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With Convention Speeches, It Seems No One Is Innocent

(By Alex Brandon -- Associated Press)
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

The political convention season generated its usual share of outlandish spin, misleading rhetoric and outright fibs. The presidential and vice presidential nominees for both parties resorted to dubious arguments in attacking their opponents and promoting their own accomplishments and policy proposals. Here is a guide to some of the more questionable assertions.

Barack Obama

"Many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime -- by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow."

Obama's speech at the Democratic convention in Denver was full of costly promises, including expanded health-care coverage ($65 billion annually), increased education spending ($18 billion) and investments in green technology ($15 billion). But it is misleading for him to say he has shown how he will "pay for every dime" of his plans.

According to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Democratic proposals would cost the federal budget about $377 billion in 2013. The analysis is based on the Obama campaign's own figures, including the optimistic assertion that he can save $75 billion a year by closing tax loopholes and $55 billion by initiating a phased withdrawal from Iraq.

Committee President Maya MacGuineas accused both the Obama and McCain campaigns of "wishful budgeting." She estimates that Obama's promises to extend most of the Bush tax cuts put in place in 2001 and 2003 and to lessen the bite of the alternative minimum tax would probably cost the U.S. Treasury about $400 billion a year.

John McCain

"Russia's leaders . . . invaded a small, democratic neighbor to gain more control over the world's oil supply, intimidate other neighbors and further their ambitions of reassembling the Russian empire."

McCain's explanation for the Russian invasion of Georgia is oversimplified in the extreme -- and omits an important fact that has never been recognized by the McCain campaign: Georgia attacked first.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has said his forces responded to a move by Russian troops into the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia on Aug. 7. But he has produced no evidence to support his version of events, and it has generally been discounted by Western reporters on the scene.

The Georgian bombardment of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, gave Russian leaders a perfect pretext for teaching a lesson to Saakashvili, who has aligned his country with the United States and is seeking NATO membership. The Russians were able to pose as the protectors of Georgia's Ossetian minority, who fear being swallowed up into Georgia proper and have been waging a low-intensity secessionist war with the Georgian army for nearly two decades.

Joseph R. Biden Jr.

"In the Senate, John [McCain] has voted with President Bush 95 percent. And that is very hard to believe."

Biden is exaggerating McCain's support for the president's policies. According to Congressional Quarterly, which keeps score, McCain supported the Bush administration on 95 percent of the votes in 2007. But his loyalty score for the first 7 1/2 years of the Bush presidency is lower: 90 percent.

The analysis suggests that the presidential election campaign has drawn McCain closer to Bush. In 2005, the senator from Arizona voted with the White House 77 percent of the time. So far in 2008, he has a 100 percent pro-Bush rating, but he has missed many votes as a result of being on the campaign trail.

Sarah Palin

"[I] championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that 'Bridge to Nowhere.' "

The Republican vice presidential candidate is overstating her opposition to earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere. Palin endorsed the bridge from Ketchikan to Gravina Island while running for governor in 2006. She showed no support for killing the bridge project until 2007, after Congress had voted to remove the $223 million earmark and allow Alaska to use the funds for other plans.

Alaska has continued to benefit from earmark spending under Palin, even though the volume has declined from its level during the administration of her predecessor. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the governor's office sought earmarks of $197 million this year, down from $256 million in Palin's first year and $350 million the year before.


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