Sunday, April 06, 2008

Standards of Evidence

Hilary Clinton has been telling, in her speeches, a moving story about a pregnant woman being turned away from a hospital because she wasn't insured and dying as a result. When the hospital where it was supposed to happen denied the account—according to them the woman in question was insured and was not turned away—the campaign responded by announcing that she would stop telling the story. No apology, no suggestion that she had done anything wrong, at least according to the CNN news story.

The New York senator heard the story during a campaign visit to a family's living room in Pomeroy, Ohio, in late February. Bryan Holman was hosting the candidate and told Clinton the story. She has repeated it frequently since then.

...

Clinton's speech accurately reflects what she was told that day, but the campaign admits they were not able to confirm the account.

Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee said, "She had no reason to doubt his word."

Hillary is a law school graduate and, obviously, an intelligent woman. She surely knows that unsupported hearsay is weak basis for belief. Yet she repeated as fact, without checking it, a story that she had no good reason to believe was true—because it was rhetorically useful.

I don't know if such behavior falls below the usual standards for professional politicians but it is pretty good evidence that the fact she says something is little evidence either that it is true or that she believes it.




17 Comments:

At 1:59 AM, April 07, 2008, Blogger Jonathan said...

Maybe she'll next undertake to defend Americans from those alien kidnappers in their flying saucers. Could be a vote-winner...

 
At 2:20 AM, April 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I DON'T TALK ABOUT MY PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS WITH MY HUSBAND."
-- Hillary, quoted in "The Clinton Runaround", WSJ, March 14, 2008

"We have been going back and forth in this campaign of who said what to whom and let me say this, that I DON'T TALK ABOUT PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS but I have consistently made the case that I can win."
-- Clinton Denies Obama Electability Remark, AP, Apr 3, 2008

Check her "Living History" and there are numerous private conversations reported.

Maybe, by "private" she means "confidential". But then her statements would be kind of a tautology.

 
At 6:51 AM, April 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We Americans, as opposed to the French, don't expect our politicians to be truthful since we know that they would never get elected if they told the truth about their sex lives, drug use or religion.

The best presidents, like Reagan and Clinton, had to pretend to be religious and churchgoers. Telling the truth is highly over-rated.

 
At 7:21 AM, April 07, 2008, Blogger niv said...

Let's leave the storytelling to the Bush administration. I'm for universal healthcare, but I'm tired of being mispoken or lied to. If she can't find a true story about someone abused by the American healthcare system, she doesn't deserve to be President.

 
At 8:22 AM, April 07, 2008, Blogger Les Cargill said...

"In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths." - Graham Green

 
At 8:48 AM, April 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess she gets it from Bill -- Just like he did not have sex with that woman, She was certainly under sniper fire, (In her mind) and the lie she just told on the woman that didn't have health care fits right in.... She cannot be trusted... She lies too, too much.. I considered voting for her, but not now..... She's needs to quit, go home and STAND BY HER MAN.......

 
At 9:40 AM, April 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a surprise...!

 
At 10:02 AM, April 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears that Hillary likes to embellish an awful lot these days. I for one am not buying her BS. I consider this another lie, No matter how you cut it up. She will not make a good president. The american people deserve more than Hillary is prepared to give. Lie to me now and you'll lie to me if you get in Office. I guess one more little white lie won't hurt. Penn, you better wake up, Hillary is not the right person to lead this country. Now Mr Penn sneaks around with Columbia, they did it earlier with Canada but nobody wants to see the writing on the wall.

 
At 2:23 PM, April 07, 2008, Blogger Mike Huben said...

It's a good thing that people selling in markets never lie. Or else all of David's illusions will be shattered. :-)

 
At 5:05 PM, April 07, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

I'm struck by the fact that so many people, including Mike, treat this as a case of lying. I don't assume that Hilary knew the story was false--merely that she didn't much care.

The alternative is to assume she is stupid, which strikes me as very unlikely.

 
At 8:10 PM, April 07, 2008, Blogger azaria said...

Many people will use unverified reports in arguing to make their point. I can't tell you how many times people have quoted a study to me that on further investigation either didn't say what they claimed or never existed in the first place. There seems to be a general belief that if you are fighting the good fight then you don't need to worry about the truth. It is enough to believe something morally true. I would say that among politicians it more like a creed than a belief.

 
At 9:58 PM, April 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You better repost, she has been vindicated. Wonder where this came from? Camp OBAMA again.

www.stop-obama.org

 
At 10:00 PM, April 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hillary Clinton is a compulsive liar. She lied about almost being hit by sniper fire and almost dying, then when she told the lie she was smiling why she told her story. That is scary. I do not want my president to be a compulsive liar. Her lying shows she does not care about the troops who are actually hit by sniper fire and died and voter who have lose loves who were killed. Now she is lying about a women being denied health care. She needs to stop lying,enough is enough.

 
At 1:52 PM, April 09, 2008, Blogger Charles said...

There are some extremely important cases of those currently wielding great power almost certainly telling lies with serious consequences. This is a rather trivial case of someone arguably destined to continue wielding relatively modest power engaging in what is acknowledged most likely to be negligence rather than lying, which in either event involves consequences unknowable and probably minimal. Why single it out?

I think (what I take to be) Mr. Huben's point - even if he followed the (mis)lead of others in inappropriately homing in on veracity rather than epistemology in making it) - remains: a political campaign seems a strange place to demand adherence to the highest intellectual standards.

- Charles

 
At 1:13 PM, April 10, 2008, Blogger Mike Huben said...

David writes:
I don't assume that Hilary knew the story was false--merely that she didn't much care. The alternative is to assume she is stupid, which strikes me as very unlikely.

How about when you do the same sort of thing David? What should we assume?

For example, when we had an email discussion of your book "Hidden Order", you wrote:

By which time quite a lot of people are dead who might otherwise have been alive--about a hundred thousand in the case of the FDA's caution re beta-blockers.

I responded:
Ah, the famous beta-blocker factoid. Further research has found that this claim just doesn't hold up.

For example, The Beta-Blocker Evaluation of Survival Trial: "Data suggest that beta-blockers improve ejection fraction, reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations and decrease the need for transplantation. There is, however, no prospectively planned mortality endpoint study that
demonstrates increased survival with the use of betablockers in patients with CHF."
http://www.ufhscj.edu/cvcenter/best.html

I've seen similar information explicitly refuting the "FDA murder" claim several times.

You should be ashamed to repeat such propaganda. As a matter of fact, I routinely note studies which explicitly refute propaganda claims that I've seen you repeat in your posts. Since you are skeptical of many libertarian philosophical positions, I'd think you'd be skeptical of their propaganda as well.

To paraphrase your original post, "I don't know if such behavior falls below the usual standards for professors but it is pretty good evidence that the fact you say something is little evidence either that it is true or that you believe it."

 
At 4:59 AM, April 11, 2008, Anonymous Pablo Escobar said...

The blame for politicians like Hillary Clinton who distort the facts lies squarely with the American people. As the American people lie, cheat, rob and kill, they do not think to hold their elected representatives to a higher standard than themselves. Hence people get the politicians they deserve.

 
At 3:13 PM, April 14, 2008, Anonymous Rex Little said...

I don't know if such behavior falls below the usual standards for professional politicians . . .

Then you must not have been paying much attention to politics since, I don't know, forever. Clearly it does not.

 

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