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Factchecking the Fact Checkers


In its print review (not available online, so far as I can tell) of last night’s debate, the Washington Post “Fact Checker” column continues its role as a propaganda arm of the Obama campaign:


1.  Reporter Michael Dobbs, who previously accused the McCain campaign of “clearly exaggerating wildly” when it accurately quoted the Post, says that McCain “raised an old Republican canard when he asserted that Obama’s [health-care] plan would eventually turn the system over to the federal government.”  Dobbs finds it conclusive that Obama “is not advocating a state-run health care system.”  But respected expert opinion—including, for example, this National Review essay by my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Jim Capretta—argues that the inevitable effect of Obama’s plan would be a “full government takeover”.  Dobbs need not embrace that conclusion, but it is absurd for him to dismiss it breezily as a “canard”.


2.  An item by reporter Glenn Kessler says that McCain “seriously misstated his vote concerning the Marines in Lebanon.”  You see, McCain says that he voted against sending the Marines to Lebanon, and Kessler says that they were already there and that McCain voted only against authorizing their continued deployment.  I’m not sure why anyone would consider this distinction significant.  McCain’s point was that he was correct in believing, in advance of the terrible Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon that killed 241 American servicemen, that the Marines shouldn’t be there.


3.  Obama falsely claimed in the debate that Admiral Mike Mullen had not called Obama’s withdrawal plan dangerous.  Unlike the items on McCain, the “Fact Check” account does not begin with, or even include, a simple declarative statement that Obama’s claim was false.  Instead, it leaves it to the careful reader to piece together the facts.


4.  The main “Fact Checker” column carries the headline “A Few Stretched Truths, but No Major Stumbles”.  Directly under that headline is a two-column banner quote from McCain:  “Well, Senator Obama twice said in debates … he would sit down [with] Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro, without precondition, without precondition.”  The casual reader would readily conclude from the juxtaposition that McCain’s statement is one of the “stretched truths” that the column title refers to.  In fact, the column does not take issue with McCain’s statement.


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