Like movie reviewing, the 'fact check' is a highly subjective process. If a politician makes a statement that is flatly false, it does not need to be 'fact checked.' The facts themselves are sufficient. 'Fact checks' end up dealing in murkier areas of context and emphasis, making it very easy for the journalist to make up standards as he goes along, applying them more rigorously to the candidate he disfavors (which usually means the Republican).Today, the WSJ seems to follow up by pointing out that CNN and ABC fact checked the same McCain claim from the last debate and came to different conclusions.
I disagree with Taranto's claim that Republicans are the target of bias, because I think that Al Gore in 2000 and the Clintons in...well, pretty much whenever got bad press treatment, too. But I think the larger point, that fact-checking is itself subjective, is absolutely true.
Each individual judgment is subjective. These smaller judgments then coalesce to form an overall impression of the truthfulness of a campaign. That overall impression is a subjective call itself, as are all the data that inform the impression. It's a snowball of judgment calls. Ultimately, by making the call, are you doing anything other than expressing your basic political preference?
"McCain is a liar" got traction in the mainstream press, and that seems to have been the end of him. He's no longer serious, and so the deadly dull debate performances by Obama/Biden are solid wins. Obama and Biden are the adults running against the jokers.
I don't disagree with the result, because I would rather have a Democrat in the White House than a Republican. At the same time, I remember when the press was just as much aligned against a Democrat, Al Gore. It's distressing to see some voices of sanity from back in the Gore days join the insanity because it's a Republican in the cross hairs.