CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Get ready for 60 more days of half-truths, misstatements, overstatements and sometimes flat-out fibs leading to Election Day.
In a back-to-back preview of whats to come, Democrats stretched the truth at their national convention in Charlotte this week, just as Republicans did at their gathering last week in Tampa, Fla.
Theres little that can stop it. If Democrats and Republicans dont have much in common politically these days, they do share an open disdain for truth-squad results that dont go their way.
Republicans and conservatives, riled by blistering assessments of the veracity of vice presidential candidate Paul Ryans convention speech, howled that media fact-checkers are nothing more than liberal toadies of the Democratic Party. Democrats also have waged war on fact-checkers. President Barack Obamas campaign complained to the independent group FactCheck.org after it said Obama unfairly blamed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for the actions of Bain Capital, the company Romney co-founded, after he left the business in 1998.
We have blowback from everyone we critique, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the University of Pennsylvanias Annenberg Public Policy Center, which oversees FactCheck.org. Its business as usual and we just accept it.
At the Democratic convention, several speakers took liberties with facts, from claims about Romneys tenure as the governor of Massachusetts to the impact of Republican plans for Medicare and Pell Grants.
Heres a look at the rhetoric and the reality:
Obama in his prime-time speech Thursday said hed pay down debt. Ill use the money were no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work, he said.
His proposed budgets would increase debt, not pay it down. The budget he proposed this year would continue deficit spending over the next 10 years, borrowing another $6.7 trillion to finance the government. With added interest costs, the debt held by the public would increase from $11.6 trillion now to $19.5 trillion in fiscal 2022.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell told conventioneers that Mitt Romney says he likes to fire people. He and other Democrats took Romneys comment out of context.
Speaking about health insurance in a speech to the Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce last January, Romney said he wanted individuals to have control over their health insurance because it made insurance companies perform better to compete for business.
That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy, he said. It also means if you dont like what they do, you fire them, he added. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesnt give me a good service that I need, I want to say Im going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.
Vulgar attacks on women
Sandra Fluke, a lawyer and advocate for free health coverage of contraceptives, took a shot at Romney, telling the convention, Your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. She was referring to conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh calling her a slut last winter.
The impression Fluke conveyed about Romney wasnt the whole picture. When he was asked about Limbaughs caustic comment, Romney said, Its not the language I would have used.
Fluke didnt mention that the man she supports hasnt spoken out when high-profile liberals have made vulgar comments about women.
Obama didnt publicly criticize late night talk-show host David Letterman when he made several off-color comments about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2009, saying Palin had a slutty flight attendant look. The president and first lady Michelle Obama have appeared on Lettermans CBS show several times since his Palin remark.
Nor did the president respond when cable television comedian Bill Maher, whos contributed $1 million to a pro-Obama political group, referred to Palin with a genital vulgarity.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro charged Tuesday night that the election was a choice between a nation that slashes funding for our schools and guts Pell Grants, or a nation that invests more in education. Pell Grants help lower-income students.
Ryans fiscal 2013 budget plan doesnt gut the grants, though. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican whos the chairman of the House Budget Committee, would limit the growth of financial aid and target it to lower-income students. He also would have federal aid to higher education focus not only on help with funding, but also on policies that maximize innovation and ensure a robust menu of institutional options from which students and their families are able to choose.
Several Democratic speakers asserted that seniors would end up paying more under Ryans plan to overhaul Medicare.
Whats missing from the Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare is Medicare, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. Instead of the Medicare guarantee, Republicans would give seniors a voucher that limits what is covered, costing seniors as much as $6,400 more a year.
The current Ryan proposal would give anyone who turns 65 after 2023 a choice of buying private coverage or traditional Medicare. Theyd receive federal help with the premiums.
Trying to discern the impact on costs, though, is nearly impossible, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said earlier this year. It would say only that beneficiaries might face higher costs, without being specific.
Touting Obamas handling of the economy, Castro said, Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action, and now weve seen 4.5 million new jobs.
The mayor was statistically correct but misleading. Castro cited only private-sector jobs, which were doing better than government jobs, culled from February 2010 data as a starting point, according to FactCheck.org. There were 106,773,000 jobs back then and the number has increased ever since.
But calculate from the 2009 start of Obamas presidency and the most recently reported job figures, and theres a net increase of only 332,000 jobs, FactCheck.org reported. Factor in all jobs government and private sector and theres a net decrease of 316,000. As a result, total employment has gained 4 million jobs since February 2010, FactCheck.org said, not the 4.5 million Castro touted.
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