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Misdirection on Both Sides

1 Nov

In the interest of fairness, below is an article from outlining the most recent deceptions and misrepresentations by both the John McCain and Barack Obama campaigns.

Three more days to the election — be sure to get out and vote, and ask five people you know to do the same!


The Whoppers of 2008—The Sequel

The final five weeks of this looooong campaign produced some fresh outlandish charges, as well as some old ones reprised.

Viveca Novak
Oct 31, 2008 | Updated: 3:33  p.m. ET Oct 31, 2008

The last five weeks have brought so many ads we feel like we’re drinking from a fire hose—and we’ll bet you’re pretty saturated, too.

Since our first “Whoppers of 2008” piece, we’ve seen some of the same themes repeated. McCain’s campaign doesn’t tire of distorting Obama’s tax plan, it seems, and in the process has whipped up at least 15 minutes of fame for sudden star Joe the Plumber. Obama continues trying to pull seniors into his camp by making deceptive claims about what McCain would do to Social Security, and he has new distortions about his opponent’s plans for Medicare.



And there are some fresh deceptions gobbling up airtime, including false depictions of McCain’s position on stem cell research, Obama’s connections to former Weatherman Bill Ayers and the community group ACORN, and both candidates’ health care plans. Then there’s a new parlor game, pin-the-blame-on-the-candidate for the financial crisis that has gripped the country.

For more on these and other mendacities and misrepresentations we’ve found recently, please read on to our Analysis section, where you’ll find summaries of many of our articles and links to the full-blown versions.

And if you haven’t voted already, do so by the end of Tuesday. After all, why do you think we’ve been doing all this work?

Remember, these are just the recent clunkers. For a collection of those from earlier in the campaign, see our first installment, “The Whoppers of 2008.”

McCain: The “Welfare” Man Cometh

Since our last roundup of whoppers, Joe the Plumber has joined the cast, and Barack Obama’s “spread the wealth” comment to him has been made infamous by John McCain. In fact, in Obama’s exchange with Joe, he was simply talking about making the nation’s progressive tax system a bit more progressive by cutting taxes for most while raising them on top earners. McCain himself has defended progressive taxation in the past.

Also, McCain began denigrating Obama’s proposed refundable tax credits as “welfare.” But refundable tax credits are a key feature of McCain’s own health care plan, except that he calls them “reform.” In an early version of Obama’s plan, only a tiny portion of his tax credits would have gone to anyone who didn’t work, and advisers quickly announced that they had added a work requirement even for that one (a tax credit to benefit homeowners who don’t itemize deductions).

Two outside groups joined McCain in the tax attack. But one of them, Let Freedom Ring, pulled its ad off the air rather than defend its false assertion that Obama had voted to raise taxes on “100% of America.” An ad by another independent group,, says that Obama’s plan would hike taxes on “many small businesses” to 62 percent. That’s a ridiculously inflated figure that includes the state tax rate paid by people making more than $1 million annually in California.

Meanwhile, McCain has continued to broadcast, in speeches and ads, his most harped-upon deception of the campaign, telling voters that Obama favored higher taxes on “families making over $42,000 a year.” As we’ve said ad nauseam, Obama’s plan would raise taxes only on individuals making more than $200,000 a year, or couples or families making more than $250,000.

Obama’s “Welfare” October 17

Right Change Is Wrong  October 24

Spread the Tax Hooey!  October 26

Obama: Senior Scare
In two TV ads and in speeches, Team Obama made false claims aimed at frightening seniors into fleeing from McCain’s camp, to wit: McCain proposes to cut $882 billion out of Medicare benefits and eligibility to help pay for his health care plan. This turkey draws in part from a newspaper story saying McCain would pay for the health plan with “major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid.” The story said nothing about cutting benefits or eligibility, though, nor does it say the McCain camp has given a target number. One ad says benefits would be cut 22 percent, and there would be “higher premiums and co-pays.”

These claims have a de minimis relationship with reality, if that. The Obama camp borrowed calculations from a Democratic think tank that had piled detailed assumptions and calculations on top of a flat misrepresentation of what McCain’s economic adviser had said in the newspaper article. He was quoted as saying Medicare benefits would not be reduced, and reductions would come through “efficiencies.”

Obama’s False Medicare Claim  October 21

McCain: Obama and the “Terrorist”
A McCain TV ad says Obama “lied” about his association with Bill Ayers, a former member of the radical, bomb-setting, anti-Vietnam War Weather Underground group. In a Web ad, McCain says the two are “friends” who have “worked together for years.” GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has said repeatedly on the stump that Ayers and Obama “pal around” together. And in a large-scale robo-call effort, McCain’s campaign implied that Obama “worked closely” with Ayers in the latter’s earlier, Weather Underground days.

But nothing Obama said about Ayers has been shown to be untrue. All available evidence indicates the two know each other but are not close. They met in 1995, when Obama was asked to head the board of a school reform group, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, that Ayers had helped start. The organization, formed to dispense grants in an effort to improve the city’s schools, was hardly radical; its board included a number of well-regarded Chicago establishment types. Also, Obama and Ayers overlapped for two years on the board of another foundation, and Ayers hosted a coffee in his home when Obama was running for the Illinois state Legislature.

Ayers is unrepentant about his past, and Obama doesn’t excuse him, calling his acts as a Weatherman “despicable.” But in Chicago, Ayers isn’t seen as all that controversial. He’s now a professor of education and was named a Chicago Citizen of the Year in 1997 for his work on school reform.

“He Lied” About Bill Ayers?  October 10

Robo-Attacks  October 20

Obama: Celling McCain Short
Any ad that features the mom of a sick child is sure to pull a few heartstrings. But this radio spot is flat wrong when it says that “John McCain has stood in the way – he’s opposed stem cell research.” Technically, the carefully-worded phrase is correct: McCain has opposed embryonic stem cell research. But not since 2001, when he became convinced, he says, that the potential good it could do outweighed other considerations.

And although his vice presidential candidate feels otherwise, and the Republican Party platform doesn’t support his views either, McCain still opposes the Bush administration’s restrictions on stem-cell research. Our conclusion: The Obama-Biden ad seriously misstates McCain’s position.

Obama’s Stem Cell Spinning  September 30

Garbage Barrage
An upstart group with an official-sounding name, the National Republican Trust PAC, emerged from the shadows in late September and claims to have raised nearly $7 million for a barrage of ads in the final weekend before Election Day. The “Republican” group actually has no formal connection to the Republican Party, and the first ad it aired is one of the sleaziest attacks we’ve seen. It flashes on screen the driver’s license of 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atta and claims Obama has a “plan” to give licenses to illegal aliens. Never mind that Obama says he’s not proposing drivers’ permits for non-legal immigrants, or that the 9/11 terrorists didn’t need driver’s licenses to board aircraft (their passports would have done just fine) or that Atta had actually been granted a visa and had been allowed to enter the country legally. This group doesn’t let facts stand in the way of a smear.

There’s more. The spot also alleges that Obama’s health plan will cover illegal immigrants. Wrong again. Obama has quite explicitly ruled out coverage for those who are here illegally. Nor does he propose granting Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants, as the ad also claims.

A License to Kill  October 28

Financial Crisis? Blame Someone!
There’s nothing like a good disaster to bring on the finger-pointing. With the financial system in a tailspin, seized the moment to hammer on former Sen. Phil Gramm, a onetime McCain economic adviser, for cosponsoring a 1999 bill repealing some regulations on financial institutions. But the bill had broad bipartisan support, passing the House 362-57, the Senate 90-8; Democratic President Bill Clinton signed it into law. Did it “strip the safeguards that would have protected us,” as the ad charges? Actually, economists of various political stripes – as well as Clinton – have credited the law with cushioning some of the blows of the recent troubles.
A McCain ad turns the tables by saying the Republican candidate tried in vain to “rein in” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the institutions whose underwriting of too many risky home mortgages contributed to the meltdown. Obama was “notably silent,” the ad says, and “Democrats blocked the reforms.” Actually, Republicans never brought the bill up for consideration on the floor; they controlled the Senate at the time. And besides, McCain signed on to the 2005 bill too late for it to have made any difference.

The game caught on in congressional ads, too, where even more ludicrous factual contortions took place in order to parcel out blame. In one ad, a Republican state legislator who’s running for a House seat is tied to the crisis and the $700 billion bailout for doing nothing more than going on record supporting Bush’s tax cuts; the candidate has never even served in public office at the national level.

$700 Billion Blame Game  October 21

Who Caused the Economic Crisis?  October 1

McCain: The ACORN Fables
In another attempt to paint groups and people with whom Obama has some connection in as unsavory a light as possible, McCain has gone after the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. And we’ve gone after him, for an ad accusing the group of “massive voter fraud” and for saying in the final presidential debate that ACORN is “now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

Both claims are breathtakingly inaccurate. There’s a huge difference between voter fraud and voter registration fraud. And while ACORN, which hires part-time, $8-an-hour canvassers to go door-to-door and register people to vote, has had widespread problems with phony registrations invented by employees who don’t want to work, the problem has never been that it sent people to the polls using bogus identities or to vote in any other fraudulent manner. Even the Republican prosecutor of the largest ACORN case to date said the shenanigans of ACORN workers were “not intended to permit illegal voting.”

To be sure, Obama’s interactions with the group have been greater than he has let on. But whether those ties can accurately be called “long and deep,” as McCain’s ad claims, is highly questionable.

ACORN Accusations  October 18

FactChecking Debate No. 3  October 16

Health Care Hardball
Understanding the candidates’ health care plans may seem almost as difficult as convincing your insurer to pay for an annual physical. And it’s not made any easier when Obama and McCain misrepresent each other’s proposals. We found an Obama ad perpetrating the whopper that McCain’s plan contains the “largest middle-class tax increase in history.” It’s true that McCain would, for the first time, require workers to pay federal income tax on the value of their employer-provided health insurance. But that’s offset by the tax credits he’d provide of up to $2,500 per individual and $5,000 per couple or family – and most people would come out ahead.

But the McCain campaign and Republican National Committee have gone after Obama’s plan with a gigantic deception of their own, which they offered in a radio ad we dissected. Obama would “rob 50 million employees of their health coverage,” the ad says. We flagged that statement for grossly mischaracterizing an analysis of a plan that wasn’t even Obama’s. In reality, two prominent studies found that Obama’s plan would produce a net increase in the number of employees with health coverage through their jobs. Under McCain, according to the same studies, there would be a net decrease.

In addition, McCain has repeatedly said that Obama wants to “take over the health care of America,” as he said in the third debate between the candidates. “[H]is object is a single-payer system.” That’s not true, either. While the Democrat has remarked that he’d probably favor a single-payer design if he were building a health care system from scratch, he’s said several times that at this point, it makes more sense to improve what’s currently in place – and that’s what his plan would aim to do.

Health-Care Spin  October 14

FactChecking Debate No. 3  October 16

Order in the Court, Please
Yes, ads in some state Supreme Court races have acquired the tone of some of the nastiest ads in the rest of the political realm. We found some attacks that didn’t hold up in Alabama, where two candidates are vying for an open seat on the bench.

One was in the form of a robo-call. It’s unclear who’s responsible for the effort, but the caller imparts false information when he says that Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur received a rating of “F” from the Alabama State Bar. It turns out that the bar doesn’t rate judicial candidates. For her part, Paseur said in an ad that her opponent, Greg Shaw, was “backed by more than a million dollars tied to gas and oil lobbyists” from a certain building “near Washington, D.C.” It may be true that the group that occupies the building, the Center for Individual Rights, has spent that much buying ads in support of Shaw. But Paseur can’t prove that all that money is connected to oil and gas lobbyists: the group doesn’t release the names of its contributors, and at any rate is involved in many issues, not just energy.

For our write-ups on even more viciously false ads in a Supreme Court campaign this year, see articles we wrote back in March about a race in Wisconsin.

Court Fight in the Heart of Dixie  October 23

And There’s More…

Too many to mention, really, but here’s a sampling of the other distortions and falsehoods we’ve run into in the closing weeks:

    * The National Rifle Association opened fire on Obama with ads claiming he voted to ban deer-hunting ammunition (not true) and voted to “make you the criminal” for using a handgun in self-defense (a serious distortion of a vote to uphold enforcement of local gun bans in Illinois).

      NRA Targets Obama  September 22

      The Rifle Association’s ‘True Story’  October 23

    * The liberal group became the first to make two of our “Whoppers” lists (2006 and 2008) with the same false ad. It recycled its baseless claim that Republican senators – in this case, North Carolina’s Elizabeth Dole – voted to deny body armor to U.S. troops in Iraq.

      Body Armor Claim: Still False and Nasty  October 24

    * Obama has repeatedly claimed that McCain supports tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and in one ad charged that McCain had “sold … out” Pennsylvania workers whose factory closed. The ad further implied that their jobs were sent to China. That’s not what happened. No jobs were sent to China, and the factory closed because the television parts it manufactured were becoming obsolete. As for those tax breaks, McCain has supported a provision of the tax code that allows companies to defer paying U.S. corporate taxes on profits they earn and leave overseas. But economists have said this isn’t a major reason why jobs are lost.

      Obama’s Trade Trickery  September 26
Republished with permission from


John McCain and Women’s (Health and Otherwise) Issues

30 Oct

I received this from Planned Parenthood, and thought it was great information to share as we get closer to Nov. 4 (citations for all the claims are listed at the end of the entry).

Be sure to get out and vote!


10 Things to Know About McCain

Today at 1:25pm

We’re just days away from choosing a new president, and the stakes couldn’t be higher for the women, men, and families Planned Parenthood serves.

By now, you know that the McCain/Palin ticket wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, while Sen. Obama is committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose. And I’m sure you’ve heard Sen. McCain mocking protections for women’s health as “extreme.” Those facts alone are enough for most of us to support Sen. Obama.

But the McCain/Palin ticket is even more extreme and more dangerous to women’s health than you may realize. Take a look a look at our list of 10 things every woman should know about John McCain and Sarah Palin — and then pass it along to everyone you know before Election Day:

1. John McCain opposes equal pay legislation, saying it wouldn’t do “anything to help the rights of women.”(1)

2. John McCain opposes requiring health care plans to cover prescription birth control.(2)

3. John McCain and Sarah Palin oppose comprehensive, medically accurate sex education.(3)

4. John McCain opposes commonsense funding to prevent unintended and teen pregnancies.(4)

5. John McCain and Sarah Palin want to tax health care benefits for the first time in history.(5)

6. John McCain opposes restoring family planning services for low-income women.(6)

7. Sarah Palin opposes abortion even in the case of rape and incest.(7)

8. John McCain voted against the Violence Against Women Act, which ensures rape survivors are not charged for the emergency exams used to prosecute their attackers. While Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, rape survivors were forced to pay for these exams, which cost up to $1,200.(8)

9. When asked whether contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV, John McCain said he was stumped.”(9)

10. In his 25 years in Washington, DC, John McCain has voted against women’s reproductive rights and privacy 125 times.(10)

We can’t afford four more years of an administration that is openly hostile to the needs of women and families across the country. Here’s what you can do over the next five days to elect Sen. Obama and make his pro-women, pro-health care vision a reality:

• Forward this message to your friends and family so they know what’s at stake in this election. You can also compare the candidates’ health care plans online here:

• Watch our new TV ad — and share it with your friends and family:

• Vote! This is truly the most important statement you can make in support of women’s health. If you’re not sure where to go to vote, you can find out with this easy-to-use polling place map:

We’ve got just a few days left — let’s make them count. Thank you again for your time, dedication and spirit through this election season.

-Planned Parenthood Action Fund

1. The Trail blog, Washington Post, 5/7/08; 2. Roll Call Vote, 3/11/03; 3. The Caucus, New York Times, 3/16/07; 4. Roll Call Vote, 3/17/05; 5. Center for American Progress, 7/2/08; 6. Roll Call Vote, 3/17/05; 7. ABC World News with Charles Gibson, 9/12/08; 8. H.R. 3355, Roll Call Vote, 8/25/94; The Frontiersman, 5/23/00; 9. The Caucus, New York Times, 3/16/07; 10.

Fact Check on McCain Exaggerations

27 Oct

This is a great article refuting many of John McCain’s erroneous statements about Barack Obama’s proposals for the economy and health care.


FACT CHECK: McCain persists in exaggerations
By BETH FOUHY (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press

October 27, 2008 4:11 PM EDT

NEW YORK – A week from the presidential election, Republican John McCain is persisting in exaggerating and misrepresenting rival Barack Obama’s tax and health-care plans.

In his latest campaign stump speech, McCain portrays himself as a time-tested warrior who will fight passionately for the middle class as president. “These are hard times,” he proclaims, promising to enact policies that will create new jobs, help people stay in their homes, and protect their retirement accounts.

The well-crafted speech, with stirring references to McCain’s five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and his plans for the nation, goes off track when it comes to Obama’s policies.

“I’m not going to spend $700 billion of your money just bailing out the Wall Street bankers and brokers who got us into this mess,” McCain says. “I’m going to make sure we take care of the people who were devastated by the excesses of Wall Street and Washington. I’m going to spend a lot of that money to bring relief to you.”

Both McCain and Obama voted for the sweeping financial rescue deal, passed 74-25 by the Senate, that directs the U.S. Treasury to spend $700 billion to buy up distressed mortgages and other bad debt from banks.

McCain has criticized elements of the plan but argued he had no choice but to support it, saying it was an emergency measure needed to help stabilize the stock market and loosen credit.

To make it more consumer friendly, McCain has proposed spending $300 billion of it on buying bad mortgages at full face value and renegotiating them to a lower rate. The plan has drawn mixed reviews; critics say it would force taxpayers to vastly overpay for mortgages. Obama has said profligate lenders must share the losses so the government shouldn’t pay them full face value for failing mortgages.

In his stump speech, McCain says if elected “I won’t spend nearly a trillion dollars more of your money … as Sen. Obama proposes. Because he can’t do that without raising your taxes or digging us further into debt. I’m going to make government live on a budget just like you do.”

McCain is correct that Obama has proposed several costly new programs, including a 10-year, $150 billion clean energy fund and a plan for near-universal health coverage that would cost upwards of $50 billion a year.

Obama claims his spending plans are offset by spending cuts. He says he would pay for new programs with the savings from withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and with new taxes on those earning over $250,000 a year. The 95 percent of workers who make less than that would get a tax cut, he says.

McCain has proposed making permanent all of President Bush’s tax cuts and has called for a spending freeze on all programs except Defense, veterans’ benefits and Social Security. He’s a staunch defender of the Iraq war, even though it costs about $150 billion a year. He has resisted setting a time frame for withdrawing U.S. troops.

McCain is also standing by his pledge to balance the federal budget in four years with no tax increases – a pledge analysts say may be close to impossible given current economic conditions and the added cost of the $700 billion bailout.

In his stump speech, McCain says he “won’t fine small businesses and families with children, as Sen. Obama proposes, to force them into a new huge government-run health-care program, while I keep the cost of the fine a secret until I hit you with it.”

McCain’s central claim – that people will be “forced” into a new government-run plan under an Obama presidency – is not true. In fact, Obama broke with many Democrats and others who advocate universal coverage when he announced his plan would be mandatory only for children, and voluntary for everyone else. Obama would allow those who want to keep their current employer-based health insurance to do so. Rather than requiring everyone to purchase coverage, Obama’s plan is designed to bring down costs – make insurance more affordable so as many people as possible would choose to buy it.

In addition, under Obama’s plan, employers would not be fined for not providing coverage. Instead, large employers – but not small businesses – would be required either to provide health insurance or contribute toward the cost of a public plan.

McCain also accuses Obama of aiming to raise taxes on small businesses, which he says would cause them to cut jobs. He has recently fleshed out that point by invoking “Joe the Plumber,” who told Obama on a campaign stop in Ohio that he wants to buy the plumbing business where he works, but is afraid Obama’s tax plan would make that impossible.

In fact, Obama would raise taxes on small businesses making more than $250,000, but only about two percent of small businesses in the country fall into that category. And Obama is also proposing targeted tax relief for small businesses, such as a tax credit for offering health care to employees and elimination of capital gains taxes on startup businesses.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

John McCain Would “Hate to Live in Milwaukee”

22 Oct

I was driving to work this morning and heard a Barack Obama campaign ad that talked about how John McCain was quoted by a Washington Post reporter as saying he would “hate to live in Milwaukee.”

So of course when I got to the office I hopped on Google to investigate.

Apparently the article was written in 2004 — you can read it here. The comment about Milwaukee is in a bulleted paragraph about 3/4 of the way down the page. Somehow, when McCain made one of his trips to a Milwaukee suburb to stump for votes (interesting that he’s never actually spoken anywhere in Milwaukee proper — maybe he’s afraid he might run into people that don’t look exactly like him), the story was revived by a local radio station.

I think the comment is pretty inconsequential, but kudos to the Obama campaign for going back into the cockles to pull that one out and use it in an ad. That’s why I would like to work on a campaign — or for “The Daily Show.” I love finding that obscure stuff that comes back to bite people in the end (literally and figuratively).

In other news, apparently the Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 outfitting Sarah Palin and her family for the campaign trail. The expenses are dubbed “campaign accessories” which, let’s be honest, is all that she really is.

In case you were wondering, the article says that the Obama campaign shows no such type of expenses.