A PolitiFact item stemming from Florida's iteration of the GOP presidential debate focused on this (bold emphasis added) statement from Gov. Perry in response to fellow candidate Rick Santorum (bold emphasis carried over from the version published by PolitiFact):
WALLACE: Governor Perry, 30 seconds to respond, sir.Hmm. In what has the federal government not engaged?
PERRY: I've got one question for him.
Have you ever even been to the border with Mexico?
PERRY: I'm surprised if you have, but you weren't paying attention, because the idea that you --
SANTORUM: Well, the answer is, yes, I have.
PERRY: -- are going to build a wall, a fence for 1,200 miles, and then go 800 miles more to Tijuana, does not make sense. You put the boots on the ground.
We know how to make this work. You put the boots on the ground. You put the aviation assets --
SANTORUM: But it's not working, Governor.
PERRY: -- in the ground. No, it's not working because the federal government has not --
SANTORUM: But you said we know how it works. Is it working in Texas?
PERRY: The federal government has not engaged in this at all. When I'm the president of the United States, I'll promise you one thing --
SANTORUM: But you're saying you put the assets there. Has it worked in Texas?
PERRY: -- we will put the assets on the ground --
SANTORUM: You said you have.
PERRY: -- the boots on the ground --
BAIER: Senator Santorum, let him finish, please.
PERRY: -- the aviation assets on the ground, and we will stop illegal immigration, we will stop the drug cartels, and we will make America secure.
Really? There aren't any federal boots on the Texas border?Really? PolitiFact seriously thinks Perry was saying the federal government hasn't put any agents along the Texas border?
If they're going to take it that literally then they might as well take Perry to be suggesting that we can secure the border by dropping boots from the sky to land along the southern border. Boots as in shoes.
Basic charitable interpretation suggests that Perry was talking about something more than simply having agents on the border. Even PolitiFact grants that it matters what the agents do while they're stationed there:
We're not checking whether federal investment has been effective — merely, as Perry said, whether the federal government has been "engaged."This fact check item is a bad joke. One cannot assume that Perry was denying the presence of federal agents on the border with his statement. Perry's words carry a good deal of ambiguity stemming from his failure to specify what it is the boots ought to do while on the ground. One can fault Perry for that, but it's simply ridiculous to leap to the assumption that he was denying the presence of federal agents.
The term "engaged" carries a connotation of focus. As well, Perry may not have gotten around to describing the particular booted activity in which the federal government has failed to engage. Moderator Chris Wallace terminated the exchange and Perry had only received permission for a 30 second response in the first place.
The PolitiFact item contains no hint that the PolitiFact team tried to obtain any clarification from Perry regarding his intent. Therefore, the tag "journalists reporting badly" applies.