NYT's Calmes Elevates Liberal 'Fact-Checking': GOP 'Falsehoods' Have 'Reached a Level Not Typically Seen'

White House reporter Jackie Calmes talked to Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod for a strong hit of Republican Convention bashing in her Friday New York Times story "Obama Team Sharpens Attacks on Rivals' Character." Calmes cited liberal media analysis to bolster her contention that even "independent fact-checkers" think the Republicans are lying.

As the Obama campaign heads into its convention next week, Democrats see openings both to fill in unpopular details of Mitt Romney’s agenda left unsaid by Republicans in Tampa this week and to raise new questions about Mr. Romney’s character after widespread criticism of misstatements by him and his running mate, Paul D. Ryan.

“It’s sort of breathtaking that Paul Ryan made a whole speech about being truthful and making hard choices and yet he never mentioned a single idea of theirs -- like turning Medicare into a voucher program, or a new $5 trillion tax cut they can’t pay for,” David Axelrod, President Obama’s chief strategist, said in an interview on Thursday, hours before Mr. Romney’s own acceptance speech. “They’ve spent an entire week not talking about their ideas because they know their ideas are unpopular.”

But worse than what Republicans have not said, Mr. Axelrod added, is what Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have said: “a compendium of demonstrable lies,” including widely refuted claims that Mr. Obama is trying to end work requirements for welfare recipients and is “raiding” $716 billion from Medicare beneficiaries.

“The audacity of mendacity,” Mr. Axelrod called it, in a play on the title of Mr. Obama’s 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope.” He added, “It’s lying as a campaign strategy.”

The partisan operative’s critique was harsh even by the standards of the normal combat of presidential politics. But it is one that was echoed to some degree by a raft of nonpartisan fact-checking articles, commentary and editorial columns recently, especially on Thursday after Mr. Ryan, who generally has been credited as a straight-shooter throughout his career in the House of Representatives, in his prime-time convention speech on Wednesday night repeated some debunked claims by Mr. Romney and added a few widely disputed statements of his own.


Criticism from the Obama campaign could well be dismissed among voters as the usual stuff of politics, and independent fact-checkers have criticized some of Mr. Obama’s statements, too. Still, the number of falsehoods and misleading statements from the Romney campaign coming in for independent criticism has reached a level not typically seen.

“The Romney campaign has, as is strikingly evident at the Tampa convention, broken new ground in its brazen and cynical disregard for the truth,” said Thomas E. Mann, a longtime political scholar at the center-left Brookings Institution and co-author of the recent book about politics, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.”