Their Words, and Then the Facts
The presidential campaign is crackling with exchanges over Iraq and domestic issues. Here is context for some of the claims and charges.
Statement: “The fellow I’m running against has proposed over $2 trillion of new federal spending so far.... [People] said, ‘Well, how are you going to pay for it?’ And he said, ‘Well, don’t worry. I’ll pay for it by taxing the rich.’ ” -- Sept. 7, in Columbia, Mo.
Context: The Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, proposes a health insurance plan that would cost $653 billion over 10 years, by the reckoning of a former Clinton administration health expert.
Bush campaign aides, citing a conservative think tank, say the Kerry plan would cost $1.5 trillion; adding other Democratic proposals, they arrive at $2 trillion--figures the Kerry camp disputes. It is true that Kerry wants to finance his health plan by raising taxes on the wealthy.
But Kerry pledges not to raise rates for families earning less than $200,000 a year. Bush himself proposes tax cuts and changes to the Social Security system that many independent analysts say would cost more than $2 trillion in revenue over 10 years.
Statement: Kerry “apparently woke up this morning and has now decided, no, we should not have invaded Iraq, after just last month saying he still would have voted for force, even knowing everything we know today.” -- Monday, in Derry, N.H.
Context: Bush was referring to Kerry’s vote for an October 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq.
Kerry did say in August that he would vote again for the force resolution, even if he knew that weapons of mass destruction would not be found in Iraq.
Kerry, however, was trying to distinguish between a congressional action intended to give the president diplomatic leverage against a rogue state and a presidential decision to launch an invasion.
Kerry and many Democrats contend that Bush did not exhaust diplomatic options. They also note that the force resolution was not a declaration of war--a power the Constitution gives Congress.
Presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.)
Statement: “One year ago, this administration asked for and received $18 billion to help the Iraqis and relieve the conditions that contribute to the insurgency. Today, less than $1 billion of those funds have actually been spent.” -- Monday, in New York
Context: It is true that Congress appropriated more than $18 billion last year to help rebuild Iraq. Of that sum, Republicans acknowledge, only about $1 billion has been spent. But about $6 billion more is obligated to be spent soon, and planning for the rest is underway.
House Republicans will hold a hearing on the issue this week. Kerry voted against the $87-billion spending package that included the reconstruction funding.
Statement: “Today they’ve announced the biggest deficit in the history of our nation.... [We] have a plan to cut the deficit in half, to restore fiscal responsibility.” -- Sept. 7, in Greensboro, N.C.
Context: The Congressional Budget Office announced a federal budget deficit of $435 billion on Sept. 7 for the first 11 months of the 2003-04 fiscal year. That was up $35 billion over the same period the year before and was indeed a record.
Unlike Bush, Kerry is proposing a tax increase to help pay for his programs. That buttresses the Democrat’s claim to be more of a budget balancer than Bush. But independent analysts warn that Kerry’s healthcare and education proposals would be costly, and the Democrat has not seriously addressed a looming fiscal crisis facing Social Security and Medicare.
Vice President Dick Cheney
Statement: “In Iraq, we dealt with a gathering threat and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein.” -- Tuesday, in Wauseon, Ohio
Context: Cheney and Bush both use the phrase “gathering threat” to describe prewar Iraq, rather than “imminent threat.”
Critics of the war, noting the failure to find nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, have said Iraq did not pose an “imminent threat” to the United States. The October 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq -- which Kerry supported -- described Iraq as a “continuing threat to the national security of the United States.”
At times in 2003, however, White House spokesmen appeared to endorse the phrase “imminent threat,” according to quotes compiled by administration critics. Cheney also has called Hussein’s regime a “serious” and “terrible” threat.
Vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.)
Statement: Bush “slashed the overtime for 6 million workers. But he did nothing to raise the minimum wage.” -- Tuesday, in Cleveland
Context: The Labor Department revised overtime pay rules last month. No one disputes that the rules give new overtime guarantees to workers who make up to $23,660 a year, up from the previous threshold of $8,060. But for workers who make more than that, up to about $100,000, there is controversy.
The administration says its rules strengthen overtime protections for millions of workers by clarifying outdated job classifications. Democrats and labor unions disagree, saying that overtime pay of 6 million workers will be threatened. Independent experts say the impact is difficult to predict.
On wages, Bush has not supported Democratic attempts to increase the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. That standard has been unchanged since 1997. Republicans argue that raising the minimum wage would discourage hiring. Kerry proposes raising it to $7 an hour by 2007.