Did you hear the one about Mitt and Barack?

  • Article by: EDITORIAL , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • Updated: September 10, 2012 - 12:56 PM

Well, supposedly, they told tall tales ranging from itsy bitsy white lies to great big ol' whoppers. At least, that's what everyone from fact checkers to their opponents are saying.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

The following editorial appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday, Sept. 9:

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They lied. They fibbed. They cast aspersions. They distorted records. They told tall tales ranging from itsy bitsy white lies to great big ol' whoppers.

Ain't politics great?

Former President Bill Clinton lamented that "democracy does not have to be a blood sport," but then proceeded to stretch the truth about the Democrats' rival and GOP nominee former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

And Romney, no slouch, peppered his own acceptance speech with statistics and claims that were a little tough to swallow.

Here are a few of our favorites culled from the convention speeches (a tip of the hat to PolitFact, FactCheck.org and The Fact Checker at the Washington Post):

Mitt Romney said ...

"Gasoline prices have doubled" since President Barack Obama was inaugurated. True. Except that gas prices were extraordinarily depressed because of the Great Recession in January of 2009 when Obama placed his hand on the Bible. The average price for regular gasoline was $3.84 last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. Prices were averaging $1.84 the week Obama took office. What Romney didn't bother to say: Gas prices topped four bucks a gallon in the summer of 2008.

"Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class."

Except, Obama hasn't raised taxes. He has cut them. FactCheck.org points out that Obama pushed for the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, which channeled up to $400 to individuals earning up to $75,000. And, of course, he pushed to temporarily cut the payroll tax to fund Social Security benefits from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent.

Paul Ryan said ...

  • Obama "funneled" $716 billion from Medicare (Romney has said the same thing repeatedly). It's not true. The $716 billion are savings from payments to providers of Medicare that both the president and Ryan count in their respective plans. The Affordable Care Act seeks to find savings to extend the life of Medicare - not cut benefits.
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  • Obama "did exactly nothing" with the report from the Simpson-Bowles commission. Obama showed little interest in the report, that's true. But Ryan failed to note that he was on the commission and voted to scuttle its findings. A key fact, if you ask us.
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  • Blamed the president for the nation losing its Triple A credit rating from Standard & Poor's. But S&P blamed the downgrade on the recalcitrance of both parties.

... And we're not going to get into the Wisconsin congressman's marathon times or how many "fourteeners" (as in 14,000-foot mountains) he has climbed. His political statements leave us with quite enough fodder.

Joe Biden said ...

  • "What they didn't tell you is what they're proposing would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016."

Maybe they didn't tell you that because it's not true? Glenn Kessler, who runs The Fact Checker at The Washington Post notes that "it is highly misleading to use the phrase 'bankrupt.'?"

Kessler writes that the payroll tax, which funds the trust fund for Medicare Part A, could pay most estimated expenses for many years. Is Medicare in trouble long term? Absolutely.

But Biden was stretching the truth in his attempt to carve up the Ryan plan, which features means-tested premium supports for recipients to buy coverage from a menu of options, including the traditional Medicare program. Thus, another Biden claim that "they're not preserving Medicare at all," also rings hollow.

Bill Clinton said ...

  • "(Obama) has offered a reasonable plan of $4 trillion in debt reduction over a decade ... the kind of balanced approach proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission."

But by any reasonable accounting, Obama's budget doesn't reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. Obama disingenuously counts $1 trillion in cuts already agreed upon. And he's counting a mythical $848 billion in "savings" from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - claiming to "save" money he never figured to spend. Simpson-Bowles, on the other hand, lays out real spending cuts and real tax reform.

President Barack Obama said ...

  • U.S. automakers are "back on top of the world." Not true. General Motors is No. 2 once again and may well be third in sales worldwide by the end of this year. Toyota and Volkswagen will likely be the top dogs. Obama takes credit, justifiably, for "saving" the domestic auto industry and thousands of jobs in the upper Midwest. But GM has struggled at times; for the second time this year the automaker shut down production of its all-electric Volt, saying it had to "match supply with demand."
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  • That Romney said it was "tragic" to "end the war in Iraq." Actually, Romney wasn't critical of ending the war; he was critical of the pace of troop withdrawal under the president's leadership. Romney thought Obama was bringing the troops home too soon.
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  • He would restore "the same (tax) rate we had when Bill Clinton was president" for upper-income taxpayers. Yes - and no. For income taxes, that's true. But what the president didn't point out was that new taxes to pay for health care reform - Obamacare - begin in 2013, so high-income earners will actually be paying more than they did under Clinton.

These are just the highlights. To think it's only September. We have two months to go.

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Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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