The Washington Post gave President Joe Biden “Four Pinocchios” for false claims that a new Georgia law would make it harder for working-class people to vote.
Pinocchio, you may remember from before Disneyland closed, is a puppet who becomes the world’s most obvious liar.
The law signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last week actually “expanded early voting for many Georgians,” according to the Post’s fact-checker, Glenn Kessler. “Not a single expert we consulted who has studied the law understood why Biden made this claim,” he wrote.
They don’t understand? Is there suddenly a shortage of cynicism in Washington? At least they’re not out of toilet paper.
“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is,” Biden said in the high-profile setting of his first presidential press conference. “It’s sick. It’s sick. Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line, waiting to vote; deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work; deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances.”
What really stacked up the Pinocchios was a written statement from Biden the next day: “Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over.”
No, it doesn’t.
But in a prime example of Mark Twain’s observation that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on, the call went up from activists to boycott Georgia, to boycott companies in Georgia, to boycott any company that donated to the campaign of a politician who voted for the law in Georgia.
It’s not just Biden pushing the false narrative. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earned a “Mostly False” rating from Politifact for saying at a March 24 Senate hearing, “Republicans recently passed a bill to eliminate early voting on Sunday — a day when many churchgoing African Americans participate in voter drives known as Souls to the Polls.”
“Reprehensible,” said Biden.
“Reprehensible,” said Schumer.
Not true, said the fact checkers. The bill signed by Kemp allows two days of Sunday voting.
What’s the motive for the false claims?
Biden acknowledged that he is “trying to figure out how to pass the legislation passed by the House,” which is facing an uphill climb in the Senate. The bill known as H.R. 1 and S1 would force states to adopt new election procedures such as automatic voter registration and no-excuse-needed mail voting, while gutting voter ID requirements and strict signature verification.
Whatever you think of the proposed federal law, it’s not the best argument to flat-out lie about the state laws that supposedly make it necessary.
The Georgia law requires identification to request a vote-by-mail ballot, either a driver’s license number or some other type of ID showing residence, such as a utility bill. It continues the practice of allowing counties to offer early voting during business hours, ending at 5 p.m. It says ballot drop-boxes must be located inside government buildings.
“This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” Biden said.
The president’s false and inflammatory language, together with furious demands from activists for a boycott, led to a parade of CEOs denouncing Georgia’s law. “Unacceptable,” said Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian. “Unacceptable,” said Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey. “American history is the story of expanding the right to vote to all citizens,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, “and Black people, in particular, have had to march, struggle and even give their lives for more than a century to defend that right.”
Yes, but this is not that.
Nonetheless, Biden continued his Pinocchio tour with an interview on ESPN in which he praised Major League Baseball players for calling for this summer’s All-Star Game to be moved out of Atlanta in protest. “I would strongly support them doing that,” the president said, calling Georgia’s law “Jim Crow on steroids.”
However, Georgia voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, while denouncing companies for “mealy-mouthed responses” to the law, cautioned against boycotts. “One lesson of boycotts is that the pain of deprivation must be shared to be sustainable,” she said, warning that “boycotts are complicated affairs that require a long-term commitment to action.”
What’s also complicated is the management of a false narrative. Voter ID isn’t Jim Crow.
One of Georgia’s most distinguished residents, former President Jimmy Carter, was the co-chair of a commission that in 2005 recommended that the country adopt national voter ID laws along with procedures to ensure that everyone can easily get the required ID. A recent poll by Rasmussen Reports found that 75% of likely U.S. voters believe voters “should be required to show photo identification such as a driver’s license before being allowed to vote.”
Thirty-six states currently have some form of voter ID requirement. If H.R. 1 passes, those laws would go. At that point, it would take a constitutional amendment to require voter ID. Under Article V of the Constitution, an amendment may be proposed by two-thirds of the state legislatures. It becomes effective when ratified by three-quarters of them, a total of 38. Congress, the president and the Supreme Court have no role in that process.
Think of it as James Madison on steroids.
Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley
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