organization, calling foul when the organization does wrong, and making standards clear when it does not. In a new organization, the ombudsman is the guardian of journalistic ethics, and all that implies, from fairness to objectivity to competence. Pexton seems to see his function as an advocate for the Post when it is under attack, and for the Obama Administration when the opportunity presents itself. That does not serve the public interest.

Thus it is that Pexton has written a bizarre and gratuitous  defense of a Post story that went viral on the internet, arguing that it wasn’t the Post’s fault that so many people paid attention to it, that the story was no big deal, really, and that “only our reactive, partisan, hyperventilating media culture” made it one. Isn’t that strange? A newspaper’s story gets quoted and circulated, and its ombudsman feels that he has to apologize for it? What was the matter with the story? Was it wrong? That would justify Pexton’s professional <Cough!> attentions. Well, no, it wasn’t wrong. Was it unfair? Er, not really, no. What then?

What was wrong with the story was that it validated a complaint from conservatives, bloggers, and fair-minded observers who don’t appreciate being spun and lied to, that indeed the health care reform bill, the Affordable Care Act, will not reduce the deficit, as the nation was promised when it was being rammed through Congress, but will add $340 billion to it or more. This is as every clear-eyed or objective analyst predicted, as experience dictated and as common sense made obvious when the bill was being debated.  Now the figures show that the criticism of the law was right all along. Can’t have that, now, can we? The Post and Pexton were obviously bombarded by complaints from Obama loyalists, activists and spin-masters who couldn’t abide one of the nation’s per-eminent Democratic cheering sections actually admitting that critics of ACA were right, so Pexton decided to take on damage control….even though doing so is not germane to his function. But then, he is the Worst Ombudsman Ever.

For what does this have to do with ethics? Nothing. It does show appalling bias by the one Post staffer who is supposed to actively combat bias, however. It also shows that the Washington Post is willing to minimize its own achievements and integrity in reporting facts so it can maintain its credentials as a Democratic ally. That is an unethical mindset that implicates the Post’s trustworthiness. If only Pexton was capable of writing about that. But he isn’t, or isn’t interested in doing so….because he is The Worst Ombudsman Ever.

Pexton argues that the story didn’t deserve all the play it received, because it was “minor.” Minor?  The story gave substance to the claim, derided and ridiculed by, among others, commenters on this blog, that the insistence of Pelosi, Reid, and others that Obamacare would reduce the deficit were intentionally deceptive subterfuge to influence public opinion and get the damn bill, which nobody could read, passed. Which they were. There was never a doubt about that in my mind, and that lack of doubt was based on objectivity and logic, not politics. Yet for more than a year, I and  admittedly more politically-motivated critics who maintained the same thing have been ridiculed and called unfair and worse for trying to state the obvious.

Was a Washington Post story citing a study as making a persuasive case that we were, in fact, not fools and liars, but rather showing that our diagnosis of an organized, cynical and media-abetted public misrepresentation by Democrats was accurate more than a “small story”? Of course it was.

Pexton, however, brushes it all aside, while making excuses for the Obama Administration, in classic Democratic Party talking point form:

“The truth is that every complex law change, every annual federal budget, is a risk. They’re all based on assumptions and forecasts that may or may not come true. And when they don’t, Congress and the president have to adjust.”

Suuuure, Patrick.

Here is what happened:

Democrats: The health care bill will save money. The CBO says we’re right.

Critics: Oh, please! The CBO was dealing with cooked figures and you know it! No law this sweeping has ever failed to raise the deficit.

Democrats: You’re lying and scaremongering! The CBO’s estimate shows that the law will reduce the deficit!

Critics: You know your figures are fake, and you are criticizing us? Stop deceiving the public. Sooner or later, the truth will come out.

The Truth Comes Out.

Democrats…and the Worst Ombudsman Ever: So what? Plus $340 billion, minus $340 billion, whatever…No projections are perfect.

The figures were deceptive, and sold to the public as “non-partisan” fact. Those who flagged the deceit were attacked. The figures prove to be exactly as deceptive as the critics said, and the ombudsman for the prestigious Washington Post devoted a column  defending the original misrepresentation, and minimizing his own paper’s story that exposed it.

Why does he do this?

Because he’s The Worst Ombudsman Ever!

11 thoughts on “The Worst Ombudsman Ever Strikes Again!

  1. And your job is ethics, not validation of informal fallacies and your own biases. I guess you could have been trying to make the “critics” in your little play into idiots, but i don’t think that was your intention.

    Your attacks on the Post and Pexton are still valid, of course, but I find the irony in this story too juicy to ignore.

    • I like irony, tgt, so you’ll have to spell it out for me.

      I don’t like being called partisan and biased for stating what any unbiased observer would know to be true, simply because partisan observers happened to have partisanship and logic on their side for once.

      In the vast panoply of history and precedent, an unbiased analysis of the OMB controversy would objective require pro-Obamacare advocates to admit from the outset that the claims were absurd and dishonest. ONE commentator that I heard—Chris Matthews—almost qualified under this standard, (when Maddow said that GOP arguments were rebutted by the CB and this “lies”,, Matthews smirked and said,”Well, but you have to admit, those projections always underestimate the costs.”) _which is a disgrace. I identified a lie as a lie because it was obviously so, and because partisans made the same argument, I was accused of bias. I continue to resent it, and I for an ombudsman to see his job as making sure that the liars don’t have to be accountable is outrageous.

      So how is that ironic, again? By the way, I’d LOVE the ACA to reduce the deficit, even though there was never a snowball’s chance in hell that it would. Are you advocating reverse confirmation bias in my case? Because it doesn’t work.

      • You’re rationalizing your prior statements and it’s clouding your ethical judgments, or, at least, how you are explaining your ethical judgments.

        “There was never a doubt about that in my mind, and that lack of doubt was based on objectivity and logic, not politics. ”

        What was your great logic?

        “No law this sweeping has ever failed to raise the deficit.”

        That has been your logic the entire time. It doesn’t make sense to you that we could increase care AND save money. Common sense says that’s impossible. Well, whether the ACA actually does increase or reduce the deficit, your common sense reasoning is wrong. Common sense is quite possibly the worst thing to rely on when you’re talking about economics. It’s a field where all common sense sucks. Raising prices gets more people to buy your stuff? Sometimes, yes. Lowering prices can make you more money? Sometimes, yes. Those two things shouldn’t be able to exist at the same time, but they do, and, in the right situation, they can be true for the same good at any given time.

        In a post where you attacked an ombudsmen for letting his biases infect his job, you do the same thing. That’s the irony. It was not clear from common sense that the ACA would increase the deficit and the critics of the ACA were not right, as this double counting of medicare was not the thrust of the complaints.

        I’m not saying you’re partisan here, just that you have an extremely high opinion of your ability to judge things with “common sense”, and it has led you astray.

        • I still don’t get you here..

          That wasn’t my reasoning at all. My reasoning, simply put, is that EVERY such law becomes a deficit burden, every such bill is passed with absurd assumptions, both parties do it, both parties always deny they are doing it, and by the time we find out, long enough has passed that no one’s accountable. If something has occurred every single time without exception. and the proponents for this particular bill had already demonstrated that there is no maneuver, no trick, no fudge or hypocrisy that they won’t employ, there, why would anyone, including you, believe an optimistic estimate based on submitted figures?, Worse, what kind of gall does it take to challenge the ones relying on 100% precedent consistency as “llying’?

          • EVERY what law? It’s clearly not every law. Every big law? What’s a big law? Do you have a way to figure out what these laws are other than grabbing every law that has gone over budget?

            Again, this is more “common sense” argument. There’s an appearance of data, but there’s no actual data.

            • Medicare, Medicaid, the Seniors drug law, the student loan program, all major transportation projects; all major military contracts, all government technology projects, the space program, the Peace Corps, the Superfund clean-up, airport screening, the Hoover Dam; the Erie Canal, for god’s sakes. Studies have shown the cost over-runs in government activities are endemic, and they have worsened every decade. And you know that. You’re just objecting to “judicial notice,” which in this area is absolutely justified.

              • Listing individual laws and using weasel words like “major” do not support your point. The one all you used without a qualifier is false. Not all government technology projects have gone over budget. Saying that it’s common for policies to go over budget is not evidence that any specific project will go over budget.

                I’m objecting to your belief that your common sense is worthy of judical notice. You’re making sweeping conclusions that don’t fit that definition at all.

                • This is silly, tgt. Go ahead and point me to a large government project or program over 5 years or more that didn’t cost significantly more than was projected. And if it is 1 in 100, are you going to still argue that it isn’t worthy of judicial notice to assume any future project will run over? Common sense doesn’t require statistical certainly.

                  • If you want to use common sense as you have been, it absolutely requires statistical certainty. Otherwise, all your conclusions are hasty generalizations and non sequiturs.

                    Define “large” for me. Also I’ll probably need “project”. The NEA hasn’t gone over budget. I don’t believe the Justice department or EPA have either. HUD? Nope.

  2. Pexton wrote that Lori Montgomery, the reporter who wrote this article, urged her editors not to put her article on the front page of the print edition because the article was not worth [being on the the front page].

    Yeah…because reporters are like that. I’m glad Pexton has brought this to light. Who knows how many reporters have selflessly urged that their articles not be given front page exposure from what would seem to be sheer modesty and graciousness on the reporter’s part?

    I don’t usually have much to say about a person’s appearance but you opened the “hair door” on a previous post pertaining to Sexton so I feel that I have some leeway. There is something very creepy and quite undignified about this man’s obvious attempt to appear “hip”. The “yuck” factor is way up there. It makes me squeamish…I wouldn’t trust him.

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