It was a political debate, and as such, facts tend to become orphans from reality: Republican Sarah Palin criticized a version of a Barack Obama health care plan that doesn’t exist while Democrat Joe Biden clung to a misleading charge about Republicans and big oil when the two clashed in the vice presidential debate Thursday.
What follows is a recount of some examples where the facts were cast adrift in the debate by both parties, corrected via http://factcheck.org
PALIN: Said of Democratic presidential candidate Obama: “94 times he voted to increase taxes or not support a tax reduction.”
THE FACTS: The dubious count includes repetitive votes as well as votes to cut taxes for the middle class while raising them on the rich. An analysis by factcheck.org found that 23 of the votes were for measures that would have produced no tax increase at all, seven were in favor of measures that would have lowered taxes for many, 11 would have increased taxes on only those making more than $1 million a year.
BIDEN: Complained about “economic policies of the last eight years” that led to “excessive deregulation.”
THE FACTS: Biden voted for 1999 deregulation that liberal groups are blaming for part of the financial crisis today. The law allowed Wall Street investment banks to create the kind of mortgage-related securities at the core of the problem now. The law was widely backed by Republicans as well as by Democratic President Clinton, who argues it has stopped the crisis today from being worse.
PALIN: Criticized Obama’s “plan to mandate health care coverage and have universal government run program” for health care, and added: “I don’t think it’s going to be real pleasing for Americans to consider health care being taken over by the Feds.”
THE FACTS: Wrong on several counts. Obama’s plan does not provide for universal coverage, only mandates insurance for children and doesn’t turn the system over to the government. Most people would still get private insurance through their work. Obama proposes that the government subsidize the cost of health coverage for millions who have trouble affording it and he’d set up an exchange to negotiate prices and benefits with private insurers — with one option being a government-run plan.
BIDEN: Warned that Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s $5,000 tax credit to help families buy health coverage “will go straight to the insurance company.”
THE FACTS: That’s not surprising — the money is meant to pay for health insurance. The Obama campaign tried to capitalize on the candidates’ health care exchange by issuing an ad Friday contending that the Republicans can’t explain “the McCain health tax.”
PALIN: “Two years ago, remember, it was John McCain who pushed so hard with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform measures. He sounded that warning bell.”
THE FACTS: Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska led an effort in 2005 to tighten regulation on the mortgage underwriters — McCain joined as a co-sponsor a year later. The legislation was never taken up by the full Senate, then under Republican control.
BIDEN: Said McCain supports tax breaks for oil companies, and “wants to give them another $4 billion tax cut.”
THE FACTS: Biden is repeating a favorite saw of the Obama campaign, and it’s misleading. McCain supports a cut in income taxes for all corporations, and doesn’t single out any one industry for that benefit.
PALIN: Said the United States has reduced its troop level in Iraq to a number below where it was when the troop increase began in early 2007.
THE FACTS: Not correct. The Pentagon says there are currently 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, about 17,000 more than there were before the 2007 military buildup began.
BIDEN: “As a matter of fact, John recently wrote an article in a major magazine saying that he wants to do for the health care industry — deregulate it and let the free market move — like he did for the banking industry.”
THE FACTS: Biden and Obama have been perpetuating this distortion of what McCain wrote in an article for the American Academy of Actuaries. McCain, laying out his health plan, only referred to deregulation when saying people should be allowed to buy health insurance across state lines. In that context, he wrote: “Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”
PALIN: Said Alaska is “building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline, which is North America’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets.”
THE FACTS: Not quite. Construction is at least six years away. So far the state has only awarded a license to Trans Canada Corp., that comes with $500 million in seed money in exchange for commitments toward a lengthy and costly process to getting a federal certificate. At an August news conference after the state Legislature approved the license, Palin said, “It’s not a done deal.”
PALIN: “Barack Obama even supported increasing taxes as late as last year for those families making only $42,000 a year.”
BIDEN: “The charge is absolutely not true. Barack Obama did not vote to raise taxes.”
THE FACTS: The vote was on a nonbinding budget resolution that 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. But Obama is proposing tax increases only on the wealthy, and would cut taxes for most others.
PALIN: Said a McCain-Palin administration “will support Israel,” including “building our embassy … in Jerusalem.”
THE FACTS: Moving the U.S. Embassy from its present location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a perennial promise of presidential candidates courting the Jewish-American vote. In fact, moving the embassy is actually required by U.S. law. But successive administrations of both parties, including George W. Bush’s, have made the same pledge only to find that the realities of Middle East peacemaking have forced them to invoke a waiver to delay it. Jerusalem is claimed as a capital by both Israel and the Palestinians and Israel’s occupation of east Jerusalem is not internationally recognized. The city’s status is one of the key issues of disagreement in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians
By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer with contributions from Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Steve Quinn, Jim Kuhnhenn, Lolita Baldor and Matthew Lee.