Monday, September 22, 2008

Fact check check Tenses getting Tenser

Michael Dobbs gets a bit beyond ballance this time. I think I need a new word Balllance which is breaking the rules to achieve a conclusion more favorable to Republicans than to Democrats.

Dobbs has few rules for his Pinocchio test, but he did recently assert one -- inappropriate verb tense (in particular present when past is warrented) counts for 3 Pinocchios.

"I awarded the McCain campaign three Pinocchios for mixing up its verb tenses over the Iraq surge in May. Consistency demands the same verdict for Barack Obama"

Now he awards two Pinocchios for the following claim based on the following fact


"Obama has no background in economics. Who advises him? The Post says it's Franklin Raines, for "advice on mortgage and housing policy." Shocking. Under Raines, Fannie Mae committed "extensive financial fraud." Raines made millions. Fannie Mae collapsed. Taxpayers? Stuck with the bill."

--McCain video release, September 18, 2008.


It turns out that the three items (including an editorial) all rely on the same single conversation, between Raines and a Washington Post business reporter, Anita Huslin, who wrote a profile of the discredited Fannie Mae boss that appeared on July 16. The profile reported that Raines, who retired from Fannie Mae four years ago, had "taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters."

So the McCain took a statement in the past tense and converted it to the present. This is worth three Pinocchios when the Obama campaign did it. So Dobbs awards 2 Pinocchios.

I stand by my interpretation of the present tense (arguing against the three Pinocchios)

"Yes Mr Dobbs verb tenses do matter and "lobbies" does not mean the same thing as "is lobbying". Although the first is called the English present tense, the second is used to assert that an activity which is happening right now. The present tense is also used to refer to having the characteristic of doing something regularly (half an hour ago I could honestly say "I blog" but not "I am blogging"). Black lobbies means Black has lobbied and presumably will lobby again, it does not mean that Black is lobbying right now."

The McCain campaign must claim that Raines advises the Obama campaign regularly and will presumably do so in the future in order to justify the present tense. "A couple of calls" justify a statement in the past perfect not in the present tense.

But way way beyond that "it's" is not the same as "it includes". The McCain campaign claimed that Raines is Obama's only source of advice on "advice on mortgage and housing policy."

The following statement is clearly false

Who reads Michael Dobbs ? It's Robert Waldmann.

I do read Michael Dobbs but I am not the only one. Unless the McCain campaign can justify the claim that no one but Raines advises Obama on mortgages and housing policy, they are lying.

I'd say 4 Pinocchios, but I'd settle for three.

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