Warped facts in last presidential debate
Washington D.C. (AP) — Facts went astray on tax cuts, negative campaign advertising and oil imports when Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain engaged Wednesday in their third and final presidential debate.
OBAMA: "Every dollar that I've proposed, I've proposed an additional cut, so that it matches."
THE FACTS: The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that his programs would add $281 billion to the deficit at the end of his first term. The analysis includes Obama's proposals for saving money.
McCAIN: "We have to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much."
THE FACTS: This is a reference to U.S. spending on oil imports. McCain has repeatedly made this claim. But the figure is highly inflated and misleading. According to government agencies that track energy imports, the United States spent $246 billion in 2007 for all imported crude oil, a majority of it coming from friendly nations including neighboring Canada and Mexico. An additional $82 billion was spent on imported refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel and fuel oil. A majority of the refined products come from refineries in such friendly countries as the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, Trinidad-Tobago and the Virgin Islands.
OBAMA: "One hundred percent, John, of your ads - 100 percent of them - have been negative."
THE FACTS: The statement is mostly true when it comes to McCain's current commercial spots. But by saying McCain's ads "have been" 100 percent negative, Obama ventures into misleading territory. A recent study by the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that in the first week of October "nearly 100 percent" of McCain's ads were negative. The study also reported, however, that to date 73 percent of McCain's ads have been negative and that 61 percent of Obama's ads have been negative.
McCAIN: "Sen. Obama is spending unprecedented amounts of money in negative attack ads on me."
THE FACTS: Obama is spending unprecedented amounts of money on ads, period - negative or otherwise. Obama is outspending McCain and the Republican Party by more than 2-to-1 in presidential ads. At one point in August, 90 percent of the ads Obama was airing were against McCain. The study by the Wisconsin Advertising Project found that about 34 percent of Obama's ads are now negative.
OBAMA: "I want to provide a tax cut for 95 percent of working Americans, 95 percent."
THE FACTS: Obama constantly says this. But the independent Tax Policy Center says his plan cuts taxes for 81.3 percent of all households in 2009.
McCAIN: Said of Obama's running mate Sen. Joe Biden: "He had this cockamamie idea of dividing Iraq into three countries."
THE FACTS: Biden actually proposed dividing Iraq into three semiautonomous regions, not separate countries. He was a prime sponsor of a nonbinding Senate resolution that called for Iraq to have federal regions under the control of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis in a power-sharing agreement similar to the one that ended the 1990s war in Bosnia.
OBAMA: Said he would be "completely supportive" of late-term abortion restrictions "as long as there's an exception for the mother's health and life."
THE FACTS: Obama leaves himself a lot of latitude in this answer. A woman's "health" has been so broadly interpreted that it can include conditions, including psychological conditions, that are difficult to diagnose or prove. Anti-abortion advocates say that makes the ban meaningless, because it leaves too much subjective judgment in the equation.
MCCAIN: "Sen. Obama, as a member of the Illinois state Senate, voted in the Judiciary Committee against a law that would provide immediate medical attention to a child born in a failed abortion. He voted against that."
OBAMA: "If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that's because it's not true."
THE FACTS: As a state senator, Obama opposed three legislative efforts, in 2001, 2002 and 2003, to give legal protections to any aborted fetus that showed signs of life. The 2003 measure was virtually identical to a bill President Bush signed into law in 2002 - a bill that passed before Obama was in the U.S. Senate, but one that Obama said he would have supported. The state of Illinois already had a law to protect aborted fetuses born alive and considered able to survive. Among those opposed to the state effort was the Illinois State Medical Society, which argued that the bill would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and expand civil liability for doctors. Critics said the proposed legislation would have undermined the landmark Supreme Court case on abortion, Roe v. Wade, in ways the federal law would not.
McCAIN: "Senator Obama talks about voting for budgets. He voted twice for a budget resolution that increases the taxes on individuals making $42,000 a year."
THE FACTS: The vote was on a nonbinding resolution and did not increase taxes. The resolution assumed that President Bush's tax cuts would expire, as scheduled, in 2011. If that actually happened, it could mean higher taxes for people making as little as about $42,000.
OBAMA: "We can cut the average family's premium by $2,500 a year."
THE FACTS: If that sounds like a straight-ahead promise to lower health insurance premiums, it isn't. Obama hopes that by spending $50 billion over five years on electronic medical records and by improving access to proven disease management programs, among other steps, consumers will end up saving money. He uses an optimistic analysis to suggest cost reductions in national health care spending could amount to the equivalent of $2,500 for a family of four. Many economists are skeptical those savings can be achieved, but even if they are, it's not a certainty that every dollar would be passed on to consumers in the form of lower premiums.
MCCAIN: Warned a small business owner that he would be fined under Obama's health care plan if he did not provide health insurance for workers.
THE FACTS: Obama's health care plan does not impose mandates or fines on small business. He would provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50 percent on health premiums paid on behalf of their employees. Large as well as medium-sized businesses that do not offer meaningful coverage or contribute to the cost of coverage would be required to pay a percentage of payroll toward the costs of a public insurance plan. But small businesses would be exempt from that requirement.
McCAIN: "We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 nuclear power plants right away."
THE FACTS: For nuclear power to lower oil dependency would require a massive shift to electric or hybrid-electric cars, with nuclear power providing the electricity. No new U.S. nuclear reactor has been built since the 1970s. Although 15 utilities have filed applications to build 24 new reactors, none is expected to be built before 2015 at the earliest. Turmoil in the credit markets could force cancellation of some of the projects now planned, much less spur construction of 45 new reactors, as reactor costs have soared to about $9 billion apiece.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)