They said it, but it wasn’t always right

Times Staff Writer

Trying to link Barack Obama to higher taxes, John McCain hit hard at his rival’s voting record and tax proposals in Tuesday’s debate but made a number of misleading statements in the process.

Again, the Arizona Republican overstated Obama’s past support for tax increases and claimed that Obama’s proposed tax plan would mean higher taxes than independent analyses have suggested.

When the debate turned to foreign policy, Obama overstated Iraq’s budget deficit as he argued for a reduction in U.S. military involvement.


McCain, meanwhile, suggested greater similarities between planned military strategies in Afghanistan and Iraq than the senior commander in the Middle East has indicated.

Tax hikes

McCain again charged that Obama voted to raise taxes 94 times, which the nonpartisan identified as one of the “whoppers of 2008.”

According to the group’s analysis, 23 of the votes were against tax cuts. Seven would have raised taxes for some but lowered taxes for others. Eleven would have increased taxes on those making more than $1 million a year. also found that 53 of the 94 votes were on nonbinding measures, which would not have resulted in any tax change.

Business taxes

McCain said Obama “will increase taxes on 50% of small-business revenue.”

But according to the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a joint effort by two Washington think tanks, less than 3% of small businesses pay taxes in the top two brackets and could therefore see higher taxes. And for most of those small businesses, business revenue represents less than half of their income.

Tax history

McCain said the last president to raise taxes during “tough economic times” was Herbert Hoover.

In fact, President George H.W. Bush signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, increasing taxes as part of a budget deal with the Democratic-controlled Congress.


The nation was in a recession at the time, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Fannie Mae

and Freddie Mac

McCain said that government-sponsored mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “were the catalyst, the match that started this forest fire” in the economy and that he had “stood up” to them.

The nonpartisan fact-checking group said McCain signed on to a Republican bill in 2006 that would overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after both went through accounting scandals. In a May 26, 2006, news release, McCain said: “If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.”

But said those problems had nothing to do with the subprime mortgage loans that triggered the current crisis.


Obama repeated a claim that the Iraqi government had a $79-billion surplus, a figure substantially higher than a recent estimate by U.S. auditors.

According to an August report by the General Accountability Office, Iraq had approximately a $29-billion surplus between 2005 and 2007. The GAO estimated that this year’s surplus would be between $38.2 billion and $50.3 billion.



McCain said that Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is taking charge of U.S. Central Command, has developed a new plan for Afghanistan. McCain said Petraeus’ plan would be “the same fundamental strategy that succeeded in Iraq,” with some differences.

Petraeus has publicly endorsed adapting some of the tactics that were successful in Iraq to Afghanistan, such as promoting local reconciliation efforts and eliminating insurgent sanctuaries. But Petraeus has said Afghanistan is not Iraq and the military plan will therefore not be the same.


As he did in the first debate, McCain misstated his vote against the deployment of Marines in Lebanon during the Reagan presidency.

He said that he voted against it.

In fact, the Marines were already in Beirut when McCain entered the House of Representatives in 1983. What he voted against was a measure that would have authorized their deployment for 18 more months. The measure passed, 270-161.


Times staff writers Paul Richter, Jim Puzzanghera, Julian E. Barnes, Maura Reynolds, Richard Simon, Nicole Gaouette, David Savage, Peter Spiegel and Bob Drogin contributed to this report.