- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2008

The first presidential debate of the 2008 general election began as an assertion-laden exchange, with Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain confronting each other with claims ranging from the financial crisis to taxes. Some left out key facts. Here are examples:

Mr. Obama: Said oil companies “would get an additional $4 billion in tax breaks” under Mr. McCain’s plan.

The facts: The $4 billion in tax breaks for the oil companies is simply part of Mr. McCain’s overall corporate tax reduction plan and does not represent an additional tax benefit. In other words, the corporate tax reduction applies to all corporations, oil companies included. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain have proposed eliminating oil and gas tax loopholes.

Mr. McCain: “I’ve been criticized because I called for the resignation of the chairman of the Securities and Exchange commission.”

The facts: Mr. McCain did eventually call for the resignation of SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. But he first said that if he were president he would fire him, a step a president cannot take with the head of an independent regulatory agency. This is what Mr. McCain said on Sept. 18 during a rally in Iowa: “The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and, in my view, has betrayed the public’s trust. If I were president today, I would fire him.”

Mr. Obama: Said he would make sure that the health care system “allows everyone to have basic coverage.”

The facts: If that sounds like universal health coverage, it’s not. Mr. Obama picked his words carefully — stopping short of claiming outright that his plan provides health care for all. He promises to make health insurance affordable but would only require that children have coverage, not adults. Estimates of how many would remain without insurance vary. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said during the primaries that Mr. Obama’s plan would leave 15 million people uninsured.

Mr. McCain: “We had an energy bill before the United States Senate. It was festooned with Christmas tree ornaments. It had all kinds of breaks for the oil companies, I mean, billions of dollars worth. I voted against it; Senator Obama voted for it.”

The facts: Obama did vote for a 2005 energy bill supported by President Bush that included billions in subsidies for oil and natural gas production. Mr. McCain opposed the bill on grounds it included unnecessary tax breaks for the oil industry. Mr. Obama voted to strip the legislation of the oil and gas industry tax breaks. When that failed, he voted for the overall measure. Mr. Obama has said he supported the legislation because it provided money for renewable energy.

Mr. Obama: “We’re also going to have to look at, how is it that we shredded so many regulations? We did not set up a 21st-century regulatory framework to deal with these problems. And that in part has to do with an economic philosophy that says that regulation is always bad.”

The facts: Some of the abuses that occurred stemmed from the 1999 repeal of a Depression-era law that separated banks from brokerages. In legislation supported by former President Clinton and Robert Rubin, now a top Obama adviser and Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, this separation was ended — allowing banks and insurance companies to sell securities. But while regular banks were strictly regulated by the government, Wall Street banks and other non-bank institutions — many of the same institutions whose abuses led to the current crisis — were allowed to operate with less regulation.

Mr. McCain: Mr. McCain said Mr. Obama voted to cut off money for the troops in Iraq.

The facts: Despite opposing the war, Mr. Obama has, with one exception, voted for Iraq troop financing. In 2007, he voted against a troop funding bill because it did not contain language calling for a troop withdrawal. The Illinois senator backed another bill that had such language — and money for the troops.

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