One of worst aspects of the legacy media in recent years has been their attempts at columns devoted to “fact-checking,” often awarding two, three or four pieces of Pinocchio clip art to whatever they determine is a “lie” spoken by a candidate or politician. And invariably, these columns are wildly partisan, first seen in the nuclear-level attacks on Sarah Palin when she pointed out ObamaCare’s potential for rationing via what she described vividly as “Death Panels.” DefCon 1! Burn the witch! Fire all the Pinocchio clip art at her! But as Mark Halperin, then of Time magazine, admitted during a video interview with Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg in November of 2013 during ObamaCare’s disastrous roll-out:
Almost every would-be GOP nominee has made an issue of America’s declining naval strength. This morning The Washington Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee gave “three Pinocchios” to Lindesy Graham and Scott Walker for recalling Ronald Reagan’s 600 ship Navy and deploring our drop to 273 ships today.
Not only does Ms. Lee suggest untruthfulness about these absolutely factual assertions by Graham and Walker, she does so without finding even one expert who challenges their assertions about U.S. naval strength hitting dangerous lows. She joined me to defend her conclusion, but I wasn’t persuaded and believe the Post should issue a correction for putting out as a “fact check” a thinly disguised and actually poorly informed opinion of one of its writers. I appreciate that Ms. Lee would come on to defend her piece but this issue is too important to leave to the “fact checkers” who aren’t actually checking facts:
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HH: Now why do you call it a zombie claim? Because every naval expert I’ve talked to believes we’re in a crisis when it comes to ship count and strategic ability to project force, every single one. And as I read your piece, I didn’t actually find anyone disagreeing with Lindsey Graham or Scott Walker.
MYHL: Well, the zombie claim is sort of a reader-friendly way to describe that this is something that had been talked about in the past, and that it had been challenged in the past as well. And you know, we sort of use it to say hey, you know, we’ve been there before, we’ll say it again. So that’s sort of a reader-friendly way to put it that way. You know, I don’t think it’s that people disagree necessarily with the claim that there needs to be more ships, or that the current fleet is not sufficient compared to what the combatant commanders say they need. But it’s, again, going back to the idea that you know, the needs of, the need and capability of ships evolve over time. So to compare the number of ships in 2015 versus the number of ships in 1915, ’16, ’17 or in the 1980s is just not an apples to apples comparison.
HH: Now I’m going to disagree with you. I want to be respectful here, but I was around in 1980, and when President Reagan campaigned for a 600 ship Navy, he was saying we need a much larger Navy to meet a strategic challenge. When you quote Lindsey Graham and Scott Walker today, and George Pataki said to me last hour, they’re saying we’ve given away strategic advantage. So I think it is apples to apples, and I’d go specifically to, for example, are you familiar with the Ohio Class submarine, Michelle.
HH: And so do you know how many we had when Ronald Reagan took over?
MYHL: I don’t know the exact figure.
HH: Zero. Zip. He invented them. And so he deployed two dozen of them. Now, they’re all going to age out by 2025-2030.
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HH: But isn’t that, what my point is, that’s an editorial judgment. That’s a political opinion. You and I disagree. That’s not a fact, because I think we should use the 600 ship Navy, because that was Reagan’s way of saying strategic deficit, we have…the ocean hasn’t gotten smaller, Michelle. We need a lot of ship bottoms out there. Maybe we don’t need 600, but we need a whole lot more than we’ve got. We’ve got a strategic deficit. Now you might disagree with me on that. But when you do fact checking, my problem with this is, is you’re asserting that they lied when you use Pinocchio. And they didn’t lie. You just disagree, and perhaps they have a knowledge advantage over you, for example, as with regards to the Ohio Class submarines or aircraft carriers or ship bottoms. Is that not a legitimate point of view for me to have?
MYHL: Well, I don’t think this has anything to do with my personal point of view. That’s not where I’m coming at this from. You know, to a certain extent, when you give a Pinocchio rating, you’re going to disagree. You and I are going to disagree. Other people and I will probably disagree. But you try to assess it on a consistent level using the same standards that you have done before. And that’s all I did in this case.
MYHL: And you know, no worries. If Hillary repeats a lie that Obama used in the last campaign, we’ll be consistent with her as well.
HH: No, but that’s not, the point is if you were wrong four years ago, you’re still wrong today. And to assert Pinocchios is to assert they’re lying, isn’t it?
MYHL: That it’s not the truth.
HH: And it is. And what Walker and Graham said is the truth. So I just think you’re editorializing under the guise of fact checking, and it’s a strategic, this is very important stuff, right? Our naval strength is very important. Should the Post be editorializing as opposed to just putting it on the opinion page, which I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to disagree and say hey, we’re not that small. That would be fine. But I mean, to argue Pinocchios, you’re putting it in a different category, aren’t you?
MYHL: I don’t think so. You know, I don’t agree with that. I’m not here to editorialize. I’m not trying to opine. I am trying to do my job of putting these numbers into context, trying to shed extra information to put them into context, and that’s what I aimed to do.
HH: I appreciate you coming on, Michelle Ye Hee Lee. Come back again. I love talking to Dan Balz and Philip Rucker, but I, this is a swing and a miss. I’d have to give you four Pinocchios on this story, but that would be my opinion, not a fact. Michelle Ye Hee Lee, thank you.
Read the whole thing — it’s a vivid reminder of the declining level of MSM journalism, partisanship in the guise of “objectivity” (On her linked-in page, Lee describes one of her influences as Arianna Huffington), and that every GOP presidential candidate is running against both the Democrat candidates, and their operatives with bylines.