The measure of mendacity

THE MEASURE OF MENDACITY…. Fact-checking a 90-minute debate featuring John McCain is a little daunting — most of what he has to say strays from the truth.

But looking over my notes and the transcript, a few whoppers jumped out at me.

* McCain said he “left my campaign and suspended it to go back to Washington” to work on the bailout. In reality, there was never an actual suspension.

* McCain said he wants it to be “very clear” to voters: “I am not in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy.” Seriously, he said that.

* McCain said, “[O]il drilling offshore now is vital so that we can bridge the gap.” But this leads the voter to think coastal drilling will offer short-term benefits. It won’t. Even the Bush administration and McCain’s policy aides concede that we’re about a decade away from new coastal drilling having any kind of effect on the marketplace.

* McCain said that Obama “wants to announce that he’s going to attack Pakistan.” As Obama explained very effectively last night, that’s not even close to true.

* McCain said that Obama “has voted 94 times to either increase your taxes or against tax cuts.” First, that’s still wrong. Second, if we use McCain’s standards and look at his own record, McCain has voted 477 times to either increase taxes or against tax cuts. The last time I checked, 477 is greater than 94.

And if stretch the definition of “whopper” a bit to include sins of omission, there was one other thing that bugged me. McCain said, “We went in to Somalia as a peacemaking organization, we ended up trying to be — excuse me, as a peacekeeping organization, we ended up trying to be peacemakers and we ended up having to withdraw in humiliation.” What McCain neglected to mention is that in 1993 he insisted that Congress had the power to force Clinton to begin an “immediate, orderly withdrawal from Somalia.” He even introduced a measure to cut off funding for the troops while they were in harm’s way, though he later changed his mind about pursuing it.

Most of the post-debate analysis considers angles such as the candidates’ demeanor and appearance, but if accuracy were the key standard, McCain’s defeat was a blowout.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.