That’s in part because the campaigns have caught up with, and in some ways, passed, the press. Sophisticated political operatives understand all too well the limitations that the conventions of modern-day “objectivity” impose on reporters. They know that, no matter how outlandish the charge, the press will cover it for the most part as a he-said/she-said. That means that for voters who don’t look closer — meaning most voters — the damage will be done. (If nothing else, the imperative to respond may keep the opposing candidate from talking about his preferred topic for the day.)

That’s why a press that went further could improve the level of political debate. Having the major papers provide a dedicated, experienced team of thorough but fast writers to sort through the campaigns’ competing claims and, when appropriate, offer judgment on them, would be a good start.

Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.