Monday, September 15, 2008

On pointing out lies and mistruths

Commenting on my previous post, Ciccina asks: "Is it okay to mention one side's distortions, but not the other?"
Definitely not, but as I have mentioned before, I am not a journalist, but a partisan blogger.  Still, in the interests of (some) fairness, here's my take on the distortions/lies split between the two campaigns:

First, anecdotal: The front page of FactCheck as of writing lists a dozen recent articles.  One debunks rumors spread about Governor Palin by chain e-mails (though a few have some truth to them); two point out issues with Obama ads.  The remaining NINE point out distortions, smears and lies spread by John McCain, Sarah Palin, and their acolytes, mostly about Barack Obama.

Second, some quantification.  Politifact has a truth-o-meter that tracks claims and statements made by each candidate.  As of writing, they have looked at 113 for John McCain, and 114 for Barack Obama.  I assume these are serious enough to be looked at by Politifact; some may be fluff, of course, but a lie is a lie, and a truth is a truth.  Etc.
Anyway, I graded these judgments on a numerical scale:
True: +10 [25-39 McCain-Obama]
Mostly-true: +5 [20-24]
Half-true: 0 [19-21]
Barely-true: -5 [21-12]
False: -10 [22-18]
Pants-on-fire: -20 [the most egregious lies carry the heaviest penalty; 6-0]

Weighting and averaging the scores, Senator McCain gets a -0.84, while Senator Obama gets +2.37.  So it seems that on average, Senator McCain's statements fall somewhere between "half-true" (0 points) and "barely-true" (-5), while Senator Obama's statements fall between "half-true" and "mostly-true" (+5).  Reducing the "Pants-on-fire" weighting to -10 still leaves Senator McCain at sub-zero levels.

There you have it... Yes, all politicians stretch the truth or exaggerate; but of the two Presidential candidates currently running, one has been much more truthful than the other.  And it is not the one claiming honor and integrity as his cornerstone.  Surprise, surprise.

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