Bush Campaign Lies

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #45: Kerry Flip-Flopped On View Of War On Terror 

This is the 33rd item which Republicans call a Kerry 'flip-flop'. Their justification is that in one speech, Kerry stated that the war on terror was 'basically a manhunt', and in another, that it 'isn't just a manhunt'.

No, really. That's the whole Republican case. You think I would make up something that weak?

For the sake of completeness, let's actually analyze what Kerry said in the two speeches the Republicans cite. First of all, is it possible for the war on terror to be 'basically a manhunt', but still not 'just a manhunt'? Of course it is. But even if it's not, this only proves that Kerry maybe isn't so great at analogies. In order to really discuss his 'view of the war on terror', it would probably make more sense to analyze his prescription for winning the war, don't you think?

So let's see. The first source says 'Kerry characterized the war on terror as predominantly an intelligence-gathering and law enforcement operation'. Okay. Intelligence and law enforcement. Let's compare that to the second source the Republicans cite, in which Kerry says

. . . the fight requires us to use every tool at our disposal. Not only a strong military – but renewed alliances, vigorous law enforcement, reliable intelligence, and unremitting effort to shut down the flow of terrorist funds.
So this is completely different. Sure, he mentions intelligence and law enforcement, but he mentions other stuff too! A radical departure from his earlier position!

Kerry's been in the public eye for more than 30 years, and this is the best evidence his opponents can give of his proclivity to take every side on every issue? In which case, it seems likely that Kerry has been remarkably consistent in his views.

11:04 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #44: The Bush Campaign Won't Shut Up About Kerry's Vote Against the $87 Billion Supplemental 

We've already discussed how the Republican criticism of Kerry for voting against the $87 billion supplemental funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan is misleading and hypocritical. Unfortunately, it is also a very effective means of attacking Kerry, so they keep repeating themselves. And of course they'll distort and elide Kerry quotes 'til the cows come home to make him look like a flip-flopper.

Case in point. In addition to the usual B.S., this article posted on Bush's campaign site on April 22 gives two Kerry quotes:

  1. RUSSERT: 'If there's another bill to provide money for the troops, you'll vote against it again?' KERRY: 'It depends entirely on what the situation is, Tim. I'm not going to say that.' (NBC's "Meet the Press," 4/18/04)
  2. QUINTANILLA: 'Kerry now says if troops need more money in Iraq, the answer is simple.' KERRY: 'Absolutely.' QUINTANILLA: 'No strings attached?' KERRY: 'You have to protect our troops and prevent Iraq from falling into absolute chaos.' (NBC's "Today," 4/22/04)
Pretty damning stuff. But if you haven't learned by now, with the Republicans, you always have to go and check the transcripts for yourself. Take a look at Kerry's full answer to Russert on that Meet the Press show:

It depends entirely on what the situation is, Tim. I'm not going to say that. What I'm saying is even the generals in Iraq said the money in that bill had no impact on their ability to continue to fight. We had money all the way through January, and if my vote had been the deciding vote, you know as well as the president knows, as well as every Republican knows, that if I'd been the deciding vote, we would have sat down at a table, we have worked out exactly how we were going to do this intelligently and we would have had a better bill. That's how you change policy. You stand up for principle. That was a vote for principle.
So when Kerry said 'it depends entirely on what the situation is', he meant that the troops would absolutely get the money if it was needed, but that he would negotiate for the best funding bill possible if there was time.

Gee, that sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? And not even a little flip-floppy.

10:41 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #43: Kerry Fails to Support the Environment Because he Blocked the Bush Energy Bill 

Yet another in the compost of lies Christine Todd Whitman served up when she sold out any hope of ever being taken seriously again.

Actually, The Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute, Citizens for Tax Justice and Public Citizen opposed the Energy Bill, too, and those are just the ones the New York Times mentions. John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, said this legislation would be 'a giant step backwards for energy policy' and would 'weaken national security in two major ways'.

Still not convinced that this is a bad bill? Then consider that 19 public interest groups wrote an open letter to Congress to express their concern that this bill would 'severely damage our health, our environment, and our pocketbooks'.

Far from proving that Kerry is unconcerned with the environment, his opposition to the Energy Bill is a resounding confirmation of the high value he places on protecting it.

9:28 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #42: Bush's Leadership on Environmental Issues has Given Us Cleaner Air, Water and Land 

This is another whopper Christine Todd Whitman told in her April 22 lie-fest.

The air, water and land may be cleaner now than they were on January 20, 2001. Then again, they may not. But the real point is that any positive change in the environment in the past 3.5 years has come in spite of Bush and his policies, not because of them.

I'm going to provide evidence for my claim, of course, but I first feel compelled to provide fair advance warning. Bush has been such a terrible president when it comes to the environment, it's really difficult to believe he's done all the things the environmentalists claim. It might be best for you to read a few of the facts, go away for a little while and digest them, and come back for more later. Because truly, the depths of Bush's unconcern for the environment are really quite startling.

Okay, here goes. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Here's the Sierra Club's Book of Bush. And if you think that's overwhelming, check out the Natural Resources Defense Council's The Bush Record. The NRDC believes that 'This administration, in catering to industries that put America's health and natural heritage at risk, threatens to do more damage to our environmental protections than any other in U.S. history'. And if all of the evidence you see there doesn't convince you, then ask yourself why a large number of EPA officials have resigned in recent months, citing concerns about administration policies, and why a majority of EPA staff believe that 'promoting the President's energy plan and other administration initiatives has become more important' than environmental protection.

Is it possible that Christine Whitman, Bush's former EPA chief, lacks the objectivity to judge Bush's leadership on environmental issues?


Postscript: By way of completeness, Whitman specifically mentions a handful of Bush initiatives in her letter. There's Clear Skies and the Energy Bill, both of which are absolute disasters for the environment. She also mentions Bush's Healthy Forests initiative, which is nothing more than a giveaway to logging interests.

In contrast, the Beach Program she mentions appears to actually be a good program, but the credit for it rightly belongs to the Clinton administration (it was enacted October 10, 2000). She also trumpets a single instance in which the Bush administration has enforced the Clean Air Act. Wow, the government fulfilling its duty under the law. No wonder she's so proud.

And in fairness, it seems that Bush actually has signed a couple of good pieces of legislation, those being the non-road diesel regulations (which, it must be said, supercedes a decidedly more craven Bush approach to the issue), and brownfields legislation which, although of questionable value, isn't a blatant sellout of our environment to polluters.

12:03 AM

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #41: 'Clear Skies' is the Most Aggressive Presidential Initiative to Reduce Power Plant Emissions 

I am at a loss to describe Christine Todd Whitman's statement supporting Bush's environmental record and questioning Kerry's commitment to the environment. It is so chock full of lies I was tempted to just lump all of them into a single post, but our environment deserves better than that.

Whitman is pumping the Clear Skies Initiative because it targets reductions in three pollutants: nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury. And Whitman may indeed be correct that this legislation would introduce the first-ever cap on mercury emissions, but it's a cap which would likely allow more mercury emissions than rigorous enforcement of current laws. As the Washington Post opines:

Levels of mercury almost certainly will be higher, or at least will stay higher longer -- an ominous sign in a week in which the EPA, separately, announced that one in 12 American women have mercury levels in their blood high enough to harm an unborn fetus. Local and state pollution regulators also dislike the bill because, they say, it removes regulatory tools they've used in the past, making it more difficult for states to meet air quality standards in particular places.
But hey, you don't have to take the 'liberal' Post's word for it --- the nonpartisan group OMB watch reports that bipartisan legislation in the Senate would have been a better bill, but the administration tried to cover it up.

And to me, that really signifies that the administration is being honest with the public: when they try to quash legislation that benefits the public health and the environment.

And in case anyone's interested, the National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club don't think the Clear Skies initiative is all that great, either. Then again, maybe I'm not being fair. Whitman only said that Bush's plan was 'aggressive'. Perhaps she really meant that it was the environment, and not the polluters, who would bear the brunt of Bush's aggression. In which case, she's absolutely correct.

11:34 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #40: Kerry Claims He's Met with 'Foreign Leaders' Who Want Him to Win 

At a Florida fundraiser in March, Kerry was misquoted as saying 'I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say it all publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, you gotta win this, you gotta beat this guy, we need a new policy . . . .' The error was corrected very quickly; he actually said 'I've met more leaders who . . . .'

But that didn't stop Dick Cheney from telling an audience at Westminster College that Kerry had really made the claim about 'foreign leaders' on April 26.

That Dick Cheney is just a lying machine. He also trotted out lie #9 and lie #14, as well as lie #39, which is clearly the Bush campaign's showcase lie of the week.

10:58 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #39: Kerry Has a Long Record of Opposing Programs Vital to National Security 

This is the gist of a memo Republican party chair Ed Gillespie sent out to all members on April 28. The memo lists four of Kerry's votes and/or policy proposals from his 19-year Senate career, as well as a 1984 memo Kerry put out when he was first running for the Senate.

In other words, Gillespie cites five instances over a 20-year period where Kerry has supported policies that might be construed as 'opposing defense programs', and calls it a 'pattern'. And one of those instances --- Kerry's vote against the $87 billion appropriations bill for Iraq and Afghanistan --- was clearly an effort to call attention to Bush's mishandling of the war in Iraq, and had nothing to do with Kerry's stand on defense. See lie #8.

However, as FactCheck.org points out, if one considers Kerry's Senate record in its entirety, one concludes that Kerry is not weak on defense. He voted for the Pentagon authorization bill in 16 of the 19 years he's been in the Senate: by that measure, he's an absolute hawk on defense. And Arizona Republican John McCain, who is heading up the Bush re-election efforts in Arizona, has defended Kerry.

And because they deserve it, the Center for American Progress lets us know, once again, what a shameless bunch of hypocrites the Republicans are --- or at least Dick Cheney.

10:40 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #38: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Funding For Our Troops In Iraq 

Kerry has always supported giving our troops what they need to protect themselves and claim decisive victory. It is true that he voted against the $87 billion supplemental funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, but it wasn't because he flip-flopped. See lie #8.

10:17 PM

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Different Look, Same Great Debunking 

I've slapped a fresh coat of paint on the place. Actually, someone I know from the Liberal Coalition passed the new template and wallpaper image to me, and I tweaked it a bit.

If you like the new look, let me know. Better yet, let Scout know. And while you're at it, take a look at his blog.

We now return you to a long-overdue dose of more GOP myth debunking.

9:51 PM

Friday, April 23, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #37: Kerry Flip-Flop-Flipped On Ballistic Missile Defense 

Not only does this alleged Kerry flip-flop rely on a warped interpretation of Kerry's Senate voting record, as usual, but it is buttressed by the Republicans' conveniently presenting their 'evidence' out of chronological order, in order to make Kerry seem especially wishy-washy.

In sum, the Republican argument consists of three parts:

  1. A listing of 53 of Kerry's Senate votes from 1985 to 2000, together with the claim that these votes prove Kerry has a long record of opposing missile defense.
  2. A Kerry quote from 2004 stating that he supports 'the development of an effective defense against ballistic missiles that is deployed with maximum transparency and consultation with U.S. allies and other major powers'.
  3. Another Kerry quote from March 2003 which cites a Kerry advisor as saying that Kerry would defund Bush's National Missile Defense system because 'there is not proof of concept'.
Note that there really is no good reason to present (2) and (3) in that order, other than to embellish an already highly deceptive yarn.

But let's address the big money point: Kerry's Senate votes. To start with, ask yourself how much should be spent on missile defense? $1 billion? $10 billion? $100 billion? Should we spend all of our money on missile defense and nothing else? Or is there some reasonable upper limit?

Another question: What kind of missile defense should we build? Should it be Reagan's 'Star Wars' space-based system, or a ground-based system? Should it be focused on protecting us from all threats from all places at all times, or should it be focused on protecting fighting troops in a limited theater of conflict?

Reasonable people may answer these questions differently, and still be supporters of missile defense. Such is the case with Kerry. He opposes the weaponization of space, supports so-called 'theater' missile defense, supported the ABM treaty until Bush walked away from it, and places a more restrictive limit on defense spending than most Republicans. His Senate votes clearly support these conclusions. What they do not support is the idea that John Kerry has ever been an opponent of missile defense.

It is clear that the Republicans present 53 of Kerry's Senate votes in the hope that no one will bother to research them all. And in all fairness, I only researched 34 of them, since the online records only go back to 1989. However, it's safe to assume that all 19 of the votes I missed pertain to SDI (or are votes on large pieces of legislation, like Defense Authorization Acts), since they occurred during the Reagan administration. Kerry opposes weaponizing space, so these votes don't prove anything. Similarly, of the 34 remaining votes, 15 of them concern SDI in some manner, and of those:

Of the remaining 19 votes, one had nothing whatsoever to do with missile defense, and 5 were duplicates of other votes (an original Senate vote, and then a later vote on the conference report with the House). That leaves 13 votes to account for.

Of those, five were votes on large packages like the National Defense Authorization Act or the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, and not votes on missile defense per se. Four more were again limitations or reductions in funding. This leaves a total of four Senate votes which might reveal something meaningful about Kerry's stance on missile defense.

And they do --- but not that he's 'against' it, like the Republicans claim.

So after all of that, these votes seem to indicate that Kerry has always supported theater missile defense, opposed the weaponization of space, and is willing to support more broadly-scoped missile defense efforts provided they have a prayer in hell of bearing fruit. He has also shown that he supports the ABM treaty --- which Bush has since withdrawn from.

Has he flip-flopped? Well, a floor speech he gave in May 2001 reiterates all of these themes (except for the weaponization of space part). Is he correct to want to de-fund Bush's National Missile Defense system because it's ineffective? Well, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Physical Society certainly think so.

It's easy to throw billions of dollars at speculative missile defense programs, but it requires more discipline to advocate for a system which is actually effective. We should be applauding John Kerry for his efforts to make the best use of our tax dollars to provide the most effective defense of our country, rather than twisting his voting record to make it look like he flip-flopped.

10:09 PM

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #36: Kerry Demonstrates a Flawed Understanding of the War on Terror 

This is the most egregious Bush campaign lie I've yet come across. There are so many things wrong with this one, it should count as more than just one lie. However, since I can't easily tease apart all of the wrongness encompassed in this charge, I'll only count it once.

The lie begins by distorting one of Kerry's charges as an accusation that Bush 'focuses too heavily on terrorism'. Kerry was only making an observation which is clear to all with eyes to see: '. . . everything [Bush] did in Iraq, he's going to try to persuade people it has to do with terror, even though everybody here knows that it has nothing whatsoever to do with al Qaeda and everything to do with an agenda that they had preset, determined. That's where they're going to go'. Kerry's charge wasn't that Bush is inappropriately focused on terror, but that he has opportunistically used 9/11 to justify his attack on Iraq.

The second part of the lie is to point out that a new bin Laden tape appeared on the same day Kerry made the above statement. If the Kerry had really said that Bush focuses too heavily on terrorism, this would be relevant. As it is, it's just pointless verbiage.

For the third part of the lie, the Republicans express mock astonishment at Kerry's statement that there never was a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. In other words, they're trying to revive the idea that the two were in cahoots somehow, even though Colin Powell and David Kay have both publicly declared that there is no evidence of such a link. And that's not even including the opinion of Richard Clarke, who was Bush's head of counterterrorism at the time of the attacks.

The final two points of the Bush smear are exceptionally weak arguments trying to prove that there really is some kind of link between Hussein and al Qaeda, after all. In the fourth point, they note that in the just-released tape, bin Laden states 'Our actions are a reaction to yours, which are destruction and killing of our people as is happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine.' Anyone with an ounce of intelligence would realize that when bin Laden mentions Iraq, he's referring to the fact that U.S. and coalition forces have been responsible for the death of approximately 8875 Iraqi civilians since the start of the war.

Do you see how stupid the Bush campaign thinks you are? They expect you to swallow this argument: 'We invaded Iraq and killed a bunch of people, and Osama bin Laden mentioned it in his latest audio tape. This proves there's a link between Iraq and al Qaeda!'

Their final argument is just as ludicrous. They cite a statement Kerry made in December 2001 in which he used 'terrorism' and 'Saddam Hussein' in almost the same breath. So the patronizing Republican argument here is 'We insisted that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved with 9/11 and terrorism, and Kerry made the mistake of believing us. This proves that Kerry has a flawed understanding of the war on terror.'

Agreed. Anyone who still believes anything the Bush administration says about the war on terror has a flawed understanding of it.

8:39 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #35: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Israel Security Fence 

This is the 30th alleged Kerry 'flip-flop'. As proof of a reversal, the Republicans cite a speech Kerry gave at the Arab American Institute's Nation Leadership Conference in which he said: "I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government's decision to build a barrier off the green line, cutting deeply into Palestinian areas. We do not need another barrier to peace" (emphasis mine). They then point to an article in The Jerusalem Post in which Kerry says "Israel's security fence is a legitimate act of self defense".

It is true that before each audience, Kerry emphasized what that audience wanted to hear. But there is no reversal of opinion here. In the same article the Bush campaign cites for the 'legitimate act of self defense' quote, Kerry campaign staffers point out "While he has objected to the route of the fence – as has Bush – Kerry has never opposed Israel's right to build the barrier for security reasons."

Kerry agrees that Israel can build a fence to protect itself, he just believes that the fence shouldn't encroach into Palenstinian territory. The Bush camp knows this, since they've clearly read the Jerusalem Post article. But what's more hypocritical is that this is exactly the position Bush held. From an article titled 'Sharon rejects Bush's concerns on security fence':

[Bush] said he would continue to talk with Mr. Sharon 'on how best to make sure that the fence sends the right signal, that not only is security important, but the ability for the Palestinians to live a normal life is important as well'.
So is Bush a flip-flopper too? Well, perhaps not on the issue of the security fence per se, but as edwardpig tells us, Bush has made a rather startling reversal concerning Israel recently.

1:35 PM

Kerry's 1996 Senate Re-Election Campaign 

The 1996 Senatorial campaign in Massachusetts was remarkable in recent American politics, due to the unusually high degree of civility between the two candidates, John Kerry and then-governor Bill Weld. As the Alliance for Better Campaigns reports, the candidates came to an agreement, in writing, limiting their campaign spending. Specifically:

This agreement was effective through much of the campaign, and on at least one occasion a union which had planned an ad blitz on Kerry's behalf backed down upon Kerry's request. However, the race was extremely close, and the Alliance reports that 'both candidates exceeded the cap by the time the race was over'. This is the basis for the Bush campaign's claim that Kerry flip-flopped on 'using personal funds in 1996 race'.

For the record, if Kerry did violate the agreement, then it certainly doesn't reflect well on him, but it isn't really what most folks would consider a flip-flop. I always think a flip-flop involves a policy position, not agreements you make with your electoral opponent. Maybe it's just me.

The real question, however, is which candidate, Kerry or Weld, breached the agreement first. There seems to be general agreement that Kerry went the farthest over the line, backing a $1.7 million loan to his campaign by taking out a mortgage on his home, thus going over the personal spending limit by $1.2 million. But if Weld broke the agreement first, one can hardly fault Kerry for responding in kind.

Kerry maintains that Weld went over his advertising budget; not surprisingly, the Weld folks insist that what they did was perfectly within the bounds of their agreement. And try as I might, I've been unable to discover definitive evidence which proves Weld or Kerry correct beyond dispute. Whatever the truth is, it seems that Weld and Kerry both feel that their spending agreement can serve as a model for other campaigns, as they describe in an article they co-wrote in 1998.

Even Bill Weld's campaign manager acknowledges that 'The finer points of the agreement are too complex to prove clearly that Kerry went back on his word'. So the Bush campaign shouldn't be saying that Kerry is guilty of breaking with the agreement as if it's an established fact. Since they do, I should really score this item as a lie, but I'll hold myself to a higher ethical standard than the Bush campaign. Since I can't prove definitively that Kerry didn't break the agreement first, I'm scoring this item as neutral --- no points deducted from either Kerry or Bush.

7:19 AM

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #34: Kerry Voted Against Tax Credits For Small Businesses To Purchase Health Insurance 

We've seen this type of sleazy legislation-warping before. The basis for the Bush campaign claim is that Kerry voted against Senate Amendment #349 in the first session of the 107th Congress. The stated purpose of the amendment was:

"To provide tax credits for small business to purchase health insurance for their employees and to provide for the deductibility of health insurance for the self-employed and those who don't receive health insurance from their employers and for long-term care."
So it would seem that Bush has Kerry dead to rights here.

Until you read the actual text of the amendment, which has nothing to do with tax credits, health insurance, baby puppies, or anything else warm, fuzzy and wholesome. The complete text of the amendment follows:

"At the appropriate place, insert:

SEC. . Notwithstanding any other provision of this resolution, the revenue levels and other aggregates in this resolution shall be adjusted to reflect an additional $70 billion in revenue reductions for the period of fiscal years 2002 through 2011."
I'm not entirely certain what Susan Collins, and otherwise respectable Republican senator from Maine, was trying to do when she introduced this amendment, but it's pretty clear she wasn't trying to draft legislation which carried out its stated purpose. The fact that this amendment narrowly failed on a party-line vote is further evidence that it was introduced solely to provide the GOP with ammunition to smear Democrats like Bush is doing, and not out of a sincere desire to assist small businesses in providing health care

10:42 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #33: Kerry Voted For Higher Taxes On Social Security Benefits At Least Eight Times 

From the Bush Campaign web site. This statement is factually accurate: Kerry did cast eight separate votes in support of a 4.3% increase on the taxation of Social Security benefits. However, it's a lie because it's deliberately misleading. There was only one tax increase, and Kerry cast votes supporting it on eight different occasions.

The tax increase was passed as part of the FY 1994 budget bill. During the drafting of that bill, there were three separate votes about adding the tax increase to the bill or leaving it in. Then there were two votes for the budget bill itself: first for the Senate version of the bill, and then again for the final version after reconciliation with the House. So five of the votes were cast just to get the original legislation passed.

On three occasions since then, in 1996, 2000 and 2003, there were attempts to roll back the increase, and Kerry voted against all of them.

So, contrary to what the Republican headline implies, there were eight votes, but there was only one tax increase which was even considered. In case it makes a difference, this tax applies to 85% of Social Security income received by individuals making over $34,000 a year, or married couples making over $44,000. Before this legislation passed, only the first 50% of Social Security income was taxed.

And all income from this tax increase --- the amount obtained by raising the threshold from 50% to 85% --- goes to the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund.

10:25 PM

Monday, April 12, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #32: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Military Experience As Credential For Public Office 

This is ridiculous. The requirements for every public office --- in particular, the presidency --- have been spelled out long ago and anyone with even a rudimentary understanding about how our government works understands what those requirements are. No candidate for public office is going to campaign on the idea that 'litmus tests' for office should be introduced, and certainly Kerry has never done that.

This is what we call 'Republicans desperate to smear their opponent any way they can' --- even if it means making stupid accusations.

For the record, here is the Republican argument, in its entirety:

  1. Kerry: Service Should Not Be 'Litmus Test' For Leadership. 'Mr. President, you and I know that if support or opposition to the war were to become a litmus test for leadership, America would never have leaders or recover from the divisions created by that war. You and I know that if service or nonservice in the war is to become a test of qualification for high office, you would not have a Vice President, nor would you have a Secretary of Defense and our Nation would never recover from the divisions created by that war.' (Sen. John Kerry, Congressional Record, 10/08/92, p. S17709)
  2. But Now Kerry Constantly 'Challenges The Stature Of His Democratic Opponents' Over Their Lack Of Military Service. 'And more than ever, Mr. Kerry is invoking his stature as a Vietnam veteran as he challenges the stature of his Democratic opponents -- none of whom, he frequently points out, have ‘worn the uniform of our country’ -- to withstand a debate with Mr. Bush on national security. (Adam Nagourney, “As Campaign Tightens, Kerry Sharpens Message,” The New York Times, 8/10/03)
First, note that in item (1), Kerry is discussing the requirements for holding a 'high office', like the presidency. In item (2), Kerry is claiming that he is the candidate best suited to 'withstand a debate' with Bush. So these two statements aren't even discussing the same thing.

In (1), Kerry is saying that it's possible to be president without having served in the military. In (2), Kerry is pointing out that since the country is at war (which Bush feels compelled to mention every five minutes), the voters might prefer a war hero as president.

Kerry is a war hero. The other Democrats vying for the nomination weren't, except for possibly Wes Clark. A political campaign is mostly about distinguishing yourself from your opponents, so of couse Kerry is going to point this out. But he never says that his opponents aren't qualified to be president because they aren't veterans.

10:12 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #31: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Medical Marijuana 

The GOP's whole justification for this claim arises from a single article which appeared in the Washington Times on August 8, 2003. Setting aside for a moment the fact that the Washington Times is widely acknowledged to be a de facto organ of the Republican party, the article begins with 'Medical marijuana fans are accusing presidential contender Sen. John Kerry of flip-flopping on the issue to the point where he now essentially embraces the Bush administration's position'. The article quotes a grand total of one 'medical marijuana fan' who seems to agree with this statement, Aaron Houston of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana.

Mr. Houston is entitled to his opinion, of course, but he clearly does not speak for his organization as a whole, which gives John Kerry an overall A- rating for supporting their cause. Hardly the rating you would expect a flip-flopper to receive.

9:55 PM

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Kerry's Reversal On Stock Options Expensing 

This is the 23rd item in the GOP list of Kerry flip-flops. And it's true: Kerry's position in 1994 is the exact opposite of his position in 2003.

In 1994, the Financial Accounting Standards Board had put forth a suggestion that the SEC require all companies to amortize the cost of stock options. Kerry made a speech on the floor of the Senate in which he said:

"There is no more compelling testimony to the damage the FASB rule will do to these companies than the testimony of the venture capital community. After all, apart from company founders it is the venture capitalists who provide all or most of the ownership capital for emerging companies, so it is the venture capitalists who are giving away part of the store when they grant stock options. The venture capitalists tell me that the FASB rule will simply make stock options more expensive, which means they will be granted less often, which will make recruitment of talent more difficult, and which will make the cost of starting a company rise.

Now, this might be acceptable if some greater public purpose were served by the FASB rule, such as the provision of a clear benefit to the investing public. But as I noted previously, it is difficult to find such a benefit in the current FASB proposal." (emphasis mine)
The GOP then cite a 2003 Washington Post article which quotes Kerry as saying that 'all publicly traded companies should be required to expense [stock] options'.

The GOP is right; Kerry really did change his view on this subject. In 1994, Kerry didn't see a 'clear benefit to the investing public' in expensing stock options, and today he does. It's reasonable to conclude that Kerry legitimately changed his mind in the wake of the recent corporate scandals --- along with a great many other people.

What the Republicans don't want you to know is that Kerry's 1994 floor speech was made in support of Senate Amendment 1668, 'To express the sense of the Senate that the Financial Accounting Standards Board should maintain the current accounting treatment of employee stock options and employee stock purchase plans' --- that is, that stock options should not be expensed. This amendment eventually passed the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 88 to 9, with every single Republican senator voting for it.

So you decide. Did Kerry change his mind because he thought it would buy him more votes --- in which case, the same question must be asked of many Republican senators as well --- or because recent events made him realize that expensing stock options was a necessary reform? It's clear to me that the latter explanation is the correct one, so this reversal should not be held against Kerry as a 'flip-flop'.

3:45 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #30: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Welfare Reform 

The GOP claim this is Kerry flip-flop number 22, and for supporting evidence, they point to two of Kerry's votes in the Senate. Need we say more?

In case we do, here are the specifics. In the first session of the 103rd Congress, Kerry voted to table Senate Amendment 489. This amendment was narrowly targeted toward compelling states to require a certain percentage of welfare recipients to work, increasing the percentage year over year, until the total percentage of working recipients was at or above 50%. Any state failing to meet the threshold in a given year would lose half of their funding for their Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) programs. Kerry opposed this amendment, but he was in the minority, and it passed.

In the second session of the 104th Congress, Kerry voted in favor of H.R. 3734, commonly referred to as the 'Welfare Reform Bill'. But it's not fair to compare the Welfare Reform Bill to S. Amdt 489 for at least two reasons. First, S. Amdt 489 was very narrow in scope, while the Welfare Reform Bill was quite far-reaching. Second and most important, the Welfare Reform Bill handled AFDC funding very differently than S. Amdt 489.

S. Amdt 489 established a level of workfare participation for each state, and any state which failed to meet that threshold in a given year would lose 50% of their federal AFDC funding. This system had the potential to negatively impact the able-bodied folks who chose not to work as well as the deserving poor. On the other hand, the Welfare Reform Bill set a fixed level of AFDC funding for each state which would rise gradually each year, regardless of the workfare participation of welfare recipients. Individuals who were able to work and chose not to would lose their benefits, rather than cutting funding for the entire state. This is a huge difference.

So while the GOP is reporting the facts accurately, this still doesn't add up to a flip-flop, since the bill Kerry voted for is very different from the one he opposed.

3:14 PM

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #29: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Health Coverage 

See 'Kerry flip-flops' item 21.

Here are the details:

  1. '[Kerry] said Kennedy and Clinton’s insistence on pushing health care reform was a major cause of the Democratic Party’s problems at the polls.' (Joe Battenfeld, “Jenny Craig Hit With Sex Harassment Complaint - By Men,” Boston Herald, 11/30/94)
  2. 'Sen. John Kerry says expanding coverage is "my passion."'(Susan Page, “Health Specifics Could Backfire On Candidates,” USA Today, 6/2/03)
There are many things wrong with using these quotes to conclude that Kerry flip-flopped. First and foremost, in statement (1), he's giving his opinion about running on health care as a campaign strategy, in (2) he's stating a personal belief about the importance of expanding coverage. For another, the 1994 Congressional campaign is not the 2004 Presidential campaign. Quickly now, is this a fair statement: "Al Gore received more votes than George Bush in 2000 because Bush spent too much time emphasizing tax cuts and not terrorism." In different election years, different issues are a priority.

And finally, one should note that Kerry disagreed with Clinton's health care plan, and not the issue of affordable health care per se. In an interview on Meet the Press, Tim Russert confronts Kerry with quote (1), which draws this response:

"On health care, I did not sign on to President Clinton's plan. I had a different approach. I thought we should have done something less complicated. We had a compromise which Bill Bradley, Senator Chafee, Senator Dole, a group were working on."
Research confirms that this isn't just spin; in 1994 Kerry really did specifically express doubts about Clinton's plan in a speech on the floor of the Senate (it's not possible to link directly to entries in the Congressional Record, otherwise I would). If he didn't think the plan was that great, it's no wonder he thought that it caused Democrats problems at the polls.

10:21 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #28: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Federal Health Benefits 

This is alleged Kerry flip-flop number 19. And I want to thank the GOP for making it so easy to debunk.

The evidence for the accusation this time comes from four Kerry quotes, two from 1993 which are critical of the health care plan then covering Kerry, and two from 2003 where Kerry touts his plan to give all Americans the same kind of health care coverage he (and all other elected representatives) receives.

Question: Is it possible that there were any changes in Kerry's health care plan during that 10 year period, which would have caused him to change his opinion about how great it is? Answer: Yes. According to one of the GOP's quotes, Kerry was covered by the "Beneficial Association of Capitol Employees", or BACE in 1993. Since that provider dropped out of the Federal Employees' Health Benefits Program in 1999, it's absolutely certain Kerry is covered under a different plan now.

9:29 PM

Friday, April 09, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #27: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Tax Credits For Small Business Health 

Once again the GOP use a straw-man Senate vote as proof of a Kerry flip-flop. The GOP cite Kerry's 'Nay' vote on Senate Amendment 349 in the first session of the 107th Congress as proof that Kerry opposed tax credits for small business health plans. But as with Phil Gramm's amendment purportedly giving tax relief to farms and small businesses, this amendment really had nothing to do with tax credits.

See lie 34 for details.

4:54 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #26: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Leaving Abortion Up To States 

How absurd is this? Can you believe the GOP is trying to make an issue on 'evidence' this weak? This is number 17 on their 'Kerry flip-flops' hit parade.

  1. Kerry Used To Say Abortion Should Be Left Up To States. 'I think the question of abortion is one that should be left for the states to decide,' Kerry said during his failed 1972 Congressional bid. (“John Kerry On The Issues,” The [Lowell, MA] Sun, 10/11/72)
  2. Now Kerry Says Abortion Is Law Of Entire Nation. 'The right to choose is the law of the United States. No person has the right to infringe on that freedom. Those of us who are in government have a special responsibility to see to it that the United States continues to protect this right, as it must protect all rights secured by the constitution.' (Sen. John Kerry [D-MA], Congressional Record, 1/22/85)
Never mind that there's more than a 12-year gap between those statements, and never mind that Republicans are trying to make an issue out of statements Kerry made 31 and 19 years ago, respectively. Let's just take one moment to rack our brains and see if we can come up with any major change in the U.S. political landscape pertaining to abortion law between October 1972 and January 1985.

Can't think of anything? How about the fact that the Supreme Court declared abortion to be a constitutional right on January 22, 1973? Oh yeah. So when Kerry said, in 1985, that 'the right to choose is the law of the United States' and that the government has a responsibility to 'protect all rights secured by the constitution', he probably said it because the right to choose is the law of the United States and the government has a responsibility to protect all rights secured by the constitution. And probably the reason he didn't say that in 1972 is because the right to choose wasn't yet the law of the United States. But that's just a guess.

See, unlike Bush, Kerry seems to be able to perceive, accept, and even communicate factual information. This is why, when the facts change, the things Kerry says will change, too. This is a strength, not a weakness. The weak politician is the one who hides from inconvenient facts and hopes they'll go away.

4:18 PM

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #25: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Small Business Income Taxes 

This is the 15th example of the Bush campaign trying to prove that Kerry flip-flops. Of course, what proof there is here is predicated entirely on Kerry's Senate voting record, and we all know how easy it is to cherry-pick votes to give a distorted view about what a senator believes.

In this particular case, the Republicans only have one shred of evidence to prove that Kerry ever opposed tax relief for small businesses, his vote on Senate amendment 246 in the first session of the 103rd Congress. This amendment appears to have been written explicitly to provide fodder for smears such as this one. Get a load of the stated purpose of the amendment:

Actually, that's just an excerpt, but you get the idea. The thing is, nowhere in the amendment is there specific language pertaining to small businesses or farms. The amendment actually contains 54 lines stipulating spending reductions in the concurrent budget resolution for the years 1994-1998, and nothing else. The amendment was brought to the floor, a motion was immediately made to table it, and it was tabled on a party-line vote without further discussion.

It's obvious that no one took this amendment seriously; it was just a cynical attempt by a cynical Republican (Phil Gramm) to force Democrats, then in control of a Senate, to vote against a bill which ostensibly offered tax relief to farms and small businesses, but in reality would have just trimmed government spending a bit. And only a cynical, lying campaign would act as if this was a serious attempt at tax relief, and use it against their opponent now.

On the other hand, when a serious effort at small-business tax relief came along (like S. Amendment 525 in the same session), Kerry supported it.

11:15 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #24: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Raising Taxes During Economic Downturn 

This is the 14th item which Republicans claim is a 'Kerry Flip-Flop'. It's also somewhat amusing, because they give a quote from December 2002 as proof that Kerry had switched position and now favors raising taxes 'During Economic Downturn'.

What economic downturn? It's true that the country is still suffering from a net loss of 2 million plus jobs since Bush took office, and the recovery is sluggish, but the recession ended in November 2001. And I seriously doubt there was a Republican in the White House who would have publicly expressed doubt in the economy's strength in December 2002. So even if Kerry really did change his mind at that point or later, this doesn't amount to a flip-flop.

Of course it doesn't matter anyway, because none of the 'evidence' the Republicans provide indicate that Kerry wanted to raise taxes. Here are the quotes:

  1. NBC’s TIM RUSSERT: 'Senator . . . should we freeze or roll back the Bush tax cut?'
    KERRY: 'Well, I wouldn’t take away from people who’ve already been given their tax cut … What I would not do is give any new Bush tax cuts.'
    RUSSERT: 'So the tax cut that’s scheduled to be implemented in the coming years …'
    KERRY: 'No new tax cut under the Bush plan. . . . It doesn’t make economic sense.'
    RUSSERT: 'Now, this is a change …'
  2. "Kerry said Bush’s tax cuts have mainly benefited the rich while doing little for the economy. Kerry is proposing to halt Bush’s additional tax cuts and instead impose a yearlong suspension of payroll taxes on the first $10,000 of income to help the poor and middle class".
While the Republicans are constantly trying to sell the Orwellian logic that keeping tax rates constant is actually a tax increase, normal people understand that a tax increase is when taxes, well, increase. Nowhere in the massively elided exchange with Russert do you see any evidence of Kerry planning to raise taxes. Anyone who's still having difficulty understanding this concept should refer to Bob Somerby's incomparable dissection of this interview.

And of course, anyone who actually read the full text of the interview would discover Kerry's plan to provide a refundable credit for payroll taxes, presumably the same plan referenced in item (2).

So, to review. The Republicans give two Kerry statements from December 2002 --- when the economy was no longer in recession --- which prove irrefutably that Kerry wanted to maintain existing income tax provisions while providing payroll tax relief. What do you call people who give these statements as proof that Kerry wanted to 'raise taxes during an economic downturn'? Republicans!LIARS!

10:27 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #23: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Double Taxation Of Dividends 

Here's an example of how a little selective editing can yield what looks like a flip-flop. The Bush folks provide two Kerry quotes which, devoid of any other context, appear to be in stark contradiction to one another:

  1. "[T]o encourage investments in the jobs of the future - I think we should eliminate the tax on capital gains for investments in critical technology companies - zero capital gains on $100 million issuance of stock if it's held for 5 years and has created real jobs. And we should attempt to end the double taxation of dividends."
  2. Kerry also reiterated his opposition to the Republican plan to cut taxes on stock dividends. "This is not the time for a dividends tax cut that goes to individuals," he said.
The thing is, item (2) is a bit misleading. Kerry did oppose a Republican plan to cut taxes on stock dividends, but the plan did much more than that. The plan in question was introduced in the first session of the 108th Congress as S. 1054, and it contained hundreds of changes to the tax code. It's likely that Kerry supported some and opposed others. Why the Associated Press focused on taxation of dividends is a bit puzzling.

If one reads the AP story in its entirety, one notices the following caveat given by Kerry's campaign spokesman, which the Republicans conveniently ignore: "He [Kerry] would like to see the double-taxation of dividends addressed as part of a larger tax reform that closed loopholes rather than, as George Bush proposes, in a way that would blow an even larger hole in the deficit." And in both the AP article and a less spin-driven article in the Des Moines Register, Kerry emphasizes that given the state of the economy and Bush's tax cut plans at the time, a cut in taxes on dividends was not appropriate.

Sure, it sounds like spin, I know. The thing is, if you read the entire speech from which item (1) is excerpted, you see that Kerry means what he says. He voiced his support for the elimination of taxes on dividends as part of an extensive tax-reform package, which includes things such as decreasing the payroll tax and raising the minimum wage, which will certainly never happen with a Republican in the White House.

What this all boils down to is, Kerry believes in tax fairness. Since Bush has already given disproportionate tax relief to the wealthy, Kerry sees no need to give them additional relief from taxation on dividends. But once tax reform is based on fairness, then Kerry is all for ending the dividend tax.

9:48 PM

Monday, April 05, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #22: The Bush Plan Will 'Double the Number of Workers Receiving Job Training' 

I noticed that I've fallen into a rut of debunking Bush lies about Kerry, specifically Kerry's alleged 'flip-flops'. So I was determined to find a lie about Bush's own plan. I have to admit, it wasn't easy. The Republicans are very cagey about phrasing their propaganda in a way which allows the greatest latitude for interpretation. However, we've got one here.

At the GOP website, there is a page titled "Better Training for Better Jobs". In typical Republican style, it contains a number of headings and subheadings, each followed by a collection of numbers and rhetoric which may or may not support the thesis of the heading. But at one point, in bold typeface and underlined, it says "President Bush proposed significant reforms to Federal worker training programs to double the number of workers receiving job training. . . .". The supporting prose claims he will accomplish this, in part, by training 200,000 people through programs run by 'community colleges, unions, and businesses.'

This is news to the AFL-CIO, the single largest organization in America representing unionized labor. Here's what they think of the Bush plan:

"Since taking office, the president has cut job training by almost $1 billion in real dollars. And under the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2005 budget, net funding for job training will fall in real terms from its FY 2004 level.

In addition to limiting resources, the Bush budget continues to propose drastic changes to job training and re-employment programs that will greatly diminish the federal role in this area of key national importance, reduce accountability and increase outsourcing of public employment service programs.

The cumulative effect of the Bush proposals is to dilute the resources and efficacy of job training and job search assistance programs."
I know that many folks will object to this quote, insisting that the AFL-CIO routinely backs Democrats, and they're right. However, if Bush really plans to use union programs to help double the number of workers receiving job training, don't you think he would have gotten the unions on board with the plan before announcing it publicly?

The community colleges are equally skeptical. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

"At the same time that President Bush requested $250-million for a new job-training program, he proposed slashing funds for existing programs that benefit community colleges, including $300-million from the Carl D. Perkins program, which gives money to community colleges for training low-income students for jobs, and $64-million from the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which funds training for displaced workers.

Along with cuts in other job-training programs, community colleges are likely to see a net loss in the federal funds they get for training workers. 'Essentially, the president is robbing Peter to pay Paul,' says Jason Walsh, director of field operations for the Workforce Alliance, a Washington-based advocacy group. 'It's a shell game. The money that goes into the new proposal gets shifted from other very necessary work-force-training programs.'"
Indeed, when pressed about cuts to the Workforce Investment Act, the Gannett News Service reports that "The Bush administration bills the cuts as minor and emphasizes that overall spending on job training is roughly flat" (emphasis mine).

So Bush is going to double the number of workers receiving job training while leaving overall spending on job training 'roughly flat' --- or, as the AFL-CIO points out, decreasing spending in real terms. Smells like a lie to me.

10:11 PM

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #21: Kerry Flip-Flopped On Cuba Sanctions 

Here's number 11 on the GOP 'Kerry Flip-Flop' hit parade. The GOP argument goes like this:

  1. They pick out four of Kerry's Senate votes which, they say, are votes 'against stronger Cuba sanctions'.
  2. They give a 2000 Kerry quote in which he says 'The only reason we don't reevaluate the [Cuba] policy is the politics of Florida.'
  3. They then cite a 2003 Meet the Press interview. When Russert asks 'Would you consider lifting sanctions, lifting the embargo against Cuba?', Kerry responds 'Not unilaterally, not now, no.'
  4. Finally, they cite a Miami Herald article from November 2003 in which Kerry talks about 'opening up the dialogue' with Cuba, which 'means travel and perhaps even remittances or cultural exchanges', but does not support 'opening up the embargo wily nilly' [sic].
I think we're supposed to conclude that Kerry is anti-embargo in (1) and (2), and pro-embargo in (3) and (4), thus a flip-flop. But even the GOP version of the facts doesn't really say this.

Starting with item (1). Of the four Senate votes the GOP list, only one of them concerns legislation which would strengthen the embargo on Cuba, and Kerry did in fact oppose it. The other three were on legislation which would: make it easier for family members to send money to Cuba or travel to Cuba for family emergencies, and to give humanitarian aid, which would lift all travel restrictions to Cuba, and which would establish a national bipartisan commission to evaluate U.S. policy. Kerry supported all of these. So the votes in item (1) really show three things: Kerry opposes strengthening the embargo, he supports travel to Cuba, and he thinks U.S. policy toward Cuba should be 'evaluated'.

Item (2) suggests that Kerry believes U.S. policy toward Cuba should be 'reevaluated', but that Florida politics prevent it. So here we're still consistent with item (1).

Item (3) starts to look like a flip, but of couse the Republicans have cherry-picked a quote from the interview. Kerry also said 'I'd like to get people traveling in there. I think that people traveling in there weakens Castro.' Asked about other ways in which he wanted to re-evalute Cuba policy, he answered 'Possibly flow of money, funding, I -- there are things to look at. I think we just have to reevaluate it.' So what Kerry's really saying here is that he supports travel to Cuba, and he thinks U.S. policy toward Cuba should be 'reevaluate'd. Hmmm.

Finally, in item (4), you see how Kerry's policy toward Cuba has made a 180 degree turnaround. He now supports 'travel' and possibly cultural exchanges, but he wouldn't open up the embargo 'wily nilly.

So in just nine years, Kerry shifted from a position which favored travel to Cuba, allowing Cuban nationals to travel to Cuba and send money home, and a commission to 'evalute' U.S. policy on Cuba, to a position in which he favored travel to Cuba and opposed lifting the embargo 'wily nilly.' The flip-flop is as clear as day, isn't it?

11:06 PM

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #20: Kerry Flip-Flopped on Ethanol 

The GOP claims this is 'Kerry Flip-Flop' number 10. I can't say I blame them too much in this instance; it took a fair amount of research to discover what was going on behind the scenes. But all of the GOP evidence that Kerry was ever opposed to ethanol is based on his Senate voting record, and we've already discussed how easy it is to distort a voting record.

The Bush campaign cites five Senate votes as evidence Kerry opposed ethanol. They can be grouped into three categories:

  1. Kerry supported an amendment which denied funds to 'promulgate, implement, or enforce any requirement that a specified percentage of oxygen content of reformulated gasoline . . . come from renewable oxygenates'. It also reduced NASA's procurement budget by $39,300,000.
  2. He opposed two amendments which either suggested or enforced the idea that ethanol/biodiesel fuels would be exempt from the Clinton administration's BTU tax.
  3. He supported two amendments which both stated that renewable fuel 'shall be subject to liability standards no less protective of human health, welfare and the environment than any other motor vehicle fuel or fuel additive'.
Taken together, these votes seem to provide pretty persuasive evidence that Kerry hasn't done much to promote ethanol fuel. And he certainly is campaigning as an ethanol supporter now. So, why isn't this a flip-flop?

Let's take the Bush campaign points one at a time. For item (1), it turns out the amendment in question only prohibits foreign refineries to set their own rules about minimum renewable resource content in gasoline. Kerry specifically asked for this clarification on the floor of the Senate:

"Mr KERRY: It is my understanding that this proposal does not apply to any other proposal presented by U.S. independent importers and blenders, and being considered by EPA, to eliminate inequities in the final EPA reformulated gasoline rule issued last December. Is this correct?

Ms. MIKULSKI: That is correct. The committee's prohibition is limited to EPA's proposal to permit foreign refineries to establish individual baselines for reformulated gasoline . Thus, the provision does not prevent the EPA from making modifications to the reformulated gasoline program that will permit domestic independent importers and blenders to participate in the gasoline market on an equal basis with domestic refiners."
More important, this amendment trimmed funding for NASA, and Kerry thought NASA was spending irresponsibly on the space station. This is probably why he supported the amendment.

Items (2) and (3) both boil down to priorities. In each case, Kerry had to determine the primacy of ethanol versus some other issue. In item (2), it was ethanol versus Clinton's BTU tax. For item (3), it was ethanol versus public safety. So the correct conclusion isn't that Kerry necessarily opposed ethanol use, only that he valued the BTU tax over ethanol production, and that he values public safety over ethanol production.

Skeptical Republicans should note that Bush has made similar value judgements. This article doesn't prove that Bush was against women's rights and indifferent to al-Qaeda in May 2001; it only shows that he was more interested in the war on drugs than in women's rights or defeating al-Qaeda. Similarly, this article only proves that having Uzbekistan in the 'coalition of the willing' is more important to Bush than human rights in Uzbekistan.

The GOP merely found some instances where Kerry had to weigh his support for ethanol against something else, and ethanol lost. That's not the same as opposing ethanol use.

11:26 PM

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #19: Kerry Flip-Flopped on Affirmative Action 

The ninth of the alleged 'Kerry Flip-Flops', this lie teaches a very important lesson: Beware the ellipsis.

Kerry currently insists that he has a long, distinguished civil rights record, and in particular, he denies having ever opposed affirmative action. The Bush folks claim that Kerry once condemned affirmative action as 'inherently limited and divisive', and offer the following quote, from a 1992 speech Kerry gave, as proof:

"[W]hile praising affirmative action as ‘one kind of progress’ that grew out of civil rights court battles, Kerry said the focus on a rights-based agenda has ‘inadvertently driven most of our focus in this country not to the issue of what is happening to the kids who do not get touched by affirmative action, but … toward an inherently limited and divisive program which is called affirmative action.’ That agenda is limited, he said, because it benefits segments of black and minority populations, but not all. And it is divisive because it creates a ‘perception and a reality of reverse discrimination that has actually engendered racism.’"
Beware the ellipsis.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to find the complete text of this speech, so I don't know what's been elided. I doubt a complete transcript exists, since it appears that this was a speech he gave at Yale, rather than on the floor of the Senate or something. However, Kerry claims that the statement about a 'limited and divisive program' was in reference to a study by the People for the American Way. I tracked down the study ('Democracy's Next Generation II: A Study of American Youth on Race'), but it's not available online (contact PFAW for purchasing info). So it's hard to draw a firm conclusion about whether Kerry was really just discussing the PFAW study, or whether the Bush folks are right and Kerry really did flip-flop.

Or at least that's what I thought until I found this report by FAIR back in 1992, which dissects press coverage of Kerry's Yale speech and concludes

'In the case of Sen. Kerry's comments on affirmative action, however, the spin of some coverage approaches distortion. . . . He also said, "I want to be clear here. I do support affirmative action, not rhetorically but really." The "negative side" of the policy was, for Kerry, the "perception" it engendered in many whites: He cited a poll by People for the American Way that indicated white people believe they are more discriminated against than minorities. Congress, Kerry said, has an obligation "to correct whatever false data or preconceptions have fed the belief that is evidenced in this poll."

Affirmative action, Kerry said, has "made our country a better, fairer place to live," but public misunderstanding of the policy --which Kerry acknowledged has been "exaggerated and exploited by politicians eager to use it" --has created an "obstacle" to interracial communication.'
There you go. Kerry was really criticizing the 'exaggerated and exploited' public misunderstanding of affirmative action which caused some whites to believe that they are more discriminated against than minorities, a belief which in turn engenders racism. FAIR cites a number of publications (though not the same Washington Post article the Bush camp does) as misconstruing Kerry's message as an attack on affirmative action.

If the media can't be bothered to report the facts accurately, why should we expect the Bush folks to correct them?

11:00 PM

Bush Campaign Lie #18: Kerry Flip-Flopped on No Child Left Behind 

This is item #8 in the 'Kerry Flip-Flops' collection, and it is a great example of the Bush campaign lying and being hypocrites in just one eight-word statement. Actually, it was Bush who turned his back on No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and now the Republicans are trashing Kerry for calling him on it.

Consider the evidence supplied by the Bush camp:

  1. Kerry voted For No Child Left Behind Act
  2. Kerry referred to [No Child Left Behind] as an 'unfunded mandate' with 'laudable' goals. 'Without the resources, education reform is a sham,' Kerry said. 'I can't wait to crisscross this country and hold this president accountable for making a mockery of the words "no child left behind."'
Anyone who concludes from statement (2) that Kerry is criticizing NCLB and not George Bush has spent too much time watching FOX News and reading Ann Coulter.

Kerry has every reason to accuse Bush of making a mockery of NCLB. In every fiscal year since it became law, Bush's budget has fallen $6-7 billion short of the funding obligations set forth in the bill. See lie #53. Kerry has always supported NCLB, and as a consequence, he's attacking Bush for failing to adequately fund his own centerpiece legislation.

Got that, Republicans? Bush is the one flip-flopping here, not Kerry.


Update: The Republicans are levelling more attacks against Kerry because of his NCLB vote and current proposals. Apart from quoting statements made Howard Dean and Wesley Clark that Kerry flip-flopped (and what could be more convincing than to quote other people who were also campaigning against Kerry), they cite an editorial from the Manchester Union Leader opining that Kerry is only accusing Bush of underfunding NCLB in order to cover his flip-flop.

That's a possibility, except that Kerry emphasized the need to fully fund NCLB in his floor speech on the very day he voted for it:

The No Child Left Behind Act contains significant, meaningful reforms, but these reforms cannot succeed without sufficient resources. We expect about a 20 percent increase in education funding this year, which is a tremendous step forward. But we need to continue to make resources a priority--we need to fully fund IDEA--we must not thrust new requirements on schools without providing them with sufficient resources to implement reforms. . . . It is my sincere hope that Congress and the States will continue to recognize that reform and resources go hand-in-hand. Resources without accountability is a waste of money, and accountability without resources is a waste of time. The two together are key to successful reform.
It would seem that the real reason Kerry is attacking Bush for underfunding NCLB is because Kerry believed in 2001 --- and still believes today --- that fully funding NCLB is critical for the program's success.

But the major charge the Republicans make in their new ad is that Kerry wants to introduce other measures of accountability, and not rely solely on testing to determine which schools are successful. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that changing the method of accountability isn't the same as abandoning accountability altogether, we must try to determine if this represents a shift in Kerry's views. As you've probably guessed by now, it doesn't, and for the proof we return to --- you guessed it --- Kerry's floor speech:

I also have concerns about the mandatory testing provisions contained in the bill. This legislation requires the testing of all students in math and reading in grades 3-8. I am not opposed to testing, in fact, I think that tests are important so that we know year to year how well students are achieving. It is critically important to be able to identify where gaps exists so that efforts can be focused on closing them. When used correctly, good tests provide information that helps teachers understand the academic strengths and weaknesses of students and tailor instruction to respond to the needs of students with targeted teaching and appropriate materials. My concern is that once we know where the gaps exist, once we know how a child needs to be helped, we will not provide the resources necessary to ensure that all students are able to reach proficiency.
In 2001, Kerry wanted to use tests as tool to determine how to improve education, and not as the final measure of accountability. That sounds remarkably similar to a recent Kerry statement which the Republicans criticize: 'Tests should be used to diagnose problems so we can fix them. They should not be used to punish our schools, our teachers, or our students.'

The Republican argument can best be summed up as: 'Kerry voted for NCLB, but now he's proposing other plans for education. That's a flip-flop.' The thing is, Kerry didn't write NCLB, so it's wrong to assume that he agreed completely with every item in it when he voted for it. However, should he become president, he will have the opportunity to present his own plan for education to America, and it should come as no surprise that it differs from NCLB in a few ways.

One last point. The GOP also claim that Kerry is 'playing politics with education' because in 1999 and 2000, his votes consistently supported the positions of the teachers' unions. And while I can't prove definitively that he's not trying to curry favor with them, it's worth noting that teachers probably know a thing or two about what makes good education policy, and so you would kind of expect a candidate who's concerned about education to support the same policies that teachers do.

4:46 PM