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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/26/2007

Barbers for Dodd, Gorbie Endorses Rudy

By Michael Dobbs

Before everybody relaxes for the weekend, some facts to ponder over Halloween:

Barbers for Dodd

"Presidential Candidate Chris Dodd today announced that his campaign will begin running a new ad entitled "Jim's," highlighting his ability to achieve results as President....The 60-second spot will run in Iowa and on national cable networks and introduces John and Jesse, two barbers at Jim's barbershop in Winterset, Iowa, where the ad was shot."

--Dodd campaign press release, October 24, 2007.

There's one minor problem with the Dodd ad, and we are indebted to the Des Moines Register for pointing it out. "John" and "Jesse" are not barbers. They are not Democratic voters. In fact, they are not even from Iowa. They are actors from Chicago. There is a "Jim's barbershop" in Winterset, but it is run by a registered Republican, Jim Kinser, who let the Dodd people have the run of his store, but has no plans to vote for the silver-haired senator from Connecticut. And just for the record: Dodd never got a haircut there.

"I am sorry for any confusion," said Dodd spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan. She emphasized that "the place that the ad was shot was real," even if the "barbers" weren't.

The Dodd campaign claims that the use of actors is pretty standard in political ads. An obvious example is the recent series of "job interviews" in which New Mexico governor Bill Richardson has trouble convincing the interviewer that he has the experience to be president, despite a long track record of negotiating with dictators, serving as ambassador to the U.N., secretary of energy, and so on. (See Richardson video here.) As far as we are aware, however, the Richardson campaign never claimed that the "interviewer" was a real "interviewer."

We would award this four Pinocchios, but we are subtracting one Pinocchio for the mediocre acting. Despite the press release, it is difficult to believe that many viewers could have been fooled that these were real people.

Gorbie for Rudy

Photo of Giuliani
"According to Gorbachev, in his book, he says that Ronald Reagan spent the Soviets out of existence."

--Rudy Giuliani, Republican debate, October 21, 2007

It is an article of faith among conservatives that Ronald Reagan brought down the "Evil Empire" by challenging Gorbachev to an arms race he could not possibly win, through "Star Wars" type projects. Those of us who were there at the time (I was The Post's Moscow correspondent from 1988 to 1993) had the impression that the story was a little more complicated than that. I concluded in my book Down with Big Brother that communism was such an appallingly inefficient system that it ultimately "defeated itself."

But that's a different argument. The question here is whether the last of the Red tsars, Mikhail Gorbachev, endorsed the American conservative view of how communism fell. I took another look through his turgid 700-page memoir, and could not find any quote resembling the statement cited by Rudy Giuliani.

I have repeatedly asked the Giuliani campaign for factual support for the mayor's claim, but they have failed to produce anything. If they come up with an appropriate Gorbachev citation, I will be happy to review my verdict. In the meantime, we award Giuliani three Pinocchios.

UPDATE. FRIDAY 4:15 P.M. The Giuliani campaign has finally provided the citation for the mayor's claim on Gorbachev. It consists of a quote not from a Gorbachev book, but a book called "Victory: The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy that Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union" by Peter Schweizer. The Schweizer book has become a bible for Reaganites who claim that their hero delivered the coup de grace that finished off the "Evil Empire."

In his book, Schweizer quotes Gorbachev as saying the following in October 1986, shortly after the Rejkavik summit. "The US wants to exhaust the Soviet Union economically through a race in the most up-to-date and expensive space weapons." Gorbachev went on to accuse Reagan of "wishful thinking."

It is a matter of historical record that the Soviet Union did collapse five years later. One can argue about the reasons for the collapse and the role played by various internal and external factors, including an Alice in Wonderland economy, deep-seated ethnic strains, the superpower arms race, and Gorbachev's own policies. Unfortunately for Giuliani, a 1986 Gorbachev quote accusing Reagan of wanting "to exhaust the Soviet Union economically" is not at all the same thing as an acknowledgment by Gorbachev that Reagan did indeed spend the Soviet Union "out of existence."


Founders for Huckabee

[Photo of Huckabee]
"When our founding fathers put their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, those 56 brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen, they said that we have certain inalienable rights given to us by our creator."

--Mike Huckabee, Republican debate, October 21, 2007.

It's understandable why Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and Republican presidential candidate, would want to inflate the number of clergymen who were present at the creation. But he is not even close, according to our fact-checking colleagues at Only one of the Founding Fathers, John Witherspoon, was an active minister at the time he signed the Declaration of Independence. Another three or four were former clergymen.

Huckabee spokeswoman Kirsten Fedewa acknowledged the error while pointing out that at least 29 of the Founding Fathers had studied religion in college. Politifact issued Huckabee a damning "Pants on Fire" verdict for his mistake. We concede that the good minister may simply have been a little confused, so we award him just three Pinocchios.

Some scary stats for Halloween

According to an Associated Press poll:

  • 34 percent of Americans believe in ghosts (compared to 31 percent who think Bush is doing a good job)
  • 23 percent have seen a ghost (liberals 31 percent, conservatives 18 percent)
  • 19 percent accept the existence of spells or witchcraft
  • 14 percent have seen a UFO
  • 5 percent have seen a monster in their closet
  • Sampling error: plus or minus three percentage points.

    Readership survey. Which of the following would scare you most if you were to find him/her/it in your closet? (a) a monster, (b) a fact checker, (c) a presidential candidate, (d) Al Gore. Answers by October 31, please.

    By Michael Dobbs  | October 26, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
    Categories:  3 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, History, Other Foreign Policy  
    Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Pinocchio Time for Al Gore
    Next: Fact Checking the Fact Checker


    Wow. How fake can they be - am not all that surprised, they are all the same.

    Posted by: john ny | October 26, 2007 7:14 AM | Report abuse

    not sure as to why the dodd commercial is even up for issue as there was nothing stating that it was his barbershop and any living in a closet wouldn't of known that they were why bother scrutinizing this commercial? and who the heck cares if they were actors?

    geeze, looks like you are scraping the bucket for something to report on...
    what a waste of time and energy.

    Posted by: hemnebob | October 26, 2007 8:04 AM | Report abuse

    In your readership survey, using Al Gore as a multiple choice answer was foolish, nonsensical and reflects badly on the writer and the WaPo. How infantile!

    Posted by: tiffany | October 26, 2007 8:16 AM | Report abuse

    This is the best you got? Come on buddy, get some policy comments and check the facts. Wow wee, did we or did we not spend Russia into submission. Who cares. This whole thing is a joke. No wonder no one shows up to read it.

    Posted by: rich | October 26, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

    I suspected The Fact Checker wants to be taken seriously. Oops, my error. Al Gore? Al Gore? That's maybe cute, but hardly serious. Is Tony Kornheiser ghosting this stuff?
    How about this cuteness - Dick Cheney is in the closet. That cute enough for ya? I can't take you seriously anymore.

    Posted by: therev | October 26, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

    Instead of ghosts what about this; how many Pinnochio's is this worth for Shays, R from CT:
    "Fourteen months ago, the Connecticut Republican, in a pitched battle to keep his seat in the House, announced that most U.S. troops should be removed from Iraq in 2007, saying that "the only way we are able to encourage some political will on the part of the Iraqis is to have a timeline for troop withdrawal." That position helped Shays squeeze out a 51 percent victory in his antiwar home state.

    But yesterday, Shays sat opposite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building -- while ferociously defending the war and condemning Democrats for supporting a troop withdrawal."

    This was also on today's news.

    Posted by: Facilitator | October 26, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

    It doesn't surprise me that Huckabee would botch the facts on the signing of the Declaration. He is a follower of the David Barton camp of Christian historical revisionists who have been distorting our history for the purposes of perpetuating the Christian Founders/Christian Nation mythology. Unfortunately, 55% of the country has bought this stuff because we are mostly ignorant of facts of our founding. For those who are interested in this issue and want to know how pervasive this religious distortion is and how much this had intruded into our government, read Liars for Jesus by Chris Rodda and/or visit the website Talk to Action.

    Posted by: LindaJoy | October 26, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

    Mr. Dobbs,

    You are taking another tawdry and cheap shot at Al Gore in your ridiculous survey. The only thing you proved in your columns recently on Mr. Gore is that a British judge thinks he is 99% correct, which I might add is the inverse percentage of the veracity of anything that is printed in the WP lately. Why Gore is a reoccurring topic for you to flog is probably only explainable by a psychiatrist. Based on the sophistication of the style format and factual content of this newspaper lately it could be reasonably construed that you have been bought out by Rupert Murdoch or the old black and white tabloid Weekly World News. In the spirit of the new sleaziness of the WP and Halloween a more constructive survey would be out of all those running which one of these presidential candidates Republican or Democrat would scare you the most if you found them in your closet! Rather than trying to knife him in the back why don't you give Al Gore a rest for awhile? After all he and other Nobel winners are some of the few Americans who have brought any international recognition, credibility or credit to the country lately.

    Posted by: Redman | October 26, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

    Honestly Mr. Dobbs. You have enough material to cover Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney's habitual flip-flopping/lying to keep you busy up until pigs fly. Why bother with nonsense like Al Gore in a closet? No wonder Americans are uninformed when you pander to the lowest common denominator among us. Raise the bar instead of lowering it. This is the "Fact Checker" after all.

    Posted by: martin | October 26, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

    Mr Dobbs, you seem to be under the impression there is a niche for a "fact check" column heavily imbued with your personality. I assure you, you are mistaken. If you are going to do this, either take it seriously or change the title.

    Posted by: zukermand | October 26, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

    Wow, fact checker. You sure do have some crazies in your audience. Don't worry. They are only a few of your hundreds of readers and if they weren't whinning about this they'd be whining about something else. Look at all the other blogs on Washpost and elsewhere. The whiners are out in full.
    I enjoy what you're writing. I like it that you lighten it up sometimes, and pay attention to the serious stuff as well. This is the best thing the Post has.

    Posted by: jim | October 26, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

    Having given it some thought, a suggestion for a more appropriate title:
    "What Michael Dobbs Thinks About Stuff"

    Posted by: zukermand | October 26, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

    I dunno, maybe call it - Facts Lite?

    Posted by: therev | October 26, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

    Poll Answer:
    b) The Fact Chucker

    Posted by: Brian Blake | October 26, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

    At this point Fact Checker even refuses to pretend that he is HEAVILY biased against Democratic candidates.

    Republicans are softballed and Democrats are put on the rack. Really, Giuliani and Huckabee make unverifiable statements that don't stand up to even the slightest scrutiny, yet YOU give them three pinocchios. Our democratic friend on the other hand, runs a 60 second play and he is immediately condemned to four pinocchios. You did not even so much as mention what these 'barbers' were even discussing. Unless that doesn't matter; all we really care about is making Democrats LOOK like liars.

    Let's even go so far as to compare apples to apples. During the 06 congressional campaign, the race in Tennessee featured and ad showing a "supposedly" naked woman endorsing Harold Ford, Jr., along with others who believed that Canada was a sufficient buffer that stood between us and North Korea.

    Did you bother to look into whether North Korea was even a real threat, or whether the Canadians were that inattentive?

    Better yet, did you look into whether the woman was truly naked?

    You sir, have the objectivity of the Spanish Inquisistion, and must be summarily banished to the appropriate century.

    Posted by: FC is a HACK | October 26, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

    i love this column; i especially love the readers who read everything into anything to make something out of nothing... Dick Cheney would be the worst closet partner, in so many ways, but any presidential candidate would be a too-close Halloween closet encounter.

    Posted by: kb | October 26, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

    According to Sergei Khrushchev, the Soviet Union spent their maximum on the military at all times, regardless of what the US did. Even though RR is given credit, they did not increase their spending to match the US--what we did was irrelevant to their commitment. They were crushed by their own choices and inefficiencies. RR happened to be in office at the time. Gorbachev did say that his overtures to the west forced RR become open to detente which led to Reykjavik. RR was sharper than many give him credit, but he was luckier than some admit.

    Posted by: GS | October 26, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

    Wow some people take themselves way too seriously. My poll answer: I'd be most afraid to find one of the humorless wackos posting to this thread in my closet.

    Posted by: Lighten Up | October 26, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

    I thought this was supposed to be fact checking. Looks more like an extension of Novak's talking points. Facts please , or move to op-ed.

    Posted by: george | October 26, 2007 10:28 PM | Report abuse

    Wow. You really are reaching to appear non-parisan with the Dodd ad post. At worst, it deserves one pinocchio --- but when "real people" are as scripted as actors in the ads of virtually every candidate (and, when the scene was so obviously scripted in the first place) the question of whether these were scripted "actors" or scripted "real people" becomes moot.

    You have an obvious problem -- the GOP has to exaggerate and lie, while the Dems can tell the truth. This means that you wind up criticizing GOP candidates far more than Democrats -- opening you up for accusations of bias. But balance for the sake of balance -- to avoid false accusations of bias -- is crap journalism, period.

    BTW, check out the latest Romney ad... the one in which he says "In business, you only spend what you have. In Washington Government always spend more..." This contains two lies -- businesses often take out loans, just like the Government (i.e. businesses 'spend more'), and the Federal government doesn't always 'spend more' -- Clinton had surpluses, and one needn't go back that far in history to find other examples of Federal budget surpluses.

    Posted by: p_lukasiak | October 27, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

    I don't even like Dodd - but what sort of idiot even imagined these were his real barbers! Only the fact-checker.

    Posted by: Wayne | October 27, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

    Misleading Formatting of This Page: this post ought to more clearly differentiate the Pinocchios at the end of an entry and the heading of the next entry. Currently, the Pinocchios are often followed directly by a candidate's name, yet the Pinocchios aren't intended to apply to that candidate. Right?

    Posted by: Ryan Jones | October 27, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

    I disagree with everyone who thinks the idea of Al Gore in a closet is somehow lame. I think it is noble, insightful, profound and entertaining, all wrapped up in a ball of love. How lucky we are to have you as our Fact Checker. What a wonderful world we live in!

    Posted by: Anonymous | October 27, 2007 10:57 PM | Report abuse

    Tell me: Who fact-checks the "Fact-Checker?"

    I simply ask because it "seems" to me that the past 7 years under BushCo - an administration which "appears" to be awash in secrecy, corporatist elitism , fear-mongering and deceit - have been characterized by an unparalleled aversion to so-called "facts."

    In "fact", amidst what appears to be an effort to establish one-party-totalitarian rule in America ----and global corporatization abroad thru military occupation ----- why in the world should we trust ANYONE IN THE MEDIA? After all, hasn't the so-called Forth Estate has been complicit in the Group Polarization strategies obviously used on Americans to brainwash them into supporting the Iraq debacle? (Go ahead and prove to me that neoconservative ideological media outlets do not dominate the airwaves)

    Ergo, as far as facts go ----- I'll just keep using news aggregates, my own NSA and FBI "insiders" and common sense.

    Please, Go "Fact" yourselves.

    (Incidentally, I really like your sensorial posting guidelines: Have you thought about having some appropriate music playing softly in the background?

    Perhaps something like "Deutschland uber alles?")

    Posted by: Casus Belli | October 28, 2007 8:15 PM | Report abuse

    Michael, you should examine this claim by Giuliani (found in an article from the Post, Oct 28):

    "In the radio spot, Giuliani mentions his battle with prostate cancer and notes that his chances of surviving the disease in America were 82 percent, while in England his chances would have been 44 percent."

    Where does he get these numbers?

    Posted by: Ryan | October 28, 2007 8:51 PM | Report abuse

    Wow, what a bunch of thin-skinned reactionaries. This column is clearly intended to provide just as much amusement as serious investigative reporting. Case in point- the "grade" of a candidates factual accuracy is respresented by cartoon character heads. And you pop on here expecting Cronkite to denounce the Vietnam War. Grow up.

    Posted by: Grow up | October 28, 2007 10:44 PM | Report abuse

    If Huckabee only gets three Pinnochios for that one, I am baffled as to what could possibly be said to garner four.

    Studying religion at an 18th Century college would be the practical equivalent of taking a core curriculum mathematics course.

    Huckabee's assertion has to be four pinnochio's worth, deliberately distorting a clear truth to appeal to his base

    Posted by: Jeff G. | October 29, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

    Those responders who tell us to "lighten up" re. including Al Gore as a monster in the closet miss the point; Had a Republican of any stripe been a choice the bias of the question would not be nearly so blatant. And it is that bias that many are objecting to. Unbalanced ridicule is propaganda, clear and simple. Engaging in it is irresponsible for a newspaper of WP's power; dismissing it as "just fun" is to ignore the lessons taught by Dr. Goebbels.

    Posted by: Bob Fritz | October 31, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

    I'm not sure how I would go about finding radical right religious Republicans who have won the Nobel Peace award, an Oscar, or written an award winning book. If such a right winger exist perhaps Fact Checker could point out that person to me. Regards, Carl W. Lundquist, JD, Colonel, Army of the United States (Retired) ...... Boston

    Posted by: Carl W. Lundquist | October 31, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

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