The Associated Press came out with a lengthy and extremely tendentious "fact check" regarding the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate. I am on record as deploring the media fact checking phenomenon in pretty strong and detailed terms. And this fact check was so bad it made even my jaded toes curl.
Over at National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru beat me to the punch in critiquing the piece. Not surprisingly, he concludes it's a lot of exceedingly biased opinion masquerading as empiricism:
Let’s start with the first item “fact-checked”:
ROMNEY: “Unlike the current president, who has cut Medicare funding by $700 billion, we will preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security and keep them there for future generations.”
THE FACTS: You could fill an arena with all the details left out in this statement. . . .
That sentence should be a clue that we’re dealing with something other than the checking of facts for accuracy. Of course a statement like that is going to leave out a lot of details! It would be impossible for it not to exclude some details. And of course it will leave out truths that would cause political trouble for the candidate speaking, at least without further explanation and argument. It’s reasonable to criticize candidates for saying things that aren’t true. But for leaving out details?
Read the whole thing—if you're familiar with Ponnuru you know that if there's one thing he's good at it, it's dismantling bad arguments. Of course, the "fact check" was so bad that for the sake of time and sanity, Ponnuru couldn't address every questionable thing in it. In particular, the extended and very subjective defense of the president's now infamous "you didn't build that" remarks was egregious. As was citing Mark Zandi and Moody's—known to frequently be an economic outlier, reliably providing very favorable numbers defending Democratic policy proposals—in defending the stimulus. And Ramesh didn't bother mentioning this part which really stuck in my craw:
ROMNEY: "We offer solutions that are bold, specific, and achievable."
RYAN: "The commitment Mitt Romney and I make to you is this: We won't duck the tough issues, we will lead."
THE FACTS: So far, vital specifics are missing from Romney...
Do we really want to argue over what the meaning of "specific" is here? If you can claim to "fact check" obviously debatable rhetorical assertions such as these, fact checking really has no meaning.