In separate, 30-minute question-and-answer sessions sponsored by The Politico and a Washington, D.C., television station, Obama and Clinton for the most part stuck to the facts – or, often, to statements that were matters of judgment and thus out of our bailiwick. But, our mission being to point out the diminutive distortions as well as the big, fat slabs of baloney, we bring you flubs we found in last night’s non-debate:
Q: Who are the superdelegates and can they change their votes once they are "committed"?
A: Democratic "superdelegates" may vote as they see fit.
Ron Paul doesn’t have much of a chance of winning the Republican nomination, but he persists with his well-funded campaign and even talks of turning it into a permanent “Revolution” that will continue far beyond 2008. We’ve given his statements little attention until now. But here we look at some of his more outlandish claims.
Q: Why does the U.S. have an Electoral College?
A: The framers of the Constitution didn’t trust direct democracy.
Q: Did Bill Clinton say, "We can't be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans"?
A: Yes, but that's a snippet of his full quote, and it's used unfairly to make Clinton seem to dismiss all rights of ordinary Americans.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.