Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

I’m hoping to conclude a spring of family milestones by holding my grandson in my lap while I watch my eldest son graduate from college.

This strikes me as a pretty fair way to spend a June afternoon.

Even if I must venture into what for me amounts to enemy territory.

Not that there’s anything especially malicious about my dislike for Oregon State University. As a University of Oregon alumnus, I heartily endorse the rivalry between the schools’ athletic teams; indeed, more than one relative has implied that my preoccupation in this matter is juvenile at best, and possibly suggestive of incipient psychosis.

None of which makes me any less proud that my son, Alexander, a 2012 BHS graduate, has been studying nuclear engineering in Corvallis and on Saturday will receive his bachelor’s degree in physics.

(I hardly need add that his degree is a bachelor of science. My diploma, reflecting my utter inability to pass, or even to attempt, college-level math, is a bachelor of arts. Although I can’t draw so much as a stick figure, either. Apparently there is no such degree as a bachelor of scribbling words.)

I’ve no doubt that this visit to OSU’s Reser Stadium will be quite different from my previous trips, each of which involved a football game. I anticipate no heckling on Saturday. And there will be mortarboards instead of helmets.

Besides which I don’t want to get into a row with a bunch of Beavers while I’m entertaining my grandson, Brysen Weitz.

Although he will be doing most of the entertaining, I expect. It is one of his great tricks.

Brysen was born on Feb. 18 to my daughter, Rheann Weitz, and her husband, Jesse.

There is a pleasant continuity at play here, as regards babies and college commencements.

Rheann was 10 months old when I graduated from the U of O, almost exactly 25 years before Alexander collects his diploma.

Brysen won’t remember the day when his uncle Alexander graduated, of course.

But I intend to savor every part of the experience, the warmth and softness and inimitable smell of a well-tended little boy in my arms, and an accomplished young man striding across a podium, clutching his future in one hand.

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The Associated Press, which supplies articles to most newspapers across the U.S., has devoted a considerable amount of effort this year to its “fact check” section.

This seems to me appropriate considering the current president’s affinity for saying what he thinks without employing the career politician’s instinctive filter.

But the venerable news gathering operation’s newfound aggressiveness — the AP seemed to me rather more trusting when it came to Barack Obama’s statements — has led to an occasional fact check that struck me as not merely unnecessary but also a trifle silly.

The implication with fact checks, after all, is that the statements being checked were somewhat deficient in facts.

A recent example involved comments by Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director. Mulvaney, in discussing the Trump administration’s projections for economic growth, pointed out that the Obama administration’s estimates in that regard were overly optimistic.

Josh Boak, an economics writer for the AP, devoted 400 words to the matter, only to conclude, albeit in a grudging way, that Mulvaney was right. Which is to say, he spoke factually.

Yet Boak, as though to justify his efforts, engaged in some semantic gymnastics to imply that Obama’s staff ought not be judged too harshly for their enthusiastic, but ultimately wrong, estimates.

Which leads me to wonder whether the AP ought to rename its fact check feature. To “covering for the previous administration,” perhaps.

What Mulvaney said is that the Obama administration estimated the economy would grow at 4.5 percent. In reality the annual growth rate never exceeded 3 percent during Obama’s presidency.

Boak doesn’t dispute these claims.

Yet the article, after quoting Mulvaney, follows with this header “THE FACTS.” This obviously suggests that Mulvaney’s statements were something else altogether.

But instead of highlighting Mulvaney’s misstatements — a Sisyphean endeavor, since Mulvaney didn’t make any — Boak launches into an explanation for why the Obama administration’s estimates were inaccurate.

For instance: “Obama’s expectations for growth were in line with accepted economic views of the time.”


And irrelevant.

Mulvaney didn’t talk about “accepted economic views.” He cited the Obama administration’s projections, and pointed out, correctly, that they didn’t pan out.

Boak, after further attempts to exonerate Obama by way of comparing his administration’s economic growth estimates to the Congressional Budget Office’s figures, which were similar, finally gets to the heart of the matter.

“Of course, the growth expected under Obama never materialized. The economy expanded instead at a sluggish pace, closer to 2 percent a year.”

I find Boak’s use of the passive tense curious. It’s not that Obama expected the growth — it was “expected under Obama,” as though the president himself had never suggested such a thing and thus shouldn’t be questioned just because the projections fell short.

I applaud the AP’s effort to call out Trump when he lies, and even when he exaggerates. And the opportunities to do so have not been rare.

But I don’t believe the organization bolsters its reputation, or the reputation of journalism in general, by branding as a “fact check” its parsing of statements by Trump administration officials that are indisputably accurate.

The rhetorical tussle between Trump and the media likely was inevitable, and largely because of the president, who reminds me of a baseball umpire whose ears are amazingly adept at detecting criticism from the dugout.

But so far Trump has provided reporters ample opportunity to check his “facts” and, frequently, to refute them in the sober and thorough manner to which the media ought to aspire.

I don’t see any point, though, to defending Obama against criticism from Trump officials that is not only unsurprising, politically speaking, but also happens to be true.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.