Everybody else has linked to Tom Bruschino’s marvelous takedown of PolitiFact. The Weekly Standard describes Bruschino as the assistant professor of history at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth. In case you missed Bruschino’s post, here’s the key pullquote:
1. On the Navy question, Romney appears to be accurate using the standard Navy metric, which is number of active ships. In 2003, the US Navy dropped below 300 active ships, and is currently at about 285. The last time the number was below 300 at the end of the year was 1916, when it was at 245. By the end of 1917, the number was 342. An excellent source is the Naval Historical Office, here: http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/org9-4.htm
I suppose you could ding Romney for personnel numbers, which were lower in the 1930s than they are now, but navies usually are judged by ship totals. See here: http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq65-1.htm
As for the Air Force, that one is trickier, because I cannot find a good single source to point the way. That said, the Air Force has a large statistical collection at this page: http://www.afhso.af.mil/usafstatistics/index.asp
It appear that the figure is accurate personnel-wise. The current force has about 332,000 active duty, and the last time it was that low was in 1947, when the number was 305,000. As for numbers and ages of aircraft, the numbers vary based on active duty or counting reserves, but generally it appears that aircraft were slightly fewer and a bit older in the mid 2005-2008 range. I am not a statistician, but the specific numbers seem a bit more complicated than the statement from Romney implies. Then again, the overall statement appears to be accurate about the trend–the Air Force is older and smaller than it has been for almost its entire history.
PolitiFact took Bruschino’s data and responded that Romney was lying (“Pants on Fire”) in the South Carolina debate. As John Nolte writes, “PolitiFact Creates Their Own Facts to Attack Republicans.”
Ace dubs it “The End of PolitiFact.” Winston and O’Brien reminded us long ago how fungible facts can be; objectivity has been dead in the media for quite some time. Hopefully someone can spray in some Glade or Lysol to hide the stench while the body continues to decompose.