A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Monday Night Quibbles

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:

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.

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.

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.

Peas in a Pod

Summary

A radio ad sponsored by Hillary Clinton reprises her misleading claim that Barack Obama likes Republican ideas. Obama has responded with an ad that makes a half-true accusation that Clinton "championed" NAFTA. We find that both claims are misleading and that the candidates are, in fact, making mountains of molehills.

Specifically, we found that:

Clinton’s ad falsely implies that Obama supported "special tax breaks for Wall Street" and running up the deficit, and that he opposed minimum wage increases while refusing to deal with the housing crisis.

Clinton-Obama Slugfest

Summary
In one of the liveliest debates of the 2008 presidential campaign, the three top Democrats slugged it out in Myrtle Beach, S.C. We noted some low blows:

Clinton falsely accused Obama of saying he "really liked the ideas of the Republicans" including private Social Security accounts and deficit spending. Not true. The entire 49-minute interview to which she refers contains no endorsement of private Social Security accounts or deficit spending, and Obama specifically scorned GOP calls for tax cuts.

Obama’s Creative Clippings Part Deux

Summary
The Obama campaign’s new ad uses an old trick and takes quotes from newspapers out of context.

Once again, the campaign uses a quote from a news story to say Obama’s health plan would offer universal coverage. But the full article points out that his plan "does not guarantee" full coverage.
The ad also shows a clip saying that Obama has been against the war in Iraq since the beginning. True enough, but the story also chastises him for making too much of the boldness of his early stance.

Short Ads, Even Shorter on the Facts

Summary
Two recent ads by the Edwards campaign are quick and to the point, but they miss the mark. One claims that Edwards is the "only" Democrat who "beats" the leading Republican contenders in "the recent" CNN poll. Actually, Edwards wasn’t even included in the most recent CNN poll; the ad is referring to an older one. More recent polling has found that both Obama and Clinton are leading all of the Republican front-runners.

Stacking the Deck

Summary
The three leading Democratic presidential candidates debated in Las Vegas and we noted the following:

Clinton once again mischaracterized the 2005 energy bill, saying it had "enormous giveaways" to oil and gas companies. In truth, the measure raised taxes on those industries.
Obama accused the Bush administration of failing to make "any serious effort" to encourage use of alternative fuels or raise fuel efficiency of automobiles. In fact, President Bush has signed major bills that do both.

Sliming Obama

Summary
If these two nasty e-mail messages are any indication, the 2008 presidential campaign is becoming a very dirty one.
One claims that Obama is "certainly a racist" by virtue of belonging to Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, which it says "will accept only black parishoners" and espouses a commitment to Africa. Actually, a white theology professor says he's been "welcomed enthusiastically" at the church, as have other non-blacks.
Another e-mail claims that Obama "is a Muslim,"