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Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers

3:13 PM, Oct 7, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Ed Whelan takes apart Howard Kurtz's fact-check of the McCain ad posted above:

Kurtz's topline assertion is that the ad "blatantly distorts Barack Obama's words in an effort to paint him as callous about the role of the military." Specifically, the ad "truncates" a comment that Obama made. Here, according to Kurtz, is Obama's full statement:

"We've got to get the job done there [in Afghanistan], and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there."

Kurtz's analysis (emphasis added): "In short, Obama was saying he wanted to avoid just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, not that this was all that American troops were doing. His meaning was the opposite of what it portrayed in this spot."

Kurtz's analysis makes no sense. To say, as Obama did, that American troops in Afghanistan were "just air-raiding villages and killing civilians" is to say that that's all they were doing. That's what the adverb "just" means. To borrow the same sentence structure: If I were to say to my colleagues, "We've got to get back to our desks so that we're not just standing around and talking," I'd obviously be complaining that we're just standing around and talking.

Today, on the Washington Post's Trail blog, Kurtz fact-checks a new McCain ad that says Obama has lied about McCain's record.

Kurtz writes: "Both presidential candidates are using news organizations and fact-checking groups to accuse each other of airing false advertising, though only John McCain goes so far as to call Barack Obama a liar."

That's not true. In the last month, the Obama campaign has accused John McCain of lying over a dozen times. Here is a (by no means comprehensive) list.Obama spokesman Bill Burton, October 7:

"In order to change the dynamics of this race, we anticipate that McCain will launch his nastiest attacks and continue to lie about Barack Obama's record and his vision to fundamentally change our country."

Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan, October 6:

"McCain Lies About Obama and Subprime Loans"

Obama spokesman Bill Burton, October 4:

But as Barack Obama said today, John McCain pays for his $5,000 health tax credit by taxing employee health benefits for the first time in history. The bald-faced lie is to suggest anything otherwise

Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan, October 3:

The Obama-Biden campaign released a web-ad entitled "477" today in response to John McCain's repeated lie that Barack Obama voted for higher taxes 94 times.

Obama spokesman Nick Shapriro, October 3:

SARAH PALIN'S 18 LIES LAST NIGHT

Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan, October 1:

"When confronted with his discredited lies about Barack Obama's record and his own willingness to continue the same failed policies of the last eight years, John McCain offered nothing more than snide, frustrated responses.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton, September 30:

OBAMA WILL LOWER TAXES ON THE MIDDLE CLASS, MCCAIN WILL LOWER THEM ON THE WEALTHIEST, BUT HE CONTINUES TO LIE ABOUT OBAMA'S PLAN

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor, September 29:

John McCain knows that the budget he's talking about didn't end up raising taxes on a single American, and the lie he told the American people today is all the more outrageous a day after he admitted that his health care plan will increase taxes on some families.

Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro, September 26:

DEBATE REALITY CHECK: MCCAIN'S TAX LIE