LIE PATROL….I think that all the criticism ? muted though it was ? that President Bush got for his misstatements in the second debate must have had an effect. None of the five worst errors from the second debate, which I identified yesterday, were repeated Wednesday night. Instead, they were replaced with other, vaguer, statements that were sometimes misleading but not flat out falsehoods.

In fact, aside from Bush’s infamous Osama statement, which almost belongs more to the world of the bizarre than to the world of ordinary lies, my quickie review (subject to later refinement) suggests there were only two serious new errors:

  • Bush said he had “expanded trade adjustment assistance,” but in fact this was expanded only over strenuous objections by Republicans in order to get Democratic votes for a 2002 trade bill. Still, it did happen on his watch, and trade adjustment assistance is hardly a big campaign issue anyway.

  • Bush said, “Most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans.” According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bottom 80% of taxpayers got one-third of the total tax cut. The Tax Policy Center, which is a little more generous to Bush, says that only 42% of the tax cuts went to families making less than $100,000 per year.

    There are reasonable ways of defending this distribution (top earners have most of the income, so they get most of the tax cut), but factually speaking, you just can’t say that low- and middle income families got “most” of the tax cut.

Overall, though, despite the blizzard of facts and figures, both candidates generally limited themselves to modest exaggerations and standard issue political puffery. Considering what I’d expected, that’s not bad.