Signs of Improvement
I blasted PolitiFact for its rating of John McCain's earmark history during the 2008 presidential campaign. And I've been curious as to how the CQ/St. Petersburg Times fact-checkers would handle various claims that the stimulus package was a kosher bill.
PolitiFact showed some improvement this time around. Bill Adair wrote the entry and did a much better job than did the team of John Frank and Angie Drobnic Holan in describing the different understandings of "earmark."
And in the end, Adair judges "False" the statement of press secretary Robert Gibbs that the legislation contains no earmarks.
But while the ruling is consistent on its face, the justification ultimately varies. Whereas in McCain's case the ruling was based on the "common understanding" of the term "earmark," in Gibbs' case Adair judged that his statement wasn't true in any sense of the term. That is a significant difference.
Now, one might be able to quibble with Adair's judgment as to whether the stimulus bill contains earmarks according to the most specialized definitions. Adair stopped short of rigorously justifying his ruling on that point ("look like earmarks by any definition"). It is good to see the issue analyzed more completely and thus more accurately.
Unfortunately, it can't be said that PolitiFact gave McCain as fair a shake as it did Gibbs.
I grade Adair's entry an A-, and the enduring inconsistency in the entries (which will undoubtedly remain unless past entries are culled or edited) continues as a blemish for PolitiFact.