McCain needn't do this

I was checking factcheck.org this morning, and it looks to me like the McCain campaign is stretching the facts way too much. It needn’t be this way. We can take Obama to task without distorting anything. For example:

  • He was flat wrong on the surge strategy in Iraq, a top two issue.

  • His plan for turning things around in Afghanistan is practically non-existent.

  • He is in favor of market-distorting ethanol subsidies.

  • He has put forward no new ideas for taking the bite out of gasoline prices. He voted for keeping the Brazilian ethanol tariff in place, he has opposed the expansion of offshore drilling (until recently), and he is proposing a windfall profits tax on oil companies, a la Jimmy Carter.

  • For nuclear energy, his opposition to Yucca Mountain as a repository means that he would rather kick the can down the road instead of build new plants, thus restricting the expansion of our energy base.

  • He will significantly grow the size of government.

  • He wants to raise taxes, including taxes on Social Security.

  • He wants to restrict free trade, opposing both NAFTA and a free trade agreement with Colombia.

  • He favors the Employee Free Choice Act, which would restrict employee free choice because the bill removes secret ballot provisions.

  • Obama is woefully inexperienced for the job of Leader of the Free World, as Baseball Crank well points out.

And the list goes on and on. Because of all this good and true material out there, I don’t see why the McCain campaign thinks it’s necessary to distort the facts or take things out of context. I have no problem with negative ads, so long as they’re true and accurate, but Factcheck.org has found plenty of those ads and statements wanting. This is a concern because, if the negative ads aren’t credible, then undecided voters will tend to tune them out. Going down the list, on Obama and electricity:

McCain’s new ad claims that Obama “says he’ll raise taxes on electricity.” That’s false. Obama says no such thing.McCain relies on a single quote from Obama who once – and only once so far as we can find – suggested taxing “dirty energy,” including coal and natural gas. That was in response to a reporter’s suggestion that a tax on wind power could fund education. Obama isn’t proposing any new tax on electricity or “dirty energy” as part of his platform, and he never has.It’s true that a coal/gas tax would raise electric rates, but so would a cap-and-trade program to restrict carbon emissions. Cap-and-trade is an idea that both McCain and Obama support, in different forms. Neither candidate characterizes cap-and-trade as a “tax.”

On Obama and oil exploration and offshore drilling:

McCain’s new ad accuses Obama of keeping gas prices high, all by himself. That’s absurd, and McCain knows it – he has said repeatedly that our current problems were “30 years in the making.”The ad also tells us that gas prices are high because “some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America.” Not true. The federal government’s estimate is that if the moratorium on offshore drilling were lifted today, it would be 2030 before we’d see a noticeable effect on supply and prices. For the same reason, it’s simply not true that drilling more now will “rescue our family budgets.”

The one exception I have with the above is that, if expanded oil exploration and drilling were approved today, then it would favorably affect oil futures prices almost immediately. On Obama and funding the troops:

The McCain campaign is running a TV ad attacking Obama with statements that are literally true but paint an incomplete picture. It says he “voted against funding our troops.” He did – exactly once. Obama cast at least 10 votes for war-funding bills before voting against one last year, after Bush vetoed a version that contained a date for withdrawal from Iraq.It says he “hasn’t been to Iraq for years.” He was headed there at the time the ad was released, however, and had been there in 2006.It says he “never held a single hearing on Afghanistan.” It was the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee, not Obama’s subcommittee, that had the hearings on this global hot spot, and Obama attended one of those. Over the same time period, McCain himself attended none of the Afghanistan hearings held by the Armed Services Committee on which he serves.

McCain would have been better off highlighting Obama’s scant foreign policy experience and complete lack of military experience, as well as taking Obama to task for his lack of any sort of coherent strategy for Iraq and Afghanistan. On Obama and small business:

McCain has repeatedly claimed that Obama would raise tax rates for 23 million small-business owners. It’s a false and preposterously inflated figure.We find that the overwhelming majority of those small-business owners would see no increase, because they earn too little to be affected. Obama’s tax proposal would raise rates only on couples making more than $250,000 or singles earning more than $200,000.McCain argues that Obama’s proposed increase is a job-killer. He has a point. It’s true that increasing taxes on those at the top would leave them less money for other purposes, including investment and hiring in the case of business owners. But the number of business owners who would see their rates go up would be only a small fraction of what McCain says. Many would see their taxes go down.

On Obama and taxes:

The McCain campaign claims that Obama voted to raise income taxes on individuals who earn as little as $32,000 per year. That’s wrong. * The resolution Obama voted for would not have increased taxes on any single taxpayer making less than $41,500 per year in total income, or any couple making less than $83,000. The $32,000 figure is approximately the taxable income of a single person making $41,500 per year, after all deductions and exclusions.* Obama’s vote (for a non-binding budget bill) does not change the fact that his own tax plan would provide a tax cut of $502 for a non-married taxpayer earning $35,000.

This is a small distortion, but why not just say $41,500 instead of $32,000? The higher number is still pretty darn low. On Obama and his record of raising taxes:

The McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee both claim that Obama has voted 94 times “for higher taxes.” We find that their count is padded. After looking at every one of the 94 votes that the RNC includes in its tally, we find:* Twenty-three were for measures that would have produced no tax increase at all; they were against proposed tax cuts.* Seven of the votes were in favor of measures that would have lowered taxes for many, while raising them on a relative few, either corporations or affluent individuals.* Eleven votes the GOP is counting would have increased taxes on those making more than $1 million a year – in order to fund programs such as Head Start and school nutrition programs, or veterans’ health care. * The GOP sometimes counted two, three and even four votes on the same measure. We found their tally included a total of 17 votes on seven measures, effectively padding their total by 10.* The majority of the 94 votes – 53 of them, including some mentioned above – were on budget measures, not tax bills, and would not have resulted in any tax change. Four other votes were non-binding motions related to conference report negotiations. It’s true that most of the votes the GOP counts would either have increased taxes for some, or set budget targets calling for such increases. But by repeating their inflated 94-vote figure, the McCain campaign and the GOP falsely imply that Obama has pushed indiscriminately to raise taxes for nearly everybody. A closer look reveals that he’s voted consistently to restore higher tax rates on upper-income taxpayers but not on middle- or low-income workers. That’s consistent with what he’s said he’d do as president, which is to raise taxes only on those making more than $250,000 a year.

And that’s just for the month of July. There are a couple of critiques of McCain that are pretty lame. For example, in the McCain ad which stated that “Fidel Castro thinks he [Obama] is ‘the most advanced candidate,'” the factcheck.org folks took umbrage because Castro criticized Obama in the same article. However, it’s pretty clear that Castro prefers Obama. Here’s what Castro said in the opening paragraph:

I feel no resentment towards him, for he is not responsible for the crimes perpetrated against Cuba and humanity. Were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries an enormous favor.

Castro is smart enough to know that praising Obama could very well backfire. Concerning Obama canceling his visit with troops in Germany, I thought their critique of McCain’s ad was lame. All Obama had to do was tell his campaign people to stay at the hotel while he visited troops at the base.