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August 31st, 2012
06:22 PM ET

Letters to the President #1320: 'The lonely life of a Fact Checker'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every single day, and no he has not responded.

Dear Mr. President,

The big GOP convention is done, and I am sitting in the Tampa airport as I write this; pretty tired generally, and tired of politics specifically, at least for the moment. If the vote were this Tuesday it would be none too early for my taste.

And yet, on Monday I'm heading to your Democratic convention, and I'll make my best effort to be energetic and cheerful there, just as I was here. That's only fair. Just because one party holds it's convention first the other should not be condemned to a bunch of grumpy, sleepy journalists. Although, to be fair, a lot of us started the whole year that way. Ha!

I suppose one of the things that has me a bit tired is my assignment as the resident "Fact Checker." I've always thought that any journalist, by his or her very nature, ought to be a fact checker and I suppose most are. Still, when you politicos start tossing around accusations against each other, it requires a more concerted effort than usual to determine what is true and what is... well, a tad on the tricky side.

Part of the issue is that the top players, you included, rarely say something that is simply, flatly, unreservedly false. No, most of you prefer to imply, or shade meanings, or omit information; you usually don't tell outright fibs. So quite often we are reduced to saying things like, "While it is true 'Candidate A' spent twenty years in prison, 'Sen. B' neglected to mention that 'Mr. A' was a warden."

In any event, both sides go absolutely carpet chewing, howling at the moon crazy over these things. If a fact checker finds an opponent wrong, your political pals can't wait to tweet that out and praise the wise assessment; if, however, you are found leaning to the less truthful side, it is astonishing how quickly and vigorously the same folks will scream that the fact checker is a biased, unfair, unintelligent bigot. Truth be told, I think both parties ought to welcome fact checkers, because they will hold everyone to a standard of truth, and all anyone has to do to avoid trouble is be honest. That's it.

Hey, look at it this way: If you all did that, I'd be out of business, and all you Democrats and Republicans would not have to gripe about this fact checker any more. Ha!

Call when you can.

Regards,
Tom

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