Jack Shafer suspects that “the growing sensitivity to political lies has less to do with more lying by more politicians than it does with the growth of the fact-checking industry over the last decade or so”:
Truth-telling would matter a lot more to politicians if it were as effective in persuading people as truth-bending. Plus, trapping the truth and serving it in a palatable form to an audience is damn hard, as any university professor can tell you. It’s easier and more effective for campaigns to trim, spice and cook facts to serve something tastier, even if they must brawl with the fact-checkers in the aftermath.
You might as well fact-check a sermon as fact-check a campaign speech.
Neither are exercises in finding the truth. That doesn’t mean we can excuse political lies. Please take a mallet to Romney’s fallacious assertion that Obama ended work requirements for welfare and to the Obama campaign’s ad that misstated Romney’s views on abortion. I pair these two fact checks not just to declare moral equivalence between the two parties or candidates but to demonstrate that the mutual-aggression pacts that govern politics make futile the fact-checking machinations of journalists. Give them a million billion Pinocchios and they’ll still not behave.