Hillary Clinton isn't doing anything that politicians haven't done for decades -- even centuries -- with her attacks on Bernie Sanders's record.
But it's striking that, as Clinton has doubled down on the attacks, she has with some regularity played pretty fast and loose with the facts.
She'll take a vote Sanders has made in his 25 years of Congress and gloss over most, if not all, of the details about it. The result is a carefully worded insinuation or even outright accusation that Sanders has voted against his base on everything from immigration to the auto bailout to fossil fuels.
Sanders has struggled to respond. When Clinton said he opposed the auto bailout in a debate during Sunday night's debate, he didn't really drive home the fact that he had, in fact, voted for the bailout. (For more on that, see here.)
Sanders had a better answer in Wednesday night's debate. "What the secretary is doing tonight and has done very often is take large pieces of legislation and take pieces out of it," he said.
Indeed, Clinton is putting Sanders in a position where he has to explain votes on complicated, convoluted legislation that often falls victim to arcane Senate procedure. That's difficult to do in 30, 60 or even 90 seconds.
And as every person who's ever been in Congress -- Clinton included -- knows, having to explain a vote is not the same thing as making the wrong vote. It's one of the reasons we think being a senator and running for president is incredibly difficult.
Like we said, most politicians do this. But Clinton has been particularly brazen of late. So here's five times she's been loose with the facts about Sanders's record, ranked from least to most egregious.
1. Immigration reform
Clinton's accusation: "When you got to the Senate in 2007, one of the first things you did was vote against Ted Kennedy's immigration reform." (March 9 debate)
Sanders's vote, explained: Yes, Sanders voted against the 2007 immigration reform bill that many advocates had thought was their last, best chance to change America's immigration laws. Sanders's problem was not the crux of the bill -- a path to legal status for some 12 million immigrants -- but the proposal to create a guest-worker program. He sided with some labor groups who argued that the program would drive down wages for low-income Americans. More here. And it's worth noting that 15 Democrats voted against it -- a sizable chunk of the party's Senate caucus.
Rating: True, but ... Sanders had specific concerns about the bill that Clinton failed to mention, and he opposed the bill from the left, which doesn't square with Clinton's argument that in Congress he would be liable to "stand with the Republicans" on immigration. What's more, in 2013, he voted for the immigration reform package, including the guest-worker program.
2. The auto bailout
Clinton's accusation: "I voted to save the auto industry. He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry. I think that is a pretty big difference." (March 6 debate)
Sanders's vote, explained: Notice how Clinton frames her accusation. She doesn't say Sanders voted against the auto industry, but rather that he voted against the money that eventually went to the auto industry. And she's right. Sanders and Clinton both voted for a free-standing bill to bail out the auto industry in 2008. But when it failed, it got wrapped into the larger bank bailout. Sanders, based on his opposition to supporting the big banks, voted against the entire package, despite the fact that Michigan senators were pleading with their colleagues to vote for it to save the auto industry. More on this here.
Rating: Half true. Sanders knew a vote against the Wall Street bailout was a vote against the auto industry bailout. But he is on record voting for the auto bailout, which seems to be what matters here.
3. The Minutemen
Clinton's accusation: "In 2006, Senator Sanders supported indefinite detention for people facing deportation and stood with the Minutemen vigilantes in their ridiculous -- absurd efforts to, quote, 'hunt down immigrants.' " (March 9 debate)
Sanders's vote, explained: As The Washington Post' Fact Checker team points out, in 2006, some members of Congress were upset about rumors that U.S. authorities were tipping off the Mexican government to these vigilantes' whereabouts. Sanders, who was in the House of Representatives at the time and running for Senate, joined 75 other House Democrats to support an amendment that essentially barred the Department of Homeland Security from tipping off Mexico to "organized volunteer civilian action group's" whereabouts. On Wednesday, Sanders said the amendment "codified existing legislation." "I do not support vigilantes, and that is a horrific statement -- an unfair statement to make," he said.
As an update, we'll note, and the Clinton camp notes, the Southern Poverty Law Center wasn't on board with the amendment. An official there called it "symbolic and pointless." And National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic advocacy group, called the amendment "a backdoor effort to criminalize the undocumented population." Fact Checker points out Sanders voted with mostly conservative Democrats on the amendment.
Rating: Unfair. Clinton twisted logic here to suggest that Sanders is much more extreme than he is -- and aligned with conservative immigration hawks. He's not.
4. The Koch brothers
Clinton's accusation: "I just think it’s worth pointing out that the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers, have just paid to put up an ad praising Senator Sanders." (March 9 debate)
Sanders's vote, explained: Here we're not talking about a vote, but rather an ad that the conservative Koch brothers-affiliated group, Freedom Partners, released hours before Wednesday's debate. The ad proclaimed that this group actually agreed with Sanders -- specifically, Sanders's opposition to the Export-Import Bank, the obscure federal agency at the center of a battle between pro-business conservatives and grass-roots and libertarian groups. Conservative groups think the bank is a waste of money and a big-government relic. Sanders doesn't like the bank because it props up big businesses. (More on this here.)
Rating: Blatantly misleading. Clinton suggested that the Koch brothers and Sanders had a lot more in common than they really do. The ad had nothing to do with fossil fuels.
5. Deregulating financial markets
Clinton's accusation: "Senator Sanders, you're the only one on this stage that voted to deregulate the financial market in 2000." (Jan. 17 debate)
Sanders's vote, explained: The turn of the century came with a debate on whether to regulate or deregulate financial markets, which were booming in part thanks to new tools like the now-infamous financial derivatives and credit-default swaps. In 2000, a Republican-led bill to reform how the government regulates markets easily passed the House with Sanders's support. That bill, the Clinton camp noted, did propose excluding over-the-counter financial derivatives. But the bill landed in the Senate in one of the most chaotic times of our country -- the presidential election recount in 2000 -- and deregulation supporter Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) quietly inserted language that stripped out much of the government's power to regulate trading tools that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis, most crucially interest rate swaps. The whole thing got wrapped up in a must-pass spending bill that President Bill Clinton signed into law in his last days in office.
Rating: Not true. It's fair to say that the bill Sanders voted on in the House was very different than the bill that eventually became law, and to question whether he even knew about it. And not only that: Clinton is attacking Sanders for voting for something her husband signed into law. (Something the former president later said he regretted.)