A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Smear or Be Smeared?

Summary

The Democratic National Committee proposes to spend unlimited amounts of money to "tell the real story" about John McCain before Republicans can "start smearing" the eventual Democratic nominee. But the line of attack the Democrats outline to their potential donors in an e-mail contains some claims that are false or misleading.

The DNC paints McCain as favoring "endless war" in Iraq. What McCain actually said is that he wouldn’t mind a hundred-year troop presence "as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."

Suing Over False Political Advertising

Q: Can people be sued for false political advertising?
A: Targets of false ads rarely sue. Libel law makes it practically impossible for candidates to collect damages, even if they should win.

You’ve Got Mailers!

A direct-mail piece sent to voters by the Clinton campaign twists Obama’s words and gives a false picture of his proposals: It says he “wants to raise Social Security taxes by a trillion dollars,” a big distortion. Obama has said a “good option” would be to apply Social Security payroll taxes to incomes over $97,500 a year, but that would only affect taxes paid by 6.5 percent of individuals and couples. And he hasn’t formally proposed such a move anyway.

From Congress to the White House

Q: Who was the last sitting congressman or senator to be elected president?
A: John F. Kennedy was the last president to have moved directly from Congress to the White House.

Harry & Louise Again?

An Obama mailer stretches the differences between the candidates on health care. Specifically: It touts measures included in Obama’s plan to help low-income individuals buy insurance but fails to mention that Clinton would provide similar financial assistance. It says Obama’s plan would save the average family $2,500 per year – an estimate provided by experts at the campaign’s request – but doesn’t say that Clinton estimates hers will save $2,200 per year.

Huckabee an Evangelical

Q: Is it correct to refer to Mike Huckabee as an evangelical?
A: Yes. Huckabee describes himself as an evangelical.

The Budget and Deficit Under Clinton

Q: During the Clinton administration was the federal budget balanced? Was the federal deficit erased?
A: Yes to both questions, whether you count Social Security or not.

Jobless Rate and Unemployment Benefits

Q: Does the official jobless rate fail to count people who have no unemployment benefits?
A: They are counted, too. The rate is based on a huge survey and counts those who are out of work whether they get benefits or not.

L.A. Lovefest

Clinton and Obama left their recent bitterness behind at the Democratic debate prior to a nationwide series of primaries and caucuses on Feb. 5. They emphasized their areas of agreement and looked more like running mates than rivals for the nomination. By the end, both were ducking a question about whether the other would be their pick for vice president, and afterward they practically embraced in front of the cameras.