The wind blows, it rains in Brussels and politicians lie. These are facts. While we remain powerless to do much about the first two, a US website has launched an attack on lying politicians. The St Petersburg Times of Florida and Congressional Quarterly of Washington, DC – two of America’s most trusted, independent newsrooms – created www.politifact.com, a fact-checking website that helps voters separate fact from fiction in the claims made during the 2008 presidential campaign. The PolitiFact team checks the accuracy of speeches, TV ads, interviews and other candidate claims and communications, rating them on the ‘truth-o-meter.’ In the event that a politician should, shock-horror, make a u-turn on a particular policy, there is the ‘flip-o-meter,’ with increasing degrees of flipping leading to a ‘full-flop.’ A page dedicated to the candidates collates the data, showing the degree of truthfulness of the individual candidates.
Currently, Obama seems to be running away from McCain in the honesty rankings, with most of Obama’s statements underpinned by some grain of truth and only once were his ‘pants on fire.’ McCain, meanwhile, must be running out of pants to wear, with six fires to his pants and a roughly equal number of true and false statements.
www.politifact.com is an interesting addition to the cynical world of politics. Bringing political statements under scrutiny could not only increase public confidence but also make politicians more aware of the need for consistency and truthfulness. Lying politicians might be a fact, but it is certainly not a fact that we should accept as readily as the weather.
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