WASHINGTON - Whether a distortion on jobs, hairsplitting on health care or a half-told story about Iraq (news - web sites), facts are getting lost as President Bush (news - web sites) and Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites) reach full-throated roar in the campaign.
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Kerry persistently overstates job losses under Bush, citing one side of the ledger and ignoring the other. Bush has recently indulged in that practice, too, drawn by recent progress to boast about a record on employment that is still the worst in generations.
The hottest issues of the campaign are, not surprisingly, the source of the most exaggeration, flubs or tactical omissions.
Kerry will never catch a break from Republicans for voting against an $87 billion package for Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites) operations, even though Bush threatened to veto a version of it because he — like Kerry — didn't like some things that were in it.
Bush continues to speak of the coalition in Iraq as a family of nations standing shoulder to shoulder with America, omitting the fact that U.S. troops are overwhelmingly pulling the weight and many traditional allies objected to the U.S. course from the start.
Kerry's speech to the Detroit Economic Club on Wednesday packed some of the hardest-hitting rhetoric of his campaign, sometimes at the cost of context. Bush's recent stump speeches have done the same. A sampling:
_Kerry: "George Bush (news - web sites)'s record speaks for itself. 1.6 million lost jobs."
That's private sector employment. Kerry ignores mitigating job gains in the public sector. Overall, 913,000 jobs have been lost under Bush.
_Bush: "I believe that health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not by Washington, D.C., bureaucrats."
It will take Washington bureaucrats to put his health care plans in motion and manage federal spending on them. Bush's proposals include letting small companies buy into insurance pools that theoretically offer more affordable coverage. But that plan does not sideline insurance company bureaucrats who will still make decisions about what's covered and selection of physicians.
_Kerry: "President Bush inherited record employment, record homeownership ... and more families with health care."
His implication was that Bush squandered the record of the Bill Clinton (news - web sites) years. But home ownership has hit still more record highs under Bush, thanks to low interest rates. On health care, more people are uninsured than when Bush became president. But Clinton also saw the rate of uninsured rise in his presidency.
_Bush: "In the last six months of the prior administration, more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. We're turning that around."
Bush was talking about the addition of 107,000 manufacturing jobs this year, as if that is pulling the country out of a hole created in Clinton's last six months. But overall, 2.67 million manufacturing jobs have been lost in Bush's presidency.
He acknowledges: "I understand we've got more work to do."
_Kerry: "And when the economy faced some rough waters and we could have put tax cuts into the pockets of families most likely to need the money and spend it, George Bush chose massive tax giveaways for the wealthiest individuals...."
He did not acknowledge that Bush cut income tax rates across the board, not just for the rich.
Bush: "The United Nations (news - web sites) looked at the same intelligence I did. They had the debate. They remembered the history I remembered, and voted 15 to nothing in the United Nations Security Council, saying to Saddam Hussein (news - web sites): disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences."
That selective recounting of the diplomatic lead-up to the Iraq invasion did not mention the U.S. failure to persuade the Security Council to authorize the war. On Nov. 8, 2002, the council voted 15-0 to assert Saddam would face "serious consequences" if he failed to comply with weapons inspections, which resumed later.
But in March 2003, U.S. officials withdrew their resolution seeking authorization for the use of force when it became clear it would fail if put to a vote, and they went to war without council backing.
Bush won broad approval in October 2003 for his $87.5 billion package supporting U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iraqi reconstruction. But he threatened to veto it when the Senate added a provision requiring that some of the money for Iraq's recovery be in the form of loans instead of grants, and the Senate backed down.
Kerry said after voting against the package that he did so because of the administration's failure to internationalize the reconstruction effort and "take the target off of American troops."