"The president acted like this is something secret that he'd never commented on," the reporter said. "But it's clear that members of his administration have no problem talking about the kill list to reporters."
This does a much better job than a narrow fact-check could showing how Obama misled viewers. And it acknowledges that, to inform them, it is doing a bit more than simple fact-checking.
The segment then cuts back to President Obama's answer:
More broadly though, our goal has been to focus on Al Qaeda. To focus narrowly on those who would pose an imminent threat to the United States of America. And that's why not just bin Laden, but a whole tier of Al Qaeda leadership, has been taken off the field. And that's part of what has now allowed us to begin to transition out of Afghanistan. To begin to bring our troops home.
As the reporter rightly points out, however, Obama's drone strikes have been waged far from Afghanistan and Pakistan: "For the president to make the argument that to kill those two American citizens in Yemen makes the end of the Afghanistan war? That's simply disingenuous."
What the reporter does in this segment is much harder than "he said, she said" reporting or narrow fact-checking. It requires deep knowledge, reflection, logical analysis, and a willingness to challenge authority. If executed poorly, it can go very badly, for it depends on the reporter's reasoning skills and lots of small judgment calls on subjects including framing and level of detail.
Insofar as fact-checking is an attempt to channel the spirit of what he is doing, I'm all for its spread. Insofar as fact-checking is an attempt to avoid the most difficult things about what he did, or to erect a substance-less bulwark against the inevitable blowback from those who disagree with one's analysis, I am wary of fact-checking. Without judgment and perspective, fact-checking gets us a national media that treats a campaign argument about when a plant in Janesville closed as a news-cycle capturing, watershed moment in dishonest politicking; while years of deliberately misleading Americans about a covert assassination program is basically ignored.
That isn't to excuse the campaign lies of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, or to say that they don't merit attention. It is to warn that "fact-checking" does not obviate the need for wisdom and perspective. As a transitional phase away from "The View from Nowhere," the age of fact-checking is useful. But I look forward to the day when reporters don't feel the need to operate under a "fact-check" banner before summoning the confidence to execute good journalism.
*To borrow Jay Rosen's terminology, many fact-checkers grant the critique that "he said, she said" journalism is inadequate to the times, but refuse to abandon the "View from Nowhere" conceit that they've long internalized. So rather than lay out the facts, along with their assessments of reality and interpretations, like the rest of us, they do legitimate, narrow fact-checking, but seeing that it is inadequate, they offer additional analysis while still under the "fact-checking" rubric.
**Actually, one aspect of the problem is that many Internet users, when they go to fact-checking sites, aren't looking to be informed, so much as to get the catharsis of having people they disagree with labeled liars. They want to be able to say, "Here's proof that I'm right and they're wrong." Sometimes, it's owed them, but naturally, people tend to demand that judgment even when it isn't quite deserved.