Fact-checking the Republican National Convention
Well, the Republicans did manage to make sure the balloons fell down and no protesters made it to the podium. But they forgot to hire a fact-checker. November 2: Election Day 2004 steps into to fill that difficult role. Here they are: the top 14 fictions from the Republican National Convention...
Fiction #1: In which George W. Bush claims to be doing whatever he can to increase funding for first responders and other domestic security personnel.
"We have tripled funding for homeland security and trained half a million first responders, because we are determined to protect our homeland."-George W. Bush
In the budget that Bush sent Congress two months ago, the president promised to hold the line on government spending and trim the massive federal deficit. But no one expected him to shortchange homeland security. Yet that's exactly what seems to be happening now that congressional committees are getting a good look at the White House proposal.
Funding for "first responders" such as firefighters and police officers, for example, would drop by nearly 20 percent next year under the president's budget. That means one of two things: Washington is shifting a costly responsibility to cash-strapped local governments, or the president isn't serious about defending domestic targets such as nuclear power plants and transportation hubs. The number of federal air marshals on commercial airline flights - probably the most effective single safeguard against future hijackings - has actually fallen since the White House created the Department of Homeland Security. Meanwhile, the department has placed a freeze on hiring of customs guards for the Canadian border, leaving their numbers 40 percent below the level ordered by Congress.
-Quoted: Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 12, 2004
More than 80% of federal funding to help local emergency personnel prepare for terrorist attacks is stuck in bureaucratic channels, and much of what was spent has been of questionable use in fighting terrorism, a congressional report released Tuesday concluded.
The House Select Committee on Homeland Security found that the system for distributing $6.3 billion among states and localities since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was flawed from the outset because it failed to ensure that money would be directed toward areas where the threats were greatest.
"The system has provided small counties across the country with relatively large awards of terrorism preparedness money, while major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Chicago struggle to address their needs in a near-constant heightened alert environment," the report found.
Among the "numerous examples of questionable spending" found in the report was $30,000 in anti-terrorism funding to help buy a defibrillator for a high school in Lake County, Tenn. Macie Roberson, the county executive, said it would be good to have the equipment on hand during the district basketball tournament, according to the report...
The report found that $5.2 billion, or 83%, of the $6.3 billion approved by Congress since the terrorist attacks had yet to be distributed to local police, fire and emergency medical personnel.
-Quoted: Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2004
While most Americans know there's a controversy over Sen. John Kerry's war record, few know that there are about 25,000 shipping containers entering U.S. ports every day and that about 23,750 of them are not inspected. Nor do they know that Mr. Bush cut port security grants to just $46 million, 63 percent less than last year. According to Coast Guard estimates, the Bush budget will leave us $500 million shy of what's needed next year to protect out ports.
Americans don't know that while they stand in long airport security lines getting frisked, and their checked luggage gets X-rayed and inspected, an estimated 2.5 million tons of commercial cargo gets loaded into the bellies of passenger planes each year with scarcely a glance. Why? Because the Bush administration says we don't have enough money to screen it.
And most Americans don't know that the trains, subways, commuter rails, ferries and buses they board every day are in need of $6 billion worth of security upgrades, according to William Millar, head of the American Public Transportation Association. Nor do they know that Mr. Bush has put only $115 million into securing our public transportation system since 2001.
-Quoted: Baltimore Sun, Aug. 31, 2004
Just days after two hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center, Capt. Thomas Flaherty of Grand Island found himself sorting through rubble from the twin towers by day, and sleeping on a gym floor at a Navy depot by night.
Flaherty and 200 other sheriff's deputies from around the state were summoned to help New York City recover from the most devastating foreign attack on U.S. soil in history.
Stirred by images of suffering and devastation and by President Bush's call for patriotism during an appearance at ground zero, Flaherty didn't have to be asked twice.
Armed with picks, he and 14 others from Erie County probed the wreckage being taken by barge to a Staten Island landfill for clues, identification, and -- following the lead of cadaver dogs -- body parts of the 3,000 people killed.
But despite Bush's heralded appearance at ground zero 15 months ago, and despite promises he made last spring during the congressional campaign, the president has delayed two big programs that would help local police, fire and rescue workers prepare for the next attack.
Worse, critics say, the White House has announced plans to cut back on existing programs to fund extra police and firefighters, even as localities struggle with bills stemming from the attacks.
-Quoted: Buffalo News, Dec. 27, 2002
Fiction #2: In which George W. Bush insinuates the war against Al Qaeda is drifting toward closure.
"[M]ore than three-quarters of Al Qaeda's key members and associates have been detained or killed."-George W. Bush
Since Sept. 11, Al Qaeda the group has been morphing into Al Qaeda the ideological movement, and although it is a relatively simple matter to arrest people, it's altogether another thing to arrest the spread of ideas.
The Al Qaeda ideology -- a fervent opposition to Western policy in the Middle East and the desire for the rule of Islamic law across the Muslim world -- has reached a vast global audience as a result of the wide dissemination of Osama bin Laden's multiple statements since the 9/11 attacks. The Internet also has created a multiplier effect for Al Qaeda's ideas.
On websites with names like Al Neda ("the Call" in Arabic), Al Qaeda disseminates its propaganda and even explosives manuals. It is no longer necessary to go to Afghanistan to sit at the feet of Al Qaeda's leaders or to take explosives training at a camp. Signing up for the jihad is a click of a mouse away...
In a telling survey of opinion conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project in the Muslim world in 2003, people in countries as diverse as Morocco, Indonesia, Jordan and Turkey expressed more confidence in Bin Laden than President Bush, by significant margins.
-Quoted: Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2004
Since being routed from Afghanistan in late 2001, Al Qaeda has again proved its protean nature by morphing into a baseless, rootless organization with potent alliances. Although two-thirds of its core leadership has been killed or captured, Al Qaeda has managed to export its violent, anti-Western militancy to dozens of like-minded regional terrorist groups.
''Al Qaeda has been replaced by Qaeda-ism,''a top counterterrorism official based in Europe said recently.
Quoted: New York Times, April 18, 2004
Fiction #3: In which George W. Bush claims to have U.N. Security Council support for launching the war against Iraq.
"We went to the United Nations Security Council, which passed a unanimous resolution demanding the dictator disarm, or face serious consequences."-George W. Bush
The leaders of France and China rebuffed efforts by President Bush on Friday to line up support for the use of force against Iraq within the next month or two. Their continuing resistance made clear the difficulty the White House faces in its attempt to win explicit new authorization from the U.N. Security Council for military action.
-Quoted: St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 8, 2003
In an embarrassing setback for U.S. diplomacy, France, China and Russia demanded yesterday that United Nations weapons inspectors be given more time to search for Iraq's terror weapons.
-Quoted: NY Daily News, Feb. 15, 2003
France and Russia made clear today that they were ready to use their veto power to block passage of a new Security Council resolution authorizing force against Iraq, but Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the United States would go to war without United Nations backing if necessary.
Meeting in Paris, the foreign ministers of France, Russia and Germany issued a statement saying they would not "let a proposed resolution pass that would authorize the use of force."
-Quoted: New York Times, March 6, 2003
After a weekend of urgent diplomacy, the Bush administration fell short of lining up nine votes on the U.N. Security Council in favor of a resolution that would threaten Saddam Hussein with war if Iraq does not disarm, administration officials said yesterday.
-Quoted: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 10, 2003
British and American troops in Kuwait were this weekend moving into final positions for a military assault on Iraq as George Bush and Tony Blair indicated that they were ready to abandon the United Nations route and to declare war without a further Security Council resolution.
-Quoted: Sunday Telegraph, March 16, 2003
Fiction #4: In which George W. Bush claims John Kerry opposed funding for the war in Iraq.
"Again, my opponent and I have different approaches. I proposed, and the Congress overwhelmingly passed, $87 billion in funding needed by our troops doing battle in Afghanistan and Iraq. My opponent and his running mate voted against this money for bullets and fuel and vehicles and body armor. When asked to explain his vote, the senator said, 'I actually did vote for the $87 billion before Ivoted against it.' Then he said he was 'proud' of his vote. Then, when pressed, he said it was a 'complicated' matter. There's nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat."-George W. Bush
In actuality, Kerry favored sending the $87 billion to Iraq, but wanted to fund it by eliminating some of Bush's tax cuts for the richest Americans. The logic behind Kerry's proposal can be seen from the following excerpt:
The president's request last week for another $87 billion for the occupation in Iraq is chump change in the context of what has been given away in the Bush tax cuts. It comes to about 5 percent of the cost of the president's tax cuts over 10 years. In the mountain of U.S. borrowing, it amounts to a hill of beans. It will add only a little more than 2 percent to the national debt.
Yet the request, which could push the federal budget deficit to more than $ 500 billion during the next fiscal year, should make people stop and wonder whether President Bush's 2001 and 2002 tax cuts significantly compromised America's ability to respond vigorously to problems at home and abroad in the future. Bush's two swift and deep cuts changed the tenor of American politics, probably for the next decade. Instead of debating about whether or how to shore up Social Security, invest in our cities, expand prescription drug coverage and back up our military might abroad with reconstruction and aid packages, we will lapse back into the politics of relative scarcity, dominated by haggling over cuts in government spending and a game of chicken over who proposes tax increases.
Quoted: Washington Post, Sept. 14, 2003
The events of last fall were quite complicated, with the final vote determined after a rare presidential veto threat and Bush's personal, often fierce, efforts to hold GOP lawmakers in line. Some Republicans in both the House and Senate pushed hard to declare at least part of the Iraq reconstruction request a loan, to be repaid through Iraqi oil sales. Democrats -- citing record budget deficits and the president's continuing push for new tax cuts during wartime -- demanded that the $87 billion be financed by a temporary increase in taxes for the wealthy.
-Quoted: Washington Post, July 25, 2004
Fiction #5: In which George W. Bush proclaims himself a eulogizer of the war dead.
"I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers, some with a very tough road ahead, who say they were just doing their job. I've held the children of the fallen, who were told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their dad or mom. I've met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved."-George W. Bush
Pictures of corpses hanging from a bridge were a jolt to a White House that has carefully controlled war images, barring news cameras from Dover, Del., where Americans fatalities arrived home, and to a president, George W. Bush, who has not attended any of the funerals of the nearly 600 soldiers and civilians who have died in Iraq.
Bush refrained from public comment on the deaths for the second consecutive day.
-Quoted: Toronto Star, April 2, 2004
Once again President Bush has failed to put his actions where his mouth is.
On Meet the Press Sunday, Mr. Bush stressed that he had the greatest respect for those who have sacrificed their lives to secure a free society for the freedom-loving peoples of the world. Apparently this respect does not extend to the inconvenience of a trip to Dover Air Force Base or five minutes' travel to Arlington National Cemetery to attend the arrival of our honored dead or a military funeral just across the Potomac from the White House.
It has become very clear that Bush does not wish to be seen in the company of the remains of soldiers who have died as a result of his great mistake. That would only serve to remind the American people that he is solely responsible for those tragic losses and the suffering families that remain as a result of his self-serving incursion into Iraq, an action taken unilaterally whose only justification was to redeem Papa Bush's name and distract the minds of our people from his failing economic policies.
-Quoted: St. Petersburg Times (Letters to the Editor), Feb. 12, 2004
Fiction #6: In which the Republicans claims health care coverage is becoming more accessible to the average American.
"Our nation has the best health care in the world, and President Bush is making it more affordable and accessible to all Americans."-Dick Cheney
The number of Americans without medical insurance reached a record 45 million in 2003, highlighting what many analysts say is a deepening crisis in the way the nation pays for health care.
In its annual report on health insurance coverage, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday that the percentage of uninsured increased to 15.6 percent of the population last year from 15.2 percent in 2002, the third straight year in which the percentage rose. The rise in part reflected an increase in the number of people who are employed but don't have health coverage.
Experts say the ranks of the uninsured grew in 2003 because of the nation's lingering economic weakness, fast-rising health care costs, and continuing job losses.
-Quoted: San Francisco Chronicle, August 27, 2004
Fiction #7: In which the Republicans falsely claim that John Kerry supports putting the U.S. military under U.N. direction.
"Senator Kerry began his political career by saying he would like to see our troops deployed 'only at the directive of the United Nations.'"-Dick Cheney
While Kerry did make such a statement, it was not as a Senator, but as a 26-year-old. The quote is originally from a 1970 Harvard newspaper article, and was in reference to sending troops into other countries. As a Senator, Kerry said, "American security must never be ceded to any institution or to another institution's decision."
Fiction #8: In which Cheney claimed Star Wars won the Cold War
During the 1980s, Senator Kerry opposed Ronald Reagan's major defense initiatives that brought victory in the Cold War.-Dick Cheney
Presumably, Cheney is referring to Kerry's opposition to Ronald Reagans "Star Wars" fantasy project. The claim that SDI had an impact on the outcome of the Cold War is a controversial one. In any case, Kerry opposed the Strategic Defense Initiative once it became clear,/b> the project would not work in practice. As Alastair Jamieson writes in The Scotsman, "A congressional assessment concluded in June 1988 that, at its best, Star Wars interceptors would not hit more than 16 per cent of incoming Soviet warheads. The budget for SDI, which Mr Reagan placed at US$ 5.4bn, was duly slashed by Congress by almost a half." Thomas Powers writes in The Guardian, "Sixty billion dollars and 17 years after Reagan proposed a system of defenses to make ballistic missiles 'impotent and obsolete,' we have, as [Frances] FitzGerald reports in convincing detail, essentially nothing to show for it."
Fiction #9: In which Zell "Mad" Miller proclaims democracy the exclusive province of warriors.
"For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest."-Sen. Zell Miller.
By Miller's train of reasoning, Genghis Khan must have been the world's greatest democrat. In reality, there were soldiers and wars a long time before democratic values developed. The values of an open society developed when they were enunciated by writers such as Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill. Soldiers may be necessary to protect democracy, but it is reporters, poets and other thinkers who create the free-flowing philosophical bounders of a free society. Take away the scrutiny of a free press and the idealism of the poet and the expectations of the civic agitator and you're left with Hitler.
Fiction #10: In which Zell "Mad" Miller falsely claims Kerry opposed advanced weapons systems.
"Listing all the weapon systems that Senator Kerry tried his best to shut down sounds like an auctioneer selling off our national security but Americans need to know the facts. The B-1 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, dropped 40% of the bombs in the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom. The B-2 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hussein's command post in Iraq. The F-14A Tomcats, that Senator Kerry opposed, shot down Khadifi's Libyan MIGs over the Gulf of Sidra. The modernized F-14D, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered missile strikes against Tora Bora. The Apache helicopter, that Senator Kerry opposed, took out those Republican Guard tanks in Kuwait in the Gulf War. The F-15 Eagles, that Senator Kerry opposed, flew cover over our Nation's Capital and this very city after 9/11."-Zell Miller
Miller has apparently been watching too many Republican ads on cable TV. Jack Torry assessed similar claims made in a Republican TV ad and discovered the following: "Kerry, according to records compiled by Congressional Quarterly magazine, has never voted specifically to cancel any of those programs. Instead, money for the weapons was part of wide-ranging defense bills that Kerry voted against in 1990, 1995 and 1996. Because he cast a vote against the entire bill, the Bush campaign argues, Kerry opposed the actual programs. What the commercial does not say is that from 1997 through 2002, Kerry supported every defense bill, each of which included money for all major U.S. weapons systems. During those years, Kerry voted for both the authorizing bill, which gives the Pentagon the authority to spend money, and the spending bills, which actually provide the money."
Fiction #11: In which Rick Santorum avoids being overtly homophobic on national TV.
"George Bush has shown his compassion by advancing his faith-based initiatives, strengthening marriage, and fighting to let the American people define marriage, not left-wing judges."-Sen. Rick Santorum
One problem with the Defense of Marriage Act and other subsequent efforts to prevent gay marriage is they completely undermine the 10th Amendment of the Constitution and the doctrine of full faith and credit between the states which makes possible everything from arrest warrants to transfers of property. For what? So a gay person can't marry the partner whom they have lived with for the last 25 years? Personally, I would rather place my faith in tolerance.
Fiction #12: In which Laura Bush claims her husband is actually a proponent of stem cell research.
"I could talk about the fact that my husband is the first President to provide federal funding for stem cell research. He did so in a principled way, allowing science to explore its potential while respecting the dignity of human life."-Laura Bush
Scientists believe stem cells eventually will be used to replace dead or damaged cells as treatments for Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease and other ills.
Embryonic stem cells are taken from an embryo in the earliest stage, just after conception. Adult stem cells are found in organs, in bone marrow and in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.
Scientists believe both types hold potential, but embryonic stem cells are widely assumed to be most promising because they are wholly undifferentiated. Unlike adult stem cells, they have not already been given a job to do...
Campaigning in 2000, Bush promised to ban funding for embryonic stem cell research. In August 2001, the president announced a compromise: Scientists could apply for federal funding only for research into 78 existing stem cell lines owned by labs around the world. The policy was designed to aid research while preventing the destruction of embryos with public money.
Kerry pledges that he would remove Bush's restrictions, potentially opening the door to hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
This year, the government will award $24.8-million in grants for embryonic stem cell research - about one-tenth of what the National Institutes of Health spends on adult stem cell research. Many scientists can't reconcile that discrepancy, considering the promise of embryonic stem cells.
"The president's stance was not an absolute ban on human embryonic stem cell research, but rather a very, very severe constraint, and should be viewed in that light," said Dr. Ira Black, founding director of the new Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey, which uses state and private money for embryonic stem cell research.
There were nowhere near 78 stem cell lines available for study; the NIH says the real number is 22, and they were developed with what now amounts to ancient technology...
More than 120 stem cell lines around the world have been created with new technology since the president's announcement. Some have built-in genetic characteristics that allow scientists to study how specific diseases develop. These are off-limits to researchers working with federal dollars.
-Quoted: St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 24, 2004
Fiction #13 In which the Terminator claims Bush-driven arrogance hasn't diminished U.S. prestige in the eyes of the world.
"We are still the lamp lighting the world especially for those who struggle. No matter in what labor camp they slave, no matter in what injustice they're trapped, they hear our call, they see our light, and they feel the pull of our freedom. They come here as I did because they believe. They believe in us."-Arnold Schwarzenegger
In the two years since Sept. 11, 2001, the view of the United States as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world's sympathy and support has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force.
"A lot of people had sympathy for Americans around the time of 9/11, but that's changed," said Cathy Hearn, 31, a flight attendant from South Africa, expressing a view commonly heard in many countries. "They act like the big guy riding roughshod over everyone else"...
To some degree, the resentment is centered on the person of President Bush, who is seen by many of those interviewed, at best, as an ineffective spokesman for American interests and, at worst, as a gunslinging cowboy knocking over international treaties and bent on controlling the world's oil, if not the entire world...
Crucial to global opinion has been the failure of the Bush administration to persuade large segments of the public of its justification for going to war in Iraq.
In striking contrast to opinion in the United States, where polls show a majority believe there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda terrorists, the rest of the world remains skeptical...
In unabashedly pro-American countries like Poland, perhaps the staunchest American ally on Iraq after Britain, polls show 60 percent of the people oppose the government's decision to send 2,500 troops to Iraq.
For many people, the issue is not so much the United States as it is the Bush administration, and what is seen as its arrogance...
A recent survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project showed a growth of anti-American sentiment in many non-European parts of the world. It found, for example, that only 15 percent of Indonesians have a favorable impression of the United States, down from 61 percent a year ago.
Indonesia may be especially troubling to American policy makers, who have hoped that, as a country with an easy-going attitude toward religion, it would emerge as a kind of pro-American Islamic model.
-Quoted: New York Times, Sept. 11, 2003
On a wind-swept quadrangle of Seoul National University, the weekly demonstration against the United States was building up steam. Activists thrust clenched fists skyward while chanting the usual chants -- "US out of Iraq!" "US out of Korea!" "US out of Asia!" -- and waggling posters bearing brightly colored caricatures. Check out Uncle Sam puffing a big fat stogie atop a heap of nuclear missiles! Catch President George W. Bush in Dracula garb, vampire fangs dripping blood!...
Her view was echoed by many of the scores of people on four continents interviewed by Globe reporters in recent weeks. Even in former citidels of pro-America sentiment in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, people are starting to chafe and complain. They are increasingly irritated by what many South Koreans facetiously refer to as the Pax Americana -- a world politically dominated by Washington, a world increasingly steeped in US moral values, and a world awash in American culture.
-Source: Boston Globe, May 2, 2004
Fiction #14: In which Bill Frist, MD, falsely indicates the President has a new plan to help the rising number of uninsured Americans.
"President Bush is working for tax credits of up to $1,000 for individuals, and $3,000 for families, to help the uninsured purchase their own health insurance. And as for small businesses, they're burdened, often crushed, by health care costs. So, we want to help them band together to provide affordable health care for their employees and their families."-Bill Frist.
While the fire of health care need rages on, Bush drop murmurs periodically that he would be willing to throw a few drops of water on it. In a recent article for National Journal, he indicated that he was considering tax incentives as a means of addressing the working uninsured. This proposal, vague enough to be politically expedient, has a long tradition of being tossed out by presidential candidates.
If the proposal sounds a little too familiar, think of when the elder Bush was in office. In 1992, President Bush proposed a plan that included 1) tax credits of $3,750 for families below the federal poverty level, 2) tax deductions of up to $3,750 for families of incomes less than $80,000...
At the time, critics did not take that proposal seriously, noting that 1) the plan did not include a funding mechanism, 2) tax deductions would be inadequate for most families in income brackets between 150% and 200% of the federal poverty level, who would only be receiving a deduction of a few hundred dollars, 3) it's unclear how money dispensed as a tax credit can cover health care costs over the course of year, 4) it would cause borderline employers to drop coverage, and 5) it would lead to inflated premium costs."
-Source: Albion Monitor, Fall 1999
Research compiled by Venustre!