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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/28/2007

Obama Tells a Fib

By Michael Dobbs

Obama in Portsmouth, NH, yesterday.


We have a president who chortled about the fact that he has not left the country before he was president.

It's very hard for us to lecture others about their economies when we have doubled the national debt during one presidential term, or during the administration of a single president.

--Barack Obama, Foreign policy forum in Portsmouth, NH, November 27, 2007.

It is true that George W. Bush had limited foreign travel experience prior to becoming president, but it is a myth that he had never been outside the United States. Obama was also wrong on the national debt.

The Facts

For a normally cautious politician, Obama can sometimes make careless mistakes. See this remark about more young black men "languishing in prison" than attending college. In this case, he may have confused Bush with former Republican House majority leader Richard K. Armey who said in July 1998 that he wasn't much interested in foreign travel. "I've been to Europe once," Armey told reporters. "I don't need to go again."

George W. Bush was certainly not a great foreign traveler prior to his election as president, but he had made at least brief trips to many parts of the world (including Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America). Reached yesterday at the Middle East Peace Conference in Annapolis, his long-time press aide Gordon D. Johndroe provided the following list of countries visited by Bush prior to 2001 "off the top of my head."

  • China (in the 70s when his father was the US rep in Beijing)
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Israel

  • Johndroe evidently forgot about the West African nation of the Gambia, which the younger Bush visited in 1990 representing his father at Independence Day celebrations. He made several trips to Mexico as governor of Texas, and visited the U.K. with the Young Presidents' Organization, a group of corporate executives.

    Bush's first experience of the Middle East came in 1998 as he was considering a run for the presidency. After visiting his daughter in Italy (Johndroe also forgot about that trip), he joined a group of other U.S. state governors in Cairo, where they met Hosni Mubarak. The group then traveled to Israel where Bush toured the West Bank in the company of Ariel Sharon, the father of the Jewish settlement policy.

    Not quite the same as traveling by bus around Kenya and going to school in Indonesia--as Obama did in his formative years--but a far cry from the caricature offered by the Illinois senator.

    During the same foreign policy conference, Obama also exaggerated the increase in the national debt under Bush. For the record, the debt stood at $5.728 trillion on January 20, 2001, on the day of Bush's inauguration. It now stands at $9.134 trillion. As a percentage of GDP , which is probably a fairer way to look at it, the debt has risen from 58 percent when Bush took office to around 67 per cent today.

    The Pinocchio Test

    It is unclear what Obama was thinking about when he made these remarks. His spokesman, Bill Burton, emailed me this comment: "Zzzzzzz." That may be the case, but it is hardly the way to win the heart of the Fact Checker. I forgive Obama the trillion odd dollar mistake on the size of the national debt--who knows, it may reach $11.4 trillion by the end of 2008--but to say that George W. Bush never traveled abroad prior to 2001 is simply incorrect.

    UPDATE: I received another e-mail from Bill Burton at 6:30 a.m. this morning (half an hour after this post went up), amplifying his "Zzzzz" remark of yesterday. He said that the national debt was on track to increase by 70 percent by the end of Bush's second term. "Yes, it hasn't quite doubled," he conceded. "However, it's pretty close."

    On the matter of Bush's foreign travel, Burton cited a June 20, 2000 interview with Hearst newspapers in which Bush, then governor of Texas, was asked whether he planned to travel abroad prior to the presidential election in November. This was his reply:

    "I should have said 'no unequivocally,' but I would say 'unlikely now.' I thought about it. I did travel abroad once. I went down to Nuevo Laredo (Mexico) and opened a bridge (with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo). One of my prouder achievements of my governorship of Texas is all the (good) wishes from Mexico (after my) willingness to defuse the ugly race-baiting issues (and) immigrant-bashing that went on for a while."

    The "I did travel abroad once" comment is interesting, but ambiguous. Was Bush being deliberately philistine in overlooking his other foreign trips? Or was he referring to his official travel as governor of Texas while campaigning for the presidency? As we know, GWB sometimes mangles his words. I invite readers to do their own sleuthing, but I am declaring an amnesty on the 2000 election. This column is focused on 2008.

    UPDATE II: After submitting their additional evidence, the Obama campaign appealed for a reconsideration of my original four Pinocchio verdict. There is always room for argument about the appropriate number of Pinocchios and I am willing to revisit past verdicts if fresh evidence emerges. In this case, I agree that the Bush quote they cite casts a slightly different light on the matter. Nevertheless, the senator is still wrong. So I am changing "whopper" to fib, and subtracting one Pinocchio.

    Incidentally, to reply to a number of commenters, I did not simply take the word of a White House spokesman on Bush's overseas travel prior to becoming president. I checked Johndroe's claim against the Lexis-Nexis database. They were wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but, on this one at least, the White House is correct. (In fact, Johndroe failed to mention a couple of trips taken by GWB, prior to becoming president, such as the trip to the Gambia.)

    (About our rating scale.)

    By Michael Dobbs  | November 28, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
    Categories:  3 Pinocchios, Barack Obama, Candidate Watch, Economy, History, Other Foreign Policy  
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    Why for the god sake doesn't Obama want to organize a team of qualified engineers and pertinent scientists to listen to developed concepts of Wayne Pickette, to speed up their movements in the USA Patent Office, and to organize their fast implementation? It doesn't require a lot of efforts, he had a sufficient number of specialists at his finger tips. It is more reasonable problem solving wise than to rely on Oprah and everything connected with her. It is, obviously, needed, as it is currently only one seemingly available solution for the most urgent current problem, produced by global warming, and even if there are some obstacles during the implementation, it is much more reasonable to work intensively to void them, than to pay corrupt top level politicians for endorsements. What is wrong with this political and social environment, that it doesn't want even to try to protect itself from the already recognozed grave threat? What is wrong with Obama - personally? I broke unintentially my mirror in November of 2001. Is it that I and my family are obliged, therefore, to withstant the terrible luck until November 2008 or what? I really and truly can't find ANY other explanation of what is going on!

    Posted by: aepelbaum | November 28, 2007 6:40 AM | Report abuse

    An article in the Sydney Morning Herald concerns a paper written by 2 experts Armstrong and Green, on scientific forecasting. They write"In 2007, a panel of experts commented that the IPCC Working group One report predicts dramatic and harmful increases in average world temperatures for the next 92 years. We asked, are these forecasts a good basis for developing public policy? Our answer is no."
    The reason is that the IPCC and everyone else, including the Post, does not distinguish between the opinions of experts and scientific forecasting.

    Posted by: Dr Roger . Bell | November 28, 2007 7:44 AM | Report abuse

    OK, WP...

    In a world where candidates regularly claim to talk to God, want to double Gitmo, insist that Iran is developing WMDs, and so on and so on, how does this qualify for a "whopper"?

    Another slow news day at the Post? Or did the editors decide it was time to put the horse race back into Iowa, where Obama is set to clobber the Beltway candidate?

    You folks are amazing.

    Posted by: Wexler | November 28, 2007 7:45 AM | Report abuse

    USA once made their International image in 70-th, becoming the world leading entity in technology and electronics. It was highly respected, therefore, in spite of Vietnam. What could be the best way to re-establish USA international prestige, practically annuled by 9/11 and its consequences, than to initiate another technological revolution, getting rid of combustion engines and their pollution, and resolving, simultaneously, the current energy crisis, as this new technology allows to utilize ALL sorts of fuels, and ALL kinds of energy, starting with the solar energy DIRECTLY? If USA initiates this new revolutionary technological solution, it would not only successfully resolve many of its internal problems, but also re-establish its role of the recognized technological leader of the world. And the latter one, I am sure, would be enough to have 9/11 and its consequences to be forgiven, though not forgotten, of course.
    No words, and/or diplomatic visits and tricks of any similar sort can improve USA international prestige the same way, as the re - establishment of technological leadership could. Is not it clear as the day is light? I am sure that it is!

    Posted by: aepelbaum | November 28, 2007 8:05 AM | Report abuse

    Mr. Obama, you are, certainly, a smart man. Please, listen to the voice of reasons, and the basic common sense!

    Posted by: aepelbaum | November 28, 2007 8:10 AM | Report abuse

    Could the Fact Checker please double-check his facts on the issue of Mr. Bush's lack of travel before becoming President? It has been my understanding, as an assiduous reader of newspapers and various books of history and current events, that Bush the younger had indeed barely left the country before his election as President. Spain and a short trip to Scotland are the two destinations which ring a bell in my mind, from the list Mr. Johndroe recited. A quick glance at the links that appear from Googling this issue reaffirms the "received wisdom" that Bush was, at the very least, someone with a higher than average opportunity to travel abroad who took little to no opportunity to do so. Mr. Obama does not deserve four Pinocchios for his comments; perhaps, if the fact checker does a little more research, he will find reason to remove some or all of them.

    Posted by: Mary | November 28, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

    Great Britain and Australia, being located on ilands and small continent subsequently understand now the urgency to fight and to stop global warming consequences, but USA, especially, its midwest population do not. Is it necessary to have a half of USA territory to get under water , as New Orleans already did, to have USA people and its "smart" government to pay attention to the only one currently available solution to stop this procedure, or at least slow down it immensely? Where is the end of this obvious and suicidal stupidity? Obama, please, get a grip and act fast! Wayne D. Pickette needs anly a bit of professional attention, a bit of legal help to speed up his patents in the USA patent office, and a bit of financial assitance to speed up the building of his concept's prototype. Be a visionary, Obama, please!

    Posted by: aepelbaum | November 28, 2007 8:18 AM | Report abuse

    slow news day I guess. Instead of doubling the national debt, Bush merely made it over 1.5x bigger. That's certainly merits 4 pinocchios. Yawn. more like a light whopper, hold the mayo.

    Posted by: yawnn | November 28, 2007 8:19 AM | Report abuse

    I don't think a purple man can be president, but if the Washington Post's 'fact checker' had not been severely crippled by neocon disease for the past six years, there wouldn't be enough space on the web to print all the 'pinnochios' that George Mush has earned

    or all of his dreary quislings for that matter, now deserting the filthy, rotten ship that the Washington Post has kept afloat with its sleazy, winking eye turned away from the disease and crepitude that is the city of Washington and its repugnocrat denizens

    Posted by: Lamb Cannon | November 28, 2007 8:20 AM | Report abuse

    Four pinocchios!! I have an idea. How about you state the facts (the real ones, that is) and the readers decide how many pinocchios are given. That way, the MSM agenda is at least staved by the collective hand of the people. I sincerely hope gullible persons do not read this column.

    Posted by: TMo | November 28, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

    Yeah sure... we all know about Bush's travels to the "country of Africa." I guess the question we could ask is: Does "W" remember any of it, or is it all a blur? I also question any numbers put out by the Bush administration, e.g., medicare prescription costs. I shudder to think of what the real national debt will end up being when it is handed over to President Obama.

    Posted by: Joyce | November 28, 2007 8:33 AM | Report abuse

    Wow. Rather than double, the debt has *merely* increased by 60 percent over the past seven years, and could well be on its way to doubling by January 20, 2009.

    And this massive increase has taken place in the span of a single presidential administration.

    THAT'S an important news story in itself. And yet it's not on the front page. I randomly found it by clicking this backpage story this morning.

    Why are reporters not focusing on THAT story?

    This massive debt increase is far more consequential to voters and their children than Obama's casual use of the term "doubling."

    Here's a blanket request to the national news media: for once, please obsess less about the horse race aspect of this campaign, and start focusing on real things -- such as this massive debt number -- that will actually affect the American people as we decide who our next president will be.

    Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2007 8:35 AM | Report abuse

    Sounds like you gave him 4 pinocchios because the flack dissed you. Really does wonders for your credibility.

    Posted by: elroy1 | November 28, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

    Not so fast, FC! If it is a "myth" that Bush did not travel prior to 2001, it is one he cultivated himself. Many of us are reading that list of countries for the first time because Bush wanted to appeal to his base as someone who didn't care much for travel overseas. Obama was speaking to Bush's "chortling" attitude toward travel outside the US, which is accurate. In that context, I'd say one Pinocchio at the most simply for not knowing what Bush did not want anyone to know.

    Posted by: Metame | November 28, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

    Obama will soon find that now that he has the media's "blessing" as their own favorite upcoming frontrunner, it can also be a curse. Every utterance that he, his wife, and aides make will be scrutinized, sometimes distorted, quoted out of context and even willfully misstated. This is what sometimes passes as political news coverage. What the media has built up they also take down.

    Posted by: Roseann | November 28, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

    Fact-checker, I'm sorry the four pinocchios is a bit much. That rating is when what you are saying is patently false, not when you get the statistics wrong, even though the essence of what you're saying is correct. George W. Bush never made it a secret that he didn't really care for going abroad before he was President, thus Obama was speaking to that. Plus I've heard Joe Biden say similar things on the campaign trail while talking up how the Foreign Relations Committee had to do a lot of the diplomacy early on in this administration because Bush knew nothing about foreign countries. And the debt one is even worse. Obama could have just confused the numbers but the very spirit of what he was saying, which was that the debt has grow unprecedentedly under a proclaimed small government conservative Republican, which whether it is double, two-thirds or half, is still a large increase. It really seems like you didn't like the spokesman's response to your inquiry and so you chose to slam his boss. At most this is exaggeration for brevity sake and most likely just a lack of fact-checking before repeating something that is out in common knowledge. I would say one pinocchio because what he said wasn't true, but there was little intent to put one over on the audience.

    Posted by: RCD | November 28, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

    To Mary, who is upset that she didn't know about Bush's travels prior to his presidency. With all due respect, just because a bunch of biased newspapers and books didn't properly educate you to his travels, doesn't necessarily make it so. Use your own time and research it yourself. You will find it to be true and your research will probably also dispel a lot of other myths you thought you "knew"

    Posted by: Greg | November 28, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

    RCD, please direct me to the article or information where Bush said he didn't like to go abroad. I am acutley aware of MSM sources and opposition candidates who who stated it, but I wouild like to read where the prez said it. I agree with you on the debt, however, it is atrocious and it will be Bush's legacy to the next two generations. As a conservative it makes me sick to my stomach that he and a Republican congress allowed to let it happen. BTW, that and immigration is the real reason we threw the bums out in 06.

    Posted by: Greg | November 28, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

    i have to agree with alot of these readers...

    must be a slow news day, guess you have to make something newsworthy even if it isn't.

    why don't you fact check the facts with regards to cheney and bush and how they are crapping all over my constitutional rights and how the media looks the other way rather than reporting the IMPORTANT ISSUES FACING THIS COUNTRY!!

    Posted by: hemnebob | November 28, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

    How about B. Hussein Obambi's comment about the 10,000 killed in a Kansas tornado? The real number was 12!

    Posted by: onwaj6 | November 28, 2007 9:39 AM | Report abuse

    my goodness, aonwaj6. what a jackass you must be to distort obama's name like so. think his middle name means he's a terrorist??? aren't you smart! and so deep!

    Posted by: wow | November 28, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

    This is sooooo stupid. The point Obama is making is that George Bush is an idiot. Now THAT is an undisputed fact.

    Posted by: Nashville_fan | November 28, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

    "That may be the case, but it is hardly the way to win the heart of the Fact Checker"

    Did he hurt your feewings? This'll show him not to mess with The Fact Checker!!

    C'mon, Michael, be a man.

    Posted by: david | November 28, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

    just another hater on Obama's increase in popularity. I have yet to see a politician that is right on the mark for their comments. STOP HATING!!

    Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

    Good Lord!

    Did you actually hear what Obama said? He said the president himself had implied traveling outside the US was unimportant!!!
    This is the same president who bragged that he never read a newspaper. I suppose if someone reminded us of that you would give them 5 long noses!!

    Posted by: Jennifer | November 28, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse


    Posted by: horseface | November 28, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

    Jesus, man, you flushed your own credibility straight down the crapper on this one. If you think this is a "Whopper" then you have no sense of scale or priorities. Please, WaPO, get someone else to do this job!

    ZZZZZZzzzzzz indeed!


    Posted by: PBurns | November 28, 2007 10:17 AM | Report abuse

    Hard to see how you can fault Obama for repeating a "whopper" about Bush that Bush himself promulgated.

    You might have given 3 Pinnochios, only the Obama rep didn't get you the information in time? How about a fact checker for the fact checker, so you don't have to rely so heavily on candidates' campaigns?

    Good to know, though, how these ratings are really arrived at; if the campaign pisses you off or "disses" you, apparently that's good for a couple of Pinnochios.

    Posted by: Seytom | November 28, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

    Sounds like the Washington Post is telling a whopper. Obama was merely commenting on what Bush himself said.

    Salon magazine commenting on Bush's first-ever trip to Europe

    Posted by: Mr. Unite Us | November 28, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

    I enjoy how you bury the facts that dispute your whole article at the very bottom where few get to. 70% is close enough to 100% for government work, and the quote from 2000 is very specific. Your article falls into the category of "make believe"

    Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

    Wrong? Yes. Whopper? No.

    "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." is what a whopper looks like.

    Posted by: Kagro X | November 28, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

    Yet another Washington Post "fact checker" column that is, honestly, embarrassing to read. After the Inconvenient Truth one, I was sort of hoping we might see a newer, better, and more fact-prone class of article. Apparently not. Perhaps the editors of the Washington Post could do us all a favor and withdraw this particular recurring feature before I become ashamed of sharing URLs to washington post articles with my colleagues.

    Posted by: R. Watson | November 28, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse


    Don't Do THAT to Obasamaaaaa!!!!


    Me thinkem, Barack Hussein, should keepum Big Mouth SHUT! And How!

    Hi! I'm Obasama, and I am going to do my impersonation of a Mime!

    BUT, don't I appear to have a Clue!? Here have another anecdote!

    Posted by: RAT-The | November 28, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

    Seems like the Washington Post is telling a whopper. Obama was commenting on Bush's comments.

    The real issue is that Bush was elected despite his lack of knowledge of foriegn countries.

    Example below.

    From May 19 issue of Germany's Der Spiegel

    (Translation) "It is said about the US president that before 9-11 he thought that the Taliban was a Bavarian brass band. Now the president of the world's most powerful nation has put his foot in his mouth yet again. It was Condoleezza Rice, his national security advisor who had to rescue the situation. When talking with Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, 71, Bush surprisingly asked: "Do you have Blacks too?" Ms. Rice noticed how stunned and surprised Cardoso looked and quickly told Bush that Brazil likely has more blacks than the US and that outside of Africa it was the place with the highest number of blacks. The Brazilian president remarked later that Bush was "still in a learning-phase" when it came to South America."

    -- July 12, 2002

    Posted by: Mr. Unite Us | November 28, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

    These are really great posts. They have drilled down to the core of this issue and laid bare that FC is not only wrong on this but apparently biased against Barack either because of his flack's non-response or his desire to create a story to get himself some attention.

    By the way, relying on a former W flack for the facts or the truth of any situation is waaaaaaaay stupid and hardly reliable given all the lies this administration has put out over the years.

    Damn! This administration even lied to its own flacks so they would lie with a clean conscience to the press. It was just this week that Scott McLellan revealed that.

    FC, if you want the truth, do your own research.

    By the way, when you accepted the national debt number from your undisclosed source, did that include the off-the-books cost of the war? I wouldn't be surprised if our national books are cooked given the desire of the White House to minimize the disaster they have caused.

    Meanwhile, when will you fact check the top tier folks on the sidelines trying to have an influence on the presidential race? for instance, yesterday it was reported that Karl Rove claimed that the President didn't want Congress to vote on the 2002 war resolution in September of that year but wanted them to wait until after the election.

    That was a BIG WHOPPER with CHEESE with a specific goal of blaming Iraq on a Democratic Congress. That is a lie of ENORMOUS proportion. Keith Olberman exposed it as such last night and showed the press statements of the President demanding action on that bill. They were found on that notoriously unreliable website,

    Posted by: campaignman | November 28, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

    While Bush hasn't technically "doubled" the national debt, he's come pretty close, and it was my recollection that Bush had only visited MExico before he entered office.

    If Obama's exaggerations are "whoppers," how in the world would you characterize most of the things coming out of Giuliani's mouth?

    Once again, the "liberal" media nitpicks the Democrats over the little things like unintentional exaggerations and lets the GOP slide over out-and-out falsehoods. I guess it's true that if you tell a big enough lie, you can get away with it.

    By at least TRYING to be honest with the American people, the Dems ensure a rocky road for themselves. No good deed goes unpunished, indeed!

    Posted by: waka waka | November 28, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

    Who cares?

    Posted by: danny | November 28, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

    Wow, this blog brings out the incredibly racist and insane in droves.

    Posted by: viv | November 28, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

    I hope the WaPo can intimidate ALL the candidates into checking their own facts and being more truthful in general. It seems that contrary "facts" are the root of most disagreements.

    Posted by: Mike Sorensen | November 28, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

    Jeez, "whopper?" Four noses? For that?

    So how many noses would "We'll be greeted as liberators" rate? Fifty?

    How about "We know where (the WMD) are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." A hundred noses?

    How about "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

    Or "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people...would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."

    Now THOSE are whoppers. And that is the kind of fact-checking this column should be doing, not borderline exaggerations on the campaign trail based on things Bush himself has said...

    PLEASE use this column for some good, OK? You have responsibility with this privilege... Fact-check things that actually matter.

    Posted by: Tom | November 28, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

    W H A T E V E R

    Posted by: Mobedda | November 28, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

    Be nice if the MSM would spend more time, on issues actually addressed by Obama, like technology.


    "Barack Obama's innovation and technology agenda will end the current oil-and-gas Administration's lack of leadership on the issues shaping our future. This is a 21st century agenda, one that was developed for the American people, not the powerful, entrenched interests in Washington, DC. Barack Obama is the one candidate for president who can create the change necessary for America to enjoy real prosperity in a global economy. An Obama administration will drive investment in our communications infrastructure, our human capital and ensure we have a competitive marketplace that benefits all Americans." [Reed Hundt, Former Chairman, Federal Communications Commission (1993-1997)]

    "Barack Obama's technology plan is unique because it focuses first and foremost on empowering people to connect with each other and with government to solve problems. The plan recognizes that technology is not an end in itself, but a means to improve education and health care, create jobs and make America safer. No other candidate so fully embraces technology as a way to strengthen our democracy and improve people's lives. The plan is truly innovative." [William E. Kennard, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission (1997-2001); Managing Director, The Carlyle Group

    Posted by: Mr. Unite Us | November 28, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse


    You mischaracterized what Obama said. He didn't assert that Bush never left the country before becoming President. Obama stated that Bush has joked about not leaving the country before becoming president, which he has done (and was documented in the article).

    Posted by: Anon | November 28, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

    Thanks for the check! While Obama is my candidate, it is important that we hold all Presidential hopefuls accountable.

    Posted by: DG | November 28, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

    Lots of pinocchios are due to Obama, for these outrageous quotes.

    Since Obama is running primarily as a "fresh face" whose "life story" is a compelling reason to vote for him, the fact that he can't get someone else's life story straight is important.

    Travel's way overrated, of course, by the WaPo staff and readers. I've been to Europe three times, and I just don't see what it is about traveling there that could make one a better president.

    That said, had Bush really never been to Canada?

    Obama does a nice job with verb tense in that first quote. Right up there with "childrens can learn," but somehow the media doesn't dwell on it like Bushisms.

    We also learn from the second quote that Obama's got no feel for economics, much less training, because of course it matters how big the economy is when discussing the size of the national debt, just as it matters how much money you make when considering how big of a home mortgage you can afford. A 9 percent increase of the GDP over eight years involving two wars just isn't that bad.

    Tom, many people for many decades designed New Orleans' levees and other structures to withstand a storm only one category lower than Katrina. In many parts of Iraq our troops were greeted as liberators. Even recent WaPo articles show that now in a lot of areas near Baghdad our troops are now considered allies of the once-hostile local populace. On the 9/11 claim, you had to look into the bowels of the FBI to find a memo suggesting that terrorists would do what they did. You'd get only a pinocchio or two for the WMD quote, as Bush was acting on the best intelligence available at the time. So, no whoppers there.

    Posted by: The Angry One | November 28, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

    Clinton is losing so they have to try to bring Obama down. As usual WAPO has to look out for their "girl"

    Posted by: Dave, TN | November 28, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

    "I forgive Obama the trillion odd dollar mistake ..."

    I'm sure Senator Obama can rest easy now knowing you forgive him.

    But, seriously, who cares what you think? I don't.

    Posted by: luv2laff11 | November 28, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

    I am not sure why this is such a whopper, except that this column likes to pick on Obama. It was often reported that Bush never had traveled abroad. I remember that, so if Obama made the mistake of relying on journalists reports then so be it. I don't think this is very important to look at. How about looking at Clinton's claim that she was so important in foreign policy during the Clinton years? Like Albright did not exist.... that seems to be a whopper that is pertinent to this race.

    Posted by: goldie | November 28, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

    The idea of a fact checker seems a good one, but the practice has seemed so subjective as to be self-defeating. Yes the astounding increase in debt in Bush's terms will not quite double the debt but they are astounding nonetheless. And Obama's point about Bush chortling about his lack of travel experience as if it was a plus was accurate (although he apparently claimed that he had gone to Mexico once rather than out of the country never).

    The fact that Bush's point was inaccurate is not something that undercuts Obama's point.

    Perhaps this deserves a pinochio or two. But how is rated so much more dishonest than Guliani claiming that a whole slew of statistics went up for Romney when they other went down or did not significantly change. One can hardly dismiss that as exaggeration when it is actually flat false.

    Posted by: Lon | November 28, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

    The "Fact Checker" is the most biased, sanctimonious piece of BS to come out of the Washington Post since forever.

    A "Whopper?" For getting one statistic slightly off? You've gotta be kidding me. Or maybe you were just upset that everyone knows this column is a biased POS and Obama's campaign realized that.

    Posted by: gmarkoff | November 28, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

    Could you at least put the update at the top of the column so that people who don't read all the way to the bottom will know that Obama didn't lie, his spokesman just didn't answer you fast enough?

    Posted by: atlliberal | November 28, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

    Even If Albright Handled Most Of The Foreign Policy Matters Clinton Got Own The Job Training,Did Any Of You Know That Senator Clinton Were Responsible For The Appointment Of Albright,& Janet Reno That I Know About,Why Would You Think She Would Do Such A Thing,You People Are The Worst Hypocrits I've Seen To Date,Hilliary Has Foreign Policy Experience That's Why Most People & Blacks Are Voting For Her,You See We Can Read Between Her Lines,And Before It's Over So Will You.I Guess For Her Actually Taking Part In Foreign Policy Makes Her Time In The White House Irrelavant,It Don't Matter How You Obama Fans Try To Decifher It,There Are Enough Of Us Who Know Why Hilliary Clinton Has A 20 To 30% Lead Over Mr Obama For Almost A Year,And Still Holding Firm,It's My Opinion That Mr Obama Would Do This Country Much Harm,He Delivers Speeches And Immediately His Supporters Start Wetting Their Pants,Screaming Mr Obama You Are My True Saviour.He's A Plant By The Very Same People We Are Trying To Eliminate From This Earth,Muslims Radicals,& Extremist,I Just Don't Trust Muslims,And Particularly Not Living In The white House.He's A Clever Maneuverer,Changing Positions When It's Political Correct For His Choosing,Like For Instant The Audacity Of Hope,And Several Other Issues,But Senator Clinton Is The Liar,He's The Biggest Clever,Slimest,Arrogant,Self-Rightious,LIAR I've Heard This Decade.

    Go Ahead And Vote For A Complete LOSER

    Posted by: Captain-Sky | November 28, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

    What I like about this column is that the WaPo just comes out and celebrates their journalistic style for the last seven years. "Gee, that is an interesting quote, let's call an administration spokesperson to give us "the facts."" Did you guys even bother to do a basic Lexis or Google search?

    By the way, why is it that most rabid anti-Hillary types like Captain-Sky write like they just ascended from a fallout shelter where their only form of communication for the past decade has been morse code on sewer pipes?

    Posted by: SWB | November 28, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

    I am astonished that a first class newspaper like the Post thinks that this feature has any redeeming value. Subjective, missing the forest for the trees, frequently in error. And now featuring slimy attacks by the petty little man that writes it. Please, at least consider removing it from such a prominent location.

    Posted by: Gator | November 28, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

    um, this is crap nit-picking. seriously, there are real issues out there. everyone knows Obama was just saying that Bush is an ignorant hick who has never lived out of the country, and that he has wracked up a huge deficit. nothing to see here, for real, move along.

    Posted by: Flavio | November 28, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

    Obama is blatantly wrong when he repeats a stupid slander about the president, as the fact checker has demonstrated.

    How do his faithful supporters respond? They rush to his defense and slag the messenger. Apparently, the truthiness of the message is more important than its accuracy. After all, we all KNOW how ignorant Bush is. We just know it.

    Keep up the good work FC.

    Posted by: PJ | November 28, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

    That "Zzzz" email is about the funniest thing I've seen all day.

    Posted by: JB | November 28, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

    The notion that the Washington Post is a liberal or even an objective new source with analysis like this... makes that claim a total joke.

    Wash Post like the rest of the tradtional media is right wing for the most part as recent studies have shown.

    Please dispense with the notion of being a "fact checker!" You could not identify a fact with two hands and a million brains!

    Posted by: Win | November 28, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

    I'd hardly call this a "Whopper", however Obama would be much more believable if he could find a way to omit at least half of the "ah" fillers he uses when speaking. We've already had enough ah's, um's and duh's from Bush.

    Posted by: Alan | November 28, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

    Wow. I'm nearly speechless. While this apparently otherwise unemployable Michael character had gone to great lengths on earlier occassions to render his Fact Checker" column a joke, he's now straining to outdo himself.

    I guess we should brace ourselves for his upcoming expose of the lies each of the candidates make about the weather on the campaign trail:

    "Fred Thompson comments: 'Nice day' - HUGE WHOPPER!! It was actually in the LOW 60s and BREEZY - HARDLY IDEAL!" screams the ever-vigilant Michael Dobbs, handing the candidate fifteen thousand Pinnochios and sitting back in childlike glee at the big stir he has created (in his own mind).

    "it is hardly the way to win the heart of the Fact Checker"

    Dobbs is also an immature, narcissistic juvenile delinquent, in addition to being a generally worthless impersonation of a journalist. But the Post has so little standards these days that it barely is noticed.

    Posted by: What an amazing waste of space. | November 28, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

    Seriously Mr. Dobbs, you need to find some worthwhile employment. You are doing absolutely nothing here but looking stupid.

    Posted by: Amazing | November 28, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

    He repeated what Bush had said. Who told the Whopper? Obama or Bush?

    Is this seriously a big deal? Whats wrong with you people?

    Posted by: Amy | November 28, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

    "The reason is that the IPCC and everyone else, including the Post, does not distinguish between the opinions of experts and scientific forecasting."

    Given that the IPCC consists of the world's foremost peer-reviewed climatologists (which makes them both experts AND scientific forecasters) from many fields and many countries, you seem to be very confused. I hope you can catch up with the climate change literature soon. Best of luck.

    Posted by: Reply to "Dr" Roger Bell | November 28, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse


    "I am astonished that a first class newspaper like the Post thinks that this feature has any redeeming value. Subjective, missing the forest for the trees, frequently in error. And now featuring slimy attacks by the petty little man that writes it."

    Your take on Dobbs echoes that of roughly 90% of those who, in spite of their better instincts, keep clicking on this column. Yet the Post keeps him around. My theory is that he has pictures of Fred Hiatt with Lewis Libby in some sort of compromising situation. It's the only explanation I can come up with.

    Posted by: shaking my head... | November 28, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

    Either you have a silly job or you are doing a silly job.

    Posted by: Toucari | November 28, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

    Hey Dude -
    I don't know what you're getting paid for this factchecking but it's WAY TOO MUCH...Chill-out

    P.S. How many Pinocchios do Bush and Cheney get for WMD's in Iraq - a Gezillion?

    Posted by: JerseyMissouri | November 28, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

    Thank you, Mr. Fact Checker Person, for trying to introduce a touch of reality to what is normally surreal at best. As a bonus, in your assessment of Obama, you show us the risk of taking what someone else writes or says as gospel. Shame on us all for making that so easy. We blurred the line between news and entertainment. Then we made it more profitable for the investigators among us to steal photos of celebrities than looking for truth. Then we gave the readers and interpreters of the news celebrity status and too much money and importance. No wonder there are 100 opinions and interpretations for every true fact. No wonder Obama can can get away with spreading misinformation with such arrogance. The final lesson is this: how can Obama, who has so obviously used information interpreted by others to his advantage now curse President Bush for possibly doing the same thing on WMDs and Iraq? More importantly, what assurances can Obama give us that he will not use the same technique to manipulate the truth should he be elected President?

    Posted by: Paul Garneau | November 28, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

    The Post analysis ignores that the quotation from Obama emphasizes that Bush bragged about not travelling abroad. Whether he did or not misses the point. 493 points deducted from the Post for failure to closely read a quotation and analyze it carefully.

    Posted by: Martin | November 28, 2007 4:00 PM | Report abuse

    I only recently bookmarked Fact Checker because that's what I was after... facts instead of campaign crap. But... calling someone in Bush's inner circle and repeating his "off the top of my head" response HARDLY fits the description of a "Fact Checker." Since Bush HIMSELF is on record as saying he traveled abroad only "once," this is an embarassing use of the word "whopper." Looks like the original "Zzzzzzzz" response should have been directed at a fact checker whi, in this instance, was caught sleeping on the job.

    Posted by: Sam | November 28, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

    I'm sorry, I echo the "zzzzzz". It's rhetoric.

    Posted by: gbooksdc | November 28, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

    Entertainment recess is over.... I'm going over to the BBC for some serious news.

    Posted by: Jim | November 28, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

    Jim -- perfect response!

    Posted by: LM | November 28, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

    Dear fact checker,

    Your characterization of the claims to be analyzed was technically inaccurate, and the process you followed to perform the fact checking was reckless.

    Technically, the first claim by Obama to be "fact checked" was whether "[President Bush] chortled about the fact that he has not left the country before." You mistakenly analyzed whether President Bush had ever left the country.

    The process you employed to check the (inaccurately stated) claim did not include independent research of sources without a vested interest in the conclusion of your analysis. Moreover, this failure in process actually resulted in a poor result for your analysis. As a previous commenter indicated, a search of news articles would have revealed actual representations by the President that are consistent with Sen. Obama's claim.

    Consequently, your conclusion is highly dubious (even when taking into consideration the wide latitude in judgment as to what is a "whopper").

    Consider whether you have an ethical obligation to correct your article to perform a technically accurate analysis using sound processes.

    Fact checking our representatives (and candidates for those positions) is vital. Ideally, your readers should be able to rely on you to provide this vital service. We can't rely on you if you do not exercise a high level of care: you must scrutinize what was actually stated and do so in a professional way.

    Posted by: Zak | November 28, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

    Sorry but the four Pinocchios for a perceived "Whopper" i.e. blatant lie doesn't add up. The usually focused FactChecker insight was badly mis-aligned today.

    You slam him based on Bush's passport stamps. Fine, but that wasn't the gist of what Obama said. He said Bush "chortled" about it and this is the impression that Bush likely wanted to impart anyways with his "folksy" style. It was in contrast to the more urbane and well-traveled Gore. The point here was obviously a demonstration of what is important to him and what was not to Bush. Then you dismiss the entire thing by declaring a moratorium on the 2000 election. Whatever.

    The other statement was clearly an exaggeration but again speaks to the actual point, that the National Debt has reached record levels at a record or near-record rate. Two Pinocchios would have been more accurate.

    Seems like you were ticked-off by his spokesman.

    Posted by: KW | November 28, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

    Fact Checker: Your reading comprehension needs improvement. Obama was decrying Bush's boastings that he has not travelled abroad and proud of it. Just like Bush's sickening declarations of "I'm a C student but look who's president".

    Posted by: M. Stratas | November 28, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

    Metame got it right! Obama is perfectly accurate about Bush's chortling. But worse it is Bush that told the "whopper". I really can't express how poorly this analysis reflects on you FC not to mention the Post.

    Posted by: AT | November 28, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

    And where are the posts regarding all the mis-steps of the Clinton campaign? Oooops, let me guess -- you are on her payroll. Have you heard of fair and balance reporting? Check out Fox News. It does work. Present BOTH sides of the issue not just your bone-head point of view.

    Posted by: k.c. | November 28, 2007 4:47 PM | Report abuse

    thanks, fact-checker, for all the idiotic work you do

    Posted by: Anonymous | November 28, 2007 5:15 PM | Report abuse

    Fact checker... You waste space on this steaming pile of bovine excrement. George Bush himself said he didn't travel outside the US prior to his election. David Gregory of NBC News reported on the fact when Bush made his first trip to the UK to visit with Tony Blair.

    Bush is known for lying. Your petulant Pinocchio for convenience to your WEB PUBLISHING SCHEDULE is ridiculous since we all know the "internets" are open 24 hours a day. Good gracious, when will you childrens do some learning?

    As for the economic, it is clear that no matter how you slice it, the national debt and our overall economic condition is WORSE today than when Bush took office. The wanton spending in IRAQ is just the tip of the iceberg. And since you only bothered to type one paragraph on Obama's apparent "gaffe" and didn't catch him saying anything remotely as despicable as "Iraq has weapons of mass destruction." (Or "I didn't have sexual relations with that woman,") all Pinocchios should be removed.

    BUT FACT-CHECKER BOY, mon petit blossom du turd, you missed the big opportunity to award the WHOPPER PINOCCHIO to Hillary's hubby for suggesting that he WAS AGAINST THE WAR from the start (that is before he was against it.) Ah, but that would mean you'd have to say something unsavory about your girl Hills, and we all know how reluctant you are to do that. Bare minimum fact-checking would have the ex-prez on record as saying he supported the invasion.

    Michal Dobbs, aka FACT CHECKER, mon petit blossom du turd, you are today's WORST BLOGGER IN THE WORLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLD!!!!!!!

    Posted by: Jade7243 | November 28, 2007 6:13 PM | Report abuse

    Here's the video of the forum. Best to see for yourself what Obama has to say:

    Posted by: Kiko | November 28, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

    People make mistakes, usually small ones, but they do. I make little mistakes all the time,But Obama should have known better though, he is a politician, how could he say that Bush never went out of the United States? I mean how else could Bush have learned to be so... nevermind. Back to Obama's little mistake, well my high school teacher always says to say things when you know it is right and when you have proof that it is right.

    Posted by: somemongolianguy | November 28, 2007 6:39 PM | Report abuse

    Okay. I am going to unsubscribe this useless garbage. Thanks, WP.

    P.S. Double props for entertaining me as well as my colleagues.

    Posted by: passingby | November 28, 2007 7:16 PM | Report abuse

    OK, so Obama should have said "we have a President who chortled about being out of the country once".

    Posted by: J. McCarville | November 28, 2007 10:28 PM | Report abuse

    I have heard that many times Bush never traveled outside the US until became president. I forgive Obama on this one. Most of the world believes it. In fact I still think it must be true!

    Posted by: Bob | November 28, 2007 10:51 PM | Report abuse

    2008 Presidential Election Weekly Poll

    The Only Poll That Matters.
    Results Posted Every Tuesday Evening.

    Posted by: votenic | November 28, 2007 10:57 PM | Report abuse

    Your comments regarding Obama are obviously biased. The two points raised were rather insignificant. The debt did double. Whether it doubled as a percentage of GNP was not the isssue. Try to be objective with less bias.

    Posted by: Bill Murray | November 29, 2007 8:16 AM | Report abuse

    Sorry, but your revised rating and explanation on "Update II" still doesn't adequately explain why Obama's statements still rise to the level of "Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions."

    Again, two Pinocchios, at worst.

    Posted by: KW | November 29, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

    To Shaking my head: Reading your posting makes me think you might have shaked your head a little too much. Your brains seem to have scrambled in the process.

    Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

    Oh c'mon Fact Checker, admit you are wrong and remove the Pinocchios. Or should we all start singing "Liar, Liar, pants on fire, your nose longer than a telephone wire."

    You are Perry Bacon are two of a kind. Scuttle on now and collect your Hillary Bucks...

    Bush didn't travel overseas. Take HIS word for it. Deficit UP, economy, SHAKY at best, ABOUT TO BURST if you're being realistic.

    Pinocchios Awarded:

    Obama = 0

    Clinton, Hillary = 36 million
    Clinton, Bill = 90 trillion
    (for lies, damn lies, and statistics)

    Fact Checker = 32 bazillion
    (for abuse of Pinocchios)

    Bacon, Perry, Jr. = 57 bazillion
    (for rumor-mongering and reckless bigot-baiting)

    Washington Post = 6 gazillion
    (for printing Dobbs and Bacon)

    Posted by: jade7243 | November 29, 2007 6:23 PM | Report abuse

    Fact Checker, three bouquets of roses! this is my first time seeing your column and I love it!

    Posted by: zaney | November 30, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

    Why don't you fact check something real, like Iran's WMD program. We almost had a war over that one, but the CIA had to come out and fact check that for us.

    The media failed to fact Iraq, and still does. Maybe you should work on that instead of this bull.

    Posted by: B | December 5, 2007 10:24 PM | Report abuse

    (Obama supporter)
    The question is, did Hearst or the Post or any other news organization challenge or fact-check Bush's statement in 2000 that he left the country 'once.' If not, let's give four Smithers (Smitherses?) to the press corps for general toadiness and lack of foresight. Bush has a problem with facts? Would have been nice to know in 2000.

    Posted by: wesfromGA | December 6, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

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