Last night, while viewing our second presidential debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, I participated in live blogging on the public life blog, called the Watchword. Six reporters on the public life beat participated from various places. I sat with about eight fellow students in a living room. I tried to keep their left-leaning comments from hindering my "unbiased" reporting.
While watching the debate on TV, I was using my laptop to blog, and had several tabs open to other websites for fact-checking. I usually pay attention to post-debate analysis by reporters and panels of undecided voters, but I have never focused on how truthful candidates were about the details.
The details can be quite important. They influence our opinions the moment we hear them even if we don't remember them. And over the course of last night's debate, I realized that often, whether consciously or not, candidates are tweaking the truth. Sometimes they miss the truth by a mile.
I'll cite examples from both candidates, but I think it's fair to cite more from John McCain, since he seemed to make more blunders.
Barack Obama indicated that 95% of everyone would receive tax cuts under his plan. Unfortunately, what he meant was 95% of "working families."
John McCain claimed he wanted to give "every American" a $5,000 refundable tax credit for health care. His plan would actually only provide a tax credit for $2,500; the $5,000 is for couples or families.
John McCain, while talking about eBay's retired chief executive Meg Whitman as a possible replacement for Henry Paulson, said that 1.3 million Americans make their living off of eBay. That number is actually a little over 700,000.
There are many more, and many different websites to help you figure out what is true and what is not. Some good ones I used: FactCheck.org, and Politifact.com