Fox News meets the voter ID law

    Fox News did a fair-and-balanced segment yesterday on the Pennsylvania voter ID law. Good grief. It’s one thing to read the numerous surveys which conclude that Fox breeds clueless viewers; it’s another thing entirely to actually see the process in action.

    The guest of honor was Mike Turzai, the state House Republican leader who earlier this year, at a GOP confab, infamously revealed the true intent of the GOP-authored voter ID law: “We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years . . . First pro-life legislation, abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” Needless to say, however, that’s not how Turzai framed the law yesterday.

    Prodded gently (big surprise) by host Doug McKelvey to explain the need for such a law, Turzai said that, “we have a right to safeguard voter confidence.” He said that requiring a government-issued photo ID is “a common-sense tool (which guarantees) that no single vote is diluted by imposters who show up at the polls pretending to be legally registered voters. Turzai was gently asked to list examples of such fraud. He replied by citing a 2009 Pittsburgh fraud case (seven ACORN workers allegedly forged voter-registration forms), and a Philadelphia incident from four years ago (when a city official submitted 8000 bogus ACORN voter-registration forms).

    But host McKelvey was too well trained in Fox News politesse to point out that in neither instance did an imposter ever show up at the polls pretending to be a bogus registrant. Nor did McKelvey confront his guest with the fact that Turzai’s GOP pals have ever failed to find a single case of voter impersonation in Pennsylvania. (McKlevey left that job to another guest, Democratic state senator Daylin Leach, who struggled to fact-check Turzai on the fly.)

    McKelvey did manage to ask Turzai whether there are state measures in place that will enable all the photo-less voters to obtain government-issued photos in time for election day. Turzai simply replied, “Yes.” So ended that line of inquiry. Perhaps the clueless Fox viewers would’ve been enlightened about reality if the host had followed up by confronting Turzai with the fact that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court believes otherwise; in last week’s ruling, it feared that the necessary state measures are not in place, and that some legally registered voters will be disenfranchised. The Fox host said none of this.

    Turzai mentioned the court, however. Here’s what he said: “The constitutionality of this statute has been upheld by both the U.S. Supreme Court in a previous decision, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”

    Wow, multiple lies in a single sentence.

    The truth: (1) The Washington supremes have never ruled on the Pennsylvania law; they did OK an Indiana voter ID law back in 2008, but that law is less stringent than ours, and the Pennsylvania constitution has stronger language protecting voter rights. (2) The Pennsylvania high court did not uphold the constitutionality of our voter ID law last week; rather, it explicitly warned that disenfranchisement may well occur, and if that were to happen, it would be a breach of the state constitution’s guarantee that “no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”

    But, naturally, the Fox host did not confront Turzai with any of that.

    Nor – most importantly – did the host ever confront Turzai with his summer remark about the GOP’s partisan purpose for passing voter ID in the first place. Somehow it never came up.

    Meanwhile, on the split screen, Daylin Leach was just beginning to try to fact-check Turzai’s lies about the courts when McKelvey broke in: “We’re flat out of time.”

    And so, yet again, Fox viewers were left without a clue.

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    As you undoubtedly know by now, the Romney campaign chose Friday afternoon (the traditional time for an embarrassing document dump) to release more information on the candidate’s taxes. And what a spectacle it was.

    It’s noteworthy, of course, that Romney manipulated his 2011 tax returns, taking less than his full charitable deduction in order to jack up his effective tax rate to 14 percent (because if he had taken all of the deductions, he’d have only paid at a rate of roughly 10 percent, thereby ticking a lot more working stiffs). He needed to get it up to 14 percent, because after all, as he recently said in another context, “I’m running for president, for Pete’s sake.” By paying more to the government than he legally had to pay, however, he managed to contradict one of his own statements, uttered on ABC News in July.

    That’s when he said he would not pay more in taxes “than are legally due. And frankly, if I had paid more than are legally due, I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president.” And that’s a lot like something he said during one of the primary debates: “I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.”

    But we know already that this guy can’t walk a step without getting entangled in his own shoelaces. What’s really most bizarre about the tax document dump is its timing. Why release a 20-year tax “summary” in mid-September with the election just six weeks away? Why didn’t they put that out a year ago, take the inevitable hits, and get it over with?

    Releasing it at this late stage is a losing proposition. At a time when Romney is supposedly trying to “reboot” his campaign and offer policy specifics, his tax summary – a modern version of Richard Nixon’s “modified limited hangout route” – will crowd the news cycle with lots of new questions. Such as: What about those offshore tax shelters? Yes, his effective tax rate is around 14 percent, but that omits a lot of the money he has salted away elsewhere. For Romney, every day these issues are raised is potentially another day lost.

    Who the heck is running that campaign anyway? No wonder GOP pundit Peggy Noonan is calling it “a rolling calamity.”

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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