Wash. Post's Krauthammer Burnishes His Post-Truth Journalism Credentials

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer defended two of Mitt Romney's attacks against Obama from the third presidential debate, even though the claims have repeatedly been debunked by the Post's own fact-checker.

In his column, Krauthammer laid out and defended Romney's claim that the Navy has shrunk to a size not seen since World War I and his claim that Obama has gone on an apology tour:

When Romney made a perfectly reasonable case to rebuild a shrinking Navy, Obama condescended: “You mentioned . . . that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed.”

Such that naval vessels are as obsolete as horse cavalry?

Liberal pundits got a great guffaw out of this, but the underlying argument is quite stupid. As if the ships being retired are dinghies, skipjacks and three-masted schooners. As if an entire branch of the armed forces -- the principal projector of American power abroad -- is itself some kind of anachronism.

“We have these things called aircraft carriers,” continued the schoolmaster, “where planes land on them.”

This is Obama's case for fewer vessels? Does he think carriers patrol alone? He doesn't know that for every one carrier, 10 times as many ships sail in a phalanx of escorts?

Obama may blithely dismiss the need for more ships, but the Navy wants at least 310 and the latest Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel report says that defending America's vital interests requires 346 ships (vs. 287 today). Does anyone doubt that if we continue as we are headed, down to fewer than 230, the casualty will be entire carrier battle groups, precisely the kind of high-tech force multipliers that Obama pretends our national security requires?


But he did have the moment of the night when he took after Obama's post-inauguration world apology tour. Obama, falling back on his base, flailingly countered that “every fact checker and every reporter” says otherwise.

Oh yeah? What about Obama declaring that America had “dictated” to other nations?

But Glenn Kessler, who writes for the Post's fact-checking blog, has repeatedly written that both of these claims are false. Most recently, Kessler debunked the claim about the Navy in a Thursday morning post:

[T]he makeup of the Navy was so different that it's really a case of apples and oranges, or rather, comparing gunboats to aircraft carriers.  As the current Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, put it earlier this year: “It's like comparing the telegraph to the smart phone. They're just not comparable.”

Furthermore, Krauthammer even misstated the number of ships Obama is planning for. Krauthammer suggested that Obama plans to decrease the number of ships “to fewer than 230.” Actually, as PolitiFact has noted, the number of ships is higher in the Obama administration than it was in the Bush administration. Further, as Factcheck.org has noted, Obama's budget calls for 300 ships, not 230.

Kessler also wrote that the “apology tour” attack was false, and even rebutted the specific point made by Krauthammer about “Obama declaring that America had 'dictated' to other nations” :

We first awarded this claim Four Pinocchios back in early 2011, and readers are welcome to read the full column. Essentially, we concluded that Obama's so-called apologies were often taken out of context. PolitiFact also said this was a “Pants on Fire” claim and FactCheck.Org also concluded “the claim doesn't hold up when matched with Obama's actual words.”


(Obama did use the word “dictating” during a 2009 interview with al Arabiya, but again, that was not an apology; he said he wanted his new Middle East peace envoy to “start by listening.” )

Kessler concluded, “there was no apology tour.”

This is not the first time Krauthammer has published discredited claims in his Post column that were already debunked by the Post's own fact checkers. In late September, Krauthammer pushed the false “apology tour” canard long after it had been debunked by Kessler, who said that the claim “is not borne out by the facts.”