Doctoring the Numbers


A poll on the website of Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) (that's Bill Frist M.D., lest you forget that the senator is also a member of the hallowed medical profession) proves that in the halls of Congress nothing, not even a meaningless web survey, is too petty to merit deception.

See, when Atrios linked to a question asking visitors "Should the President's nominees to the federal bench be allowed an up or down vote on confirmation as specified in the Constitution?", the liberal weblogger's readers began voting "no" in overwhelming numbers. Uh-oh.

So Frist's web folk changed the wording to make it a little more obvious which answer they considered the "right" one. The revised question asked: "Should the Senate exercise its Constitutional duty to provide the President's judicial nominees with an up or down vote?"

Unfortunately, the nays still had it by a wide margin—an even wider margin at some points, in fact. So what did they do this time? Instead of just pulling the poll altogether—which would be craven, but not grossly dishonest—the majority leader's webfolk changed the question to reverse the meaning of the "yes" and "no" answers. The question now reads: "Should the Senate minority block the body's Constitutional duty to provide the President's judicial nominees with an up or down vote?"

So, will the senator reprimand his staffers for this obvious mendacity, maybe post an apology? And if he doesn't—if lying is considered OK in the Frist office on something this trivial—why should we trust him to be any more scrupulous when it comes to something that actually matters? And, more importantly, what kind of imbecile webmaster thinks that you can pull off something this brazen without anyone calling bullshit?

Update: You've got to be kidding… After waiting for the poll (with the "Should the Senate minority block…" wording) to just barely tip back in favor of the "yes" vote, the thing was tossed to the archive, but now with the original wording. Frist's webmaster is really putting in overtime on this one—all for a webpoll with no real significance whatever.