Checking the Fact-Checkers

So how did the fact-checkers do this time? As far as content goes, not bad; but there is a continued unwillingness to point out that some mistakes are much bigger than others. Here are the items pointed out by the Washington Post’s fact-checking piece, titled “Attacks Misleading And Out of Context“:

  • Kerry said the wealthy got lots of tax cuts, while Bush said the middle-class received “most” of the tax cuts”. The article states that “Kerry was correct… while Bush was stretching the truth,” Substantive error for Bush.
  • Kerry said that Pell Grants had been cut, while Bush said that he’d increased Pell grants. The article states that Kerry had the facts correct when he said that “they’ve cut the Pell Grants . . . they’re not getting the $5,100 the president promised them.” On the other hand, Bush was correct in saying that “We’ve increased Pell grants by a million students.” However, Kerry was correct in stating that this was because there have been more people with low incomes and who therefore meet the eligibility criteria. No substantive errors.
  • Kerry said that Bush has admitted that he is not concerned about Osama Bin Laden; Bush denied ever saying that. The article points out that Kerry was correct. I think we all know the famous quotes by now. Substantive error for Bush.
  • Kerry asserted that Bush hasn’t met with the Congressional Black Caucus. The article says: “Bush did meet with the Congressional Black Caucus during his first two weeks in office — on Jan. 31, 2001 — but Kerry’s overall charge was correct: Bush has repeatedly turned down requests to meet with the group since then.” Substantive error for Bush.
  • Kerry said that the minimum wage is at its lowest level in 50 years. The article states that he was slightly off, and they’re right, barely; it’s at the second-lowest level in 50 years. (In 1989 it was a bit lower.) Minor error for Kerry.
  • Kerry said that his health care plan would cover all Americans. This is actually not true, as the article points out. However, Kerry clarified what he meant in his closing statement, when he said “We can lift our schools up. We can create jobs that pay more than the jobs we’re losing overseas. We can have health care for all Americans.” This was clearly intended to be a foward-looking statement of optimism, but it is technically a misstatement. Minor error for Kerry.
  • Bush recycled his charge that Kerry voted 98 times to raise taxes. The article points out (as we’ve seen before) that this is untrue. Substantive error for Bush.
  • Kerry said that we’ve seen a loss in 1.6 million jobs under Bush, while Bush said that 1.9 million jobs have been created in the last 13 months. Kerry should have specified that this statistic is for private-sector jobs, while Bush’s statement was true but badly out of context. Minor error for Kerry.
  • Cutting after-school programs: “Kerry’s claim that Bush tried to cut 500,000 children from after-school programs is accurate: Bush’s 2004 budget cut funding for after-school programs from $1 billion to $600 million.” Kerry is right.
  • Cause of the deficit: “While Bush blamed the recession and war for the reappearance of the deficit, this is a rewriting of economic history.” Substantive error for Bush.

So Kerry’s mistakes include things like forgetting to say “private sector jobs” when citing job loss statistics. Bush’s errors are things like taking responsibility for the budget deficit and trying to find OBL. Despite how the Washington Post portrays it, those are not comparable mistakes.