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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/28/2008

Readers Fact Check Dem Debate

By Michael Dobbs


MSNBC Debate, Cleveland, Ohio, Feb. 26, 2008.

Here are a few more controversies that cropped up in the Democratic debate on Tuesday night that I was unable to fact check immediately. Readers wrote in with dozens of tips and questions, which have provided more material for truth squadding. You can read the comments here. Thanks!

What would FDR have done?

Hillary Clinton says that her health care plan is "universal," while Obama's plan leaves out "15 million Americans." The New York senator bases her claim on the fact that her plan includes an individual mandate requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance. Obama's health care plan contains a mandate on parents to purchase health insurance for their children, but no mandate on adults. Defending her approach, Clinton said the following:

"It would be as though Franklin Roosevelt said, let's make Social Security voluntary...Let's let everybody in if they can afford it. Or if President Johnson said, let's make Medicare voluntary."

Several readers felt that it was misleading for Clinton to refer to Social Security, a government program that is not analagous to the health care plans proposed by either Democratic candidate. Signed into law by FDR in August 1935, the Social Security program did not cover all Americans. Groups that were left out included: farm workers, domestic workers, self-employed, and members of Congress. It took more than half a century for Social Security to cover the vast majority of the population.

According to this history of the Social Security program, only 50 per cent of Americans were covered by the program in 1950. Newly hired federal workers, employees of non-profit organizations and members of Congress did not become subject to Social Security taxes until 1984.

"Social Security was compulsory for those who were covered, but there were a lot of exemptions," said Robert Guttman, a former Congressional researcher and staffer who has studied the matter closely. He points out that there are several parts to Medicare--hospital insurance, which is compulsory, and doctor and drug care premiums, which are voluntary.

Unlike the health care plans proposed by both Clinton and Obama, Social Security and Medicare are funded through taxes, rather than individual insurance premiums. According to Guttman, comparisons are very tenuous. The Democratic candidates are "trying to do through a private insurance mechanism what Roosevelt did through the government. But it's a different ballgame."

Americans are still eligible for benefits under Social Security and Medicare even if they miss out on a few years' payments. The government takes an average of lifetime earnings. In order to be covered by health insurance, you have to make continuous monthly premiums, even if your income dips unexpectedly.

In practice, Guttman and other experts say, it is impossible to achieve truly universal coverage without a taxpayer-funded system, along the lines of Social Security or Medicare. Clinton's plan is closely modeled on a health care reform program introduced in Massachusetts in 2007. Depending precisely on who is doing the counting, between 100,000 and 350,000 people are still uninsured in the state. Extrapolating to the entire U.S. population, this would leave between 4.5 million and 15 million Americans still uninsured under a Massachusetts-type plan.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Health Insurance Authority, known as the Connector, told me that roughly 300,000 people have signed up for health insurance in the state over the last year. According to surveys conducted by the Massachusetts Department for Health and Human Services, around 400,000 people were uninsured in Massachusetts in 2006. The Census Bureau put the figure at around 650,000.

"We've made incredible progress, but it is way too soon to know," how many people are still uninsured, said Sarah Iselin, the Massachusetts commissioner for health care finance and policy.

According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts has exempted nearly 20 percent of uninsured adults from the requirement that everyone have health insurance. The exemptions cover low-to-middle income groups, earning too much to qualify for free or subsidized coverage, but too little to make the premiums truly affordable.


A Pinocchio for MSNBC

"Check Brian Williams' opening announcement that Ohio produced 8 presidents, "more than any other state" - Nope, Virginia has had 8, Ohio just 7."
--Reader comment to the Fact Checker, Feb. 26.

Shame on you, Brian Williams! The reader is correct. By our calculations (going by place of birth), Ohio has seven presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Taft, and Warren Harding. Virginia has eight presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson.

Any historians want to weigh in?


Media bias?

"I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues, but I'm happy to answer it."
--Hillary Clinton, Feb. 26.

Several news organizations have already investigated Clinton's complaint. According to the New York Times, Clinton has received the first question in all three of her one-on-one debates with Obama. Jake Tapper, of ABC News, reports the following:

"In the two debates previous to last night's -- in California and Texas, the only two two-candidate debates before last night -- Clinton had been asked the first question in 14 rounds, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in 11. Last night the number was 9 for Clinton, 7 for Obama. So overall in the last three debates, Clinton has been asked the first question in 23 rounds, Obama in 18."

In the three-sided debate between Clinton, Obama, and Edwards on January 21, Clinton got the first questions on economy, health care, and Iraq. Obama was asked the first question about African-American voting patterns, according to researcher Alice Crites.

Perhaps the presenters were just being gallant. Ladies, first!

Obama's Sub-Committee

Several readers wanted to know if it is true, as Clinton claimed, that a Senate Foreign Relations Sub-Committee on European Affairs has not held any hearings on NATO and Afghanistan since Obama took over as chairman in early 2007. We could find no evidence of any hearings, not just on the role played by European countries in Afghanistan, but any substantive subject at all. Obama's excuse: he has been busy with other matters lately.

My fact checking colleagues at Politifact have looked into this matter more fully. You can read their conclusions here.

By Michael Dobbs  | February 28, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Health, History  
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Next: Pinocchios for John McCain

Comments

Judging from the conduct of the Democratic presidential nomination contest, the American voters aren't just ready yet for a LADY US PRESIDENT. But even worse than this, the ordinary American voters aren't being fair, aren't being civilized (to say the least) to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This is quite clear in the Hillary bashing during her debates with Barack Obama. In one debate, when Hillary charged that Obama was just a second-rate, trying hard copycat when he plagiarized, lifted the words of one intellectual for Obama's campaign needs, the audience booed Hillary. By his own write, Obama is an uninspiring, very bland speaker with unimaginative diction.

The obvious bias shown by ordinary American voters against Hillary is so disgusting, it just shows their misogynistic bent, or, worse, their male chauvinistic bias. But for all these voters know, Hillary just might be right. She's telling the truth about Obama being a compulsive liar--perhaps even a congenital liar. But a prophet, as the saying goes, is often unrecognized in his/her own country. What matters isn't the "negative-ness" of Hillary's accusations against Obama. It's the truthfulness of these charges--and the dangerous precedent Obama is showing, this early.

No, you're wrong Obama, your supporters aren't "delusional," as you want them to believe that Hillary is saying so. Your supporters are just being misled--by you, by your lying politics and deception.

Obama turned upside down the comment of one Filipino blogger in the London Times last January ("Obama is an opportunistic, chameleon-like politician who condescends to his audience by adopting their own opinions, which was his trademark in Harvard as law editor of their journal")--and rehashed such charge and threw it to Hillary, with her, to quote Obama, "politics of the moment."

Obama did the same thing again with the critical, nay negative, comment against him of one California lady voter, hurling it to Hillary again.

The liar Obama is showing a very dangerous character trait, which isn't worth the can of spits he uses in disparaging Hillary, with his by-now-patented character assassination campaign "style." For a candidate lusting after the US presidency, this is certainly a dangerous path to tread.

And so I say: To the voters--the American Blacks most especially--in the coming primaries in Texas and Ohio, show to the world that you are made of a different stuff, a breed of more discerning, more brilliant, analytic voters brains different from the ordinary American voters.*


Posted by: jennifer potenciano | February 28, 2008 6:48 AM | Report abuse

Dear Jennifer Potenciano,

Perhaps Obama supporters are not so ill educated in general as you would like for us to believe. At end of your second paragraph you make errors in both English idiom and spelling. "By his own write..." Ugh. You meant, I assume, "In his own right." But I imagine the emotional force behind identity politics can cause those afflicted to make such errors and, of course, others.

Posted by: Marcellus V. | February 28, 2008 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer,

Thanks for the giggle about Hillary calling Obama a liar. I guess that's one area Hillary has plenty of experience, right? Lying? Like about her "35 years" of experience? Like about her vote on Iraq (which she claimed to have repeatedly wished she could take back on occasions before Tuesday's debate)? Like about "always getting the first question"? Yeah, Hill sure knows a liar when she (1) marries one or (2) looks in the mirror.

Here's something you don't seem to understand, Jennifer: disliking Hillary doesn't make you a misogynist or a chauvanist. Some people -- including me --dislike Hillary for her vote on the war, for her misleading and/or inaccurate statements, for her willingness to let Bill act like a buffoon in SC, and for her ridiculous and costly health care plan. Her ridiculous and highly unpresidential scolding of Obama on Saturday, followed by her nasty and sarcastic mocking of him on Sunday only solidifies my belief that she is simply not fit to be commander in chief. She is paranoid, she is nasty, she is quick to condemn and she is about as divisive a figure as exists in America politics today, short of Dick Cheney.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Posted by: Jayne | February 28, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

You're still not telling talking about the whooper that led the the Farakkhan bruhaha. Clinton didn't reject the Independence Party for their racist stances! She actively courted their endorsement even while critizing the extremists among them.

Posted by: Michael | February 28, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Obama/Hillary supporters: knock off the vitriol. If you believe that those who've chosen the opposing candidate cannot have done so by a reasonable process, you are letting your emotions get in the way. This kind of argumentation has the opposite effect as you intend.

Both candidates are strong democratic nominees, both have flaws. There are pro's and con's to all sides of this decision. Moreover, given that they are much more alike in policy and position than they are different and that the media outlets are concentrating on distracting factors, the decision is especially complex. Can we give others the benefit of the doubt and keep our eyes on our own papers, please?

Mr. Dobbs: Please stop feeding these kinds of absurd extremes by turning subtle, complex questions (e.g., political finances) into 2D, black-or-white issues, or picking over and over the same grey, unanswerable question (what is "universal"). Verify factual details, but withhold editorial judgement on whether subtle/vague positions constitute "distortion". And, please, PLEASE focus on the actual issues rather than on the whether some vague impression is easily inferable from the rhetoric.

For example: Rather than YET ANOTHER dissertation on how Hillary and Obama misrepresent each other's health plans, why not an analysis piece on the real and interesting philosophical & practical differences of making something more affordable to bring people to it vs. bringing people to something to make it more affordable? Isn't that the crux of the difference in their two plans?

Posted by: RPW | February 28, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

RPW, I wonder if you see the irony in your own comments.

Posted by: Jayne | February 28, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I cannot believe how incredibly biased this writing is. Is this stuff actually sponsored by the Washington Post!?

One cannot help taking these tidbits and asking myself: "If I switch a Clinton statement to an Obama statement--treat it as though Obama made it--how do I see this "fact-checker" writing up the same answer." So I did that with the "Media Bias" fact--here's how it comes out [my version has the name changes in red--it likely won't show up as red here, but basically I just switched the names around and then added a few more adjectives here and there that I have seen in other Obama reporting. I defy anyone to deny that this is not close to what would happen:

Media bias?

"I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues, but I'm happy to answer it." -Barack Obama, Feb. 26.

Several news organizations have already investigated Obama's concern, and it seems he has a valid complaint. According to the New York Times, Obama has received the first question in all three of his one-on-one debates with Clinton. Additionally, Jake Tapper, of ABC News, reports the following:
"In the two debates previous to last night's -- in California and Texas - Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois had been asked the first question in 14 rounds, Mrs. Clinton in only 11. Again last night the number was 9 for Obama, 7 for Clinton. So overall in the last three debates, Obama has been asked the first question in 23 rounds, Clinton in only 18."

In the three-sided debate between Clinton, Obama, and Edwards on January 21, Obama got the first question on three different subjects, while Clinton was asked the first question only about women's voting patterns, according to researcher Alice Crites.

Perhaps the presenters should be a little more gallant (not to mention "fair") and put Ladies first--for a change!

Posted by: Sandra C. | February 28, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer,

Thanks for the post. I couldn't agree more with you. It is obvious that this country is still a sexist country, preferring a man to be president over a woman.

The media has an obvious bias against HIllary Clinton and in favor of Barack Obama, and their claim of "what bias?" shows that the media thinks the American people are oblivious or stupid.

For example, when Chris Matthews of MSNBC said the only reason that Hillary Clinton is where she is today is solely because of her husband, he ignored or belittled the fact that she did campaign and was elected to the Senate in New York. Yes, Chris Matthews later apologized for the comment, but it is apparent that his apology is insincere. The only reason why he apologizes was either because his employer told him to or he realized the comment exposed his bias that he didn't want to public to know about.

A second example is when David Shuster stated on MSNBC that the Clintons were "pimping out" their daughter, Chelsie. Since when is children of candidates speaking on their parents behalf and in support of their parents "pimping"? I don't recall the media stating that about John Kerry's children when he was running for office. Did anybody in the media make the comment that George W. Bush was "pimping out" his daughters? No. Was Barack Obama pimping out his two little girls when he used them in his "holiday" family ad that he televised over the holidays wishing people Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays, etc.? I don't recall anyone in the media making that comment either about Mr. Obama using his daughters to help his campaign.

Finally, as for Clinton's claim that the media asks her the first question more than Barack Obama is correct. Even the Washington Post points out that Hillary Clinton was asked the first question more than Barack Obama. What is disingenuous is their belief of why this is the case.

Instead of being gallant, perhaps the media realized that awhile ago when Barack Obama was asked the first question on a particular issue, he didn't answer the question right compared to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. The actual question that was asked escapes my memory but it had to do with the candidates weakness or flaw. I do recall Barack Obama's answer being that he wasn't much of a manager and instead just wanted to come up with ideas without managing, while Clinton said it was important to manage the executive branch of the government to ensure oversight. Obama later made a big deal over it "in jest" that if he hadn't been asked the question first, he would have known the right response to give compared to the one he gave.

As a result of that incident, it is my belief that the media, already biased in favor of Obama over Clinton, chose to ask more questions first, particularly on national security, foreign affairs, and governing, so as to give Barack Obama the chance to hear Hillary's answers first and either to adopt her answers or add to them in order to make them better. Such tactics help hide Barack Obama's inexperience compared to Hillary Clinton's experience.

Posted by: InSearchOfTruth | February 28, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer,

To paint Americans as not being ready for a female president, using a broad brush based on just one particular candidate (Hillary Clinton), is problematic.

America IS ready for a female president, just not the one running. Sen. Clinton, whether justified or not, has been a polarizing figure for more than 15 years now. It's not just that she would unify and mobilize the Republicans. There's a real sense of "Clinton fatigue" among the Democrats as well.

Posted by: NoVA Dem | February 28, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Jayne: The only person I criticize explicitly is Mr. Dobbs, and I'm more than civil in that complaint. Moreover, I offer a specific suggestion for an interesting and constructive issue to discuss as an alternative to the distraction.

Indeed, I am suggesting that both sides of the Clinton/Obama debate step in a little and consider that their opponents may very well have reasons for their positions beyond "spin" and "bias." I, myself, hold the view that there are unreasonable and reasonable supporters on both sides ... which is not inconsistent with what I am asking others to do.

There's simply nothing hypocritical there. I'm sorry that you see it differently.

To take the present example (Healthcare): The issue of healthcare, whether or not a system that is "universal" is possible, how such a system could be achieved, and whether we want one form, another, or something else entirely is undoubtedly an important series of issues to discuss. The notion of whether this or that specific plan "truly" qualifies as "Universal" is a semantic question that bespeaks of tedium and pointlessness.

I'm advocating that Dobbs focus on facts and that our discussions focus on the efficacies of the plans & policies, rather than on who calls what plan what and whether that allegation is truthful. That's a distraction.

There's nothing vitriolic, absurd, or extreme, in anything I said there. I'm not insulting anyone. Moreover, my message is exactly on point. Where, precisely, is the irony?

Posted by: RPW | February 28, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Based on how what they considered themselves, Ohio beats out Virginia. Although William Henry Harrison was born in Virginia, he was elected while living in Ohio and considered himself an Ohioan. Further, Taylor considered himself to be a Louisianan, not a Virginian. He barely lived in Virginia; his family moved to Kentucky when he was quite young. This is not unusual, btw. Consider Abraham Lincoln: born in Kentucky, lived in Indiana, but considered to be a son of Illinois.

Posted by: oilhistorian | February 28, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

But if we are going to be distracted ...

Just a silly curiosity: Has anyone timed Clinton and Obama's responses in the 1-on-1 debates to see whether either is getting substantially more air time than the other?

That would seem to be a lot more pertinent to the issue of bias than who gets the first question. I honestly don't know the answer, and I'm mildly curious.

Posted by: RPW | February 28, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Not wanting Hillary to be president doesn't necessarily have to do with her gender (I am sure that is a factor for some but not all). There are plenty of reasons to not support her. She is a Clinton. I am tired of having only two families in the White House. Let's go crazy and try something new.

Hillary's political career started because of her husband whether you like it or not. She was elected to the senate after her husband's term was up. She did not do it on her own.

Media bias? Give me a break! Did you know there were 8 candidates in the Democratic party? If anyone deserves to be complaining about media bias - talk to Mike Gravel! Not to mention she was the front runner up until January. Remember the inevitability thing? How is that media bias against her?

She is a huge polarizing figure! Even if democrats supported her completely she'd still lose in the general election.

For the record, I am a woman and (was) a Biden supporter.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 28, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I do hope you're being ironic with the use of "gallant," because the attitude in context is properly described as "misogynistic."

Posted by: Anonymous | February 28, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Couldn't find an answer to my question about time for the 1-on-1, but I did find a great blog post analyzing time during the larger debates through the end of 2007:

http://politicalarithmetik.blogspot.com/2007/12/graphing-debate-time-by-candidate.html

Here it shows pretty clearly that Obama and Clinton got nearly the same amount of time during the debates ... Obama has a very marginal edge. The post has a great analysis and is certainly worth the read.

Posted by: RPW | February 28, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I second the above. I am a woman, and a strong Obama supporter. I'd love a woman in the WHite house, but not this one. She (largely because of Bill) is a magnet for hatred, possibly not of her own doing. I'm more interested in getting the country back to greatness than to getting a woman in the White House, and for this to be so, we must have a person who truly reaches out to ideas and opinions that differ from their own.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 28, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Anonymous | February 28, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

It's puzzling to me that folks can try to deny that there is a bias against Hillary in much of the coverage. The shocker would be if there wasn't that bias. It's woven through our cultural norms, our language, and our sense of selves. We've been moving toward greater gender equalilty for over hundreds of years (in Western civilazation) and have made substantial progress in many fields but we should not pretend that we are beyond all that. The bias is plainly there to see for those who look hard for it and I'm sure more plain for those who incur the slights and subtle put-downs. Unless we are trying to exploit those biases to our own advantage, virtue presses us to be constantly on our guard to try to raise our game to a higher level. Here's an example of how pervasive and hidden these offensive cues, attitudes, and behviors can be. I, recently, and Tim Russert during the debate used the phrase "wander off the reservation". A Native American confronted me and told me that she found that phrase offensive. Only after she raised the issue did I reflect on the phrase's origin and why it could be found offensive. We are all continuing to learn and need to raise our game. But the bottom line--we should not be surprised by the presence of bias and react defensively; gender bias is rife and often subtle and we should be surprised and possibly alarmed if we don't see it.

Posted by: veritabile | February 28, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

veritabile,

Surely there's some middle ground here. I won't argue that there's no gender bias at play. But to jump from there to the assumption that, if there were no gender bias, we'd all be pushing for Clinton, is (I'm sure you'll agree) invalid.

Surely at least some of the comments that have been levied against Clinton (both in the media and here) have a valid basis that is not due to any "gender bias."

Posted by: B-W | February 28, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I believe that Brian Williams included William Henry Harrison in his count of presidents from Ohio. Even though he was born in Virginia, he was elected as an Ohioan. That would bring the total to 8 presidents billed from Ohio.

By that logic, however, Grant should not be counted for Ohio since his base was in Illinois. Nor would Taylor and Wilson be counted for Virginia since they moved to Louisiana and New Jersey, respectively.

Much like the dueling health care plans, a case can be made for both Virginia and Ohio, even though it has been 88 years since either state sent a president to Washington.

Posted by: Jay | February 28, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I do hope you're being ironic with the use of "gallant," because the attitude in context is properly described as "misogynistic."
---
In reply to anonymous, I was being ironic, which is sometimes dangerous for newspaper reporters, because irony is often misunderstood.

On Ohio vs Virginia, there are obviously cases to be made for both states, like the health care plans, as Jay noted. Thanks for the clarifications.

Posted by: The Fact Checker | February 28, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Just one note...

Yes, Obama is getting most of the media coverage. But that's only as long as he's been the front runner. Before that, Hillary got all the attention. And when she was the front runner, from what I observed, the %age of attention advantage was far greater. Now Obama has an advantage in free publicity, but when Clinton did, other candidates got nearly none at all.

So please stop complaining!

Posted by: jen cm | February 28, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

For the non-named Obama supporters on here, Hillary Clinton is a magnet of hatred from Republicans that don't know her. Apparently, you've forgotten that Hillary got Republicans to vote for her in New York in her Senatorial reelection. More importantly, you seem to have missed the possibility that Barack Obama probably has gotten a lot of his support from Republicans and conservative-leaning Independents for the mere fact that Republicans think they would have an easier time beating Barack Obama based on his thin resume. If you think that is pure conjecture on my part, you are mistaken. I know of specific people whom voted for Obama in open primaries, but plan to vote for McCain in the election. Republicans also know that Obama has campaigned on being open and honest and a call for change. How will it look for Obama to not accept public financing of his campaign when it looks like McCain will be forced to take public financing? It will look like Obama is a hypocrite and a two-faced liar if he refuses public financing and Republicans know that.

Second, you once again claim that she got her Senate seat because of her husband and ignore the fact that she did campaign in New York. You also neglect the fact that Bill Clinton really didn't participate in her Senatorial campaign as far as I remember. Wasn't Bill Clinton working with George H.W. Bush to help raise funds for world-wide poverty and people that lost their homes due to sunamis and other natural disasters? If so, how was Bill Clinton able to influence Hillary Clinton's senate campaign?

Are you saying that Hillary Clinton got her seat because of her name recognition? Well sure, her name recognition helped, but she is not the only person to ever benefited from name recognition. I wouldn't be surprised if perhaps 50% or more of the politicians that have run for office, have run on their name recognition of parents or siblings that have served in office.

The fact that you would belittle and disregard Hillary Clinton's New York Senate campaign, makes me wonder if you treat all other politicians in the same way. For instance, perhaps Ted Kennedy got his Senate seat solely because of his elder brothers in Masachussetts and Ted Kennedy had nothing to do with his own election and reelection to the Senate. Do you believe that Ted Kennedy got and retained his Senate seat due to his elder brothers, JFK and Bobby Kennedy?

Instead of attacking Hillary Clinton while claming you aren't, why not think whether you hold all other politicans to the same standard you hold Hillary Clinton. When you realize that you don't, you will realize that you are biased just as the media has proven to be biased against Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: InSearchOfTruth | February 28, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Here is what I came up with from the Auston CNN debate based on the transcript as to who got the first question. Fact checker lumps CA and TX together and Im not sure how they got the numbers they did because Texas was 8/3 Clinton/Obama:

Jorge Ramos: Sit down with Raul Castro? Clinton
John King: Differences on economy? Obama
Jorge Ramos: Stop federal raids? Clinton
John King: Finish the fence? Clinton
Jorge Ramos: Bilingual country? Clinton
John King: Speeches vs. solutions? Clinton
Jorge Ramos: Ready to be commander-in-chief? Clinton
John King: Better off after the surge? Clinton
John King: Transparency? Obama
Jorge Ramos: Superdelegates? Clinton
Brown: Biggest crisis? Obama

The bias is so common we don't even notice it anymore. Our local paper featured an article about murals painted of all the candidates on a wall in a local town. Guess which mural was photographed and printed in the paper? Right, you got it.

Pres. Clinton and Barack Obama appeared ON THE SAME DAY AT THE SAME UNIVERSITY and Obama got 3X the coverage in local newspapers.

OK, I get that 'the coming of Obama' is infinitely interesting but claiming the media is unbiased is a crock. People have actually come up to me and said they have switched to Obama because the paper said Clinton cound not win. Give me a break!

Posted by: redhiker | February 28, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The point on the foreign relations subcommittee is that Mr. Obama mentioned it first in the MSNBC Cleveland debate to promote his foreign policy experience. I had never heard him mention it before and now we know why. He opened the door to be questioned about what he actually accomplished on the subcommittee which was zero. He should not have brought it up.

Posted by: jcmdstep1 | February 28, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Of course the media is biased pro Obama, yet no one is allowed to say it out in the open lest the Obama supporters come and start the name calling again about your personality for being pro Hillary. Just read the papers, watch TV, or read most of the liberal blogs and it is ALL pro Obama and retorts to posts are such negative nasty ones I have a hard time reading through some of them. Clinton has been asked most of the first questions and if you look at the answers how many times has Obama said similar to "I agree" or "Yes, she is right" while he rides on her coattails of vast knowledge and he looks as if would have said the same thing if he went first. Did you notice in the last debate the open question about the new Russian leader and it was Hillary who had to finally jump in and then when Obama spoke it was about Putin. So it is obvious his world affairs of what is about to happen in Russia seem nonexistent. Sorry, but it is about time that BOTH candidates get the same scrutiny, the same respect and the same coverage. And it is also time for the sexist language to disappear just as much as people decry racist language.

Posted by: justmyvoice | February 28, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

justmyvoice: Are you new to the comments on The Fact Checker? I don't see any fear of people stating "out in the open" that the media is pro-Obama. In fact, FC seems to be dominated by people who are hardly afraid to speak out (typically quite uncivilly) against both candidates.

Indeed, Dobbs himself seems moderately anti-Obama -- though, admittedly, he is very polite.

But if you need affirmation: I'm not a huge fan of Obama, and I don't consider those who think the media is Obama-biased are racist. (Nor do I consider those who prefer Obama to be sexist.)

But I also do not perceive such an Obama media bias (at least one that can be disentangled from "interesting story", etc.).

That is your perception (and certainly Clinton's), and that's fine; however, many of us require more than rigorous assertion as evidence of a claim. I also don't see any evidence for a left-leaning bias in the media, despite the constant claims of such from the right.

It's natural and easy to arrive at the view that the media is providing unfair bias to one's opponents; however, don't assume that it is so obvious to others. The media's bias is to sell papers / eye-time (and with it, advertisements) ... this is best served when we are angry or afraid. The best way to counter that bias is to avoid the emotional trap.

So I do agree that we should not be nasty to one another.

Posted by: RPW | February 28, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

RPW,

Did you not note my comment about Chris Matthews and Mr. Shuster of MSNBC as examples of media bias? How can you claim that no evidence has been provided to prove that there is media bias when I provided two or three examples as well as my theory as to why the media normally asks questions of Clinton first?

Posted by: InSearchOfTruth | February 28, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

InSearchOfTruth: One or two examples does nothing to prove a general claim. I myself have noted several specific points where The Fact Checker seems to have the reverse bias, but I do not claim this is generally the case.

I claim nothing about what "has been provided", I simply state that I've seen no evidence of a general pro-Obama media bias. I certainly do not claim that no news report or reporter has ever been biased for (or against) an arbitrary candidate. I also do not claim that no such bias exists.

If your point is that some reports are biased pro-Obama, I concede the point (as are some pro-Clinton). But I took you to imply something more systemic. Have you evidence to support a general claim?

Besides: I do not have to justify your failure to convince me. Feel free to continue to believe there is a bias if you will, but if you want those of us in the middle of the whole Clinton/Obama race be persuaded of your point, you'll have to wage a cogent argument. Attacking me will not resolve that dilemma for you.

The irony here, of course, is that this whole discussion of whether the media favors Obama ... one that has received considerable attention in the media ... is beneficial for Clinton.

Posted by: RPW | February 28, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

How have I attacked you? I simply asked you a couple of questions. Since when did questions become attacks? It seems that Obama supporters are equating questions with attacks.

I am not aware of any TV reporters / commentators that are supportive of Clinton. Please provide this list of Clinton supporters in the media and how they are biased towards Clinton. If you can't make your case, then what you state is not fact. I have at least provided a few examples as fact. I have yet to see any examples from to prove your case.

Posted by: RPW | February 28, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Please disregard last post:

To: RPW

How have I attacked you? I simply asked you a couple of questions. Since when did questions become attacks? It seems that Obama supporters are equating questions with attacks.

I am not aware of any TV reporters / commentators that are supportive of Clinton. Please provide this list of Clinton supporters in the media and how they are biased towards Clinton. If you can't make your case, then what you state is not fact. I have at least provided a few examples as fact. I have yet to see any examples from to prove your case.

Posted by: InSearchOfTruth | February 28, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I am an Obama supporter & I agree that the media treatment has been more favorable toward Obama. I don't agree with the premise that it's sexist. Clinton started with every advantage in this contest & controlled the media message & spin masterfully. It really started to shift when Obama won Iowa & the idea that he might have a chance started sinking in. Hillary Clinton has a long history of divisiveness (rightly or wrongly so. I didn't create it I simply must acknowledge the reality). Obama has publicly placed his color aside as an issue (whether he's used it or not is an entirely different subject which I have no way of knowing without being directly involved with his campaign). Hillary has publicly used her sex & made it an issue (big mistake in my opinion. People don't respond well to victimization). So the fact that she's being treated unfairly I believe is @ least partly her own making. I wonder if Obama is comfortable???

Posted by: Chapman | February 28, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

TAXES, TAXES, TAXES!!

What about Hillary's assertion that she has no time to release her tax returns?

Most potentially blatant lie of the night (after Hillary's NAFTA lies), and nobody touches it?

Posted by: alarico | February 28, 2008 6:24 PM | Report abuse


It is okay that some of the supporters for both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are
highly biased but I am surprised that the
author(s) of the comments can see that this is the case.

As a life-long Independent, I am tracking
each candidate very closely. I am a woman
and not African-American or any other minority group (except for my religeon)and
after much reading, listening and studying
I am supporting Senator Obama at this point.

However, I am not going attack Senator Clinton and should she get the nomination
through popular vote, I will wholeheartedly back her in for the Nov voting.

I am aksing all voters to use care and reason both in casting their votes and in their vocal and written support of their
candidate.

It is highly important that we get this right. It is possible that the Democrats can once again defeat themselves through
their in-fighting.

Posted by: jody | February 28, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

After reading all of the comments above I'm still not sure who to vote for but it sure won't be any of the moderators. Since when did they become the focus of debates?

Posted by: supaisam | February 28, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse

InSearchOfTruth: I've already stated that I think Dobbs is pro-Clinton, and there are a number of comments over the last week by me indicating specific points where I thought his points were unduly biased.

I also (in this thread) posed a reasonable question that could speak to the issue of bias at one level: Has either received more air time during the debates (I also provided a link to analysis of this prior to the 1-on-1)?
None of this supports any claim, but gives you a picture for the kind of general evidence I'm asking for.

At any rate, I'm not making any case so no proof is needed. If you believe the media is (in general) pro-Obama, by all means continue with that view. I do not, and I've as yet seen no evidence to convince me otherwise. If you don't care whether I am convinced by your anecdotes then we've no disagreement. If, on the other hand, you are attempting to persuade me (and others) that the media is systematically pro-Obama, you'll have to provide something that speaks to the general claim.

I'll take you at your word that your comments were not meant to be hostile, and I apologize for misinterpreting them. I'm just becoming fatigued by the vitriol, so perhaps a bit overly sensitive to it.

Posted by: RPW | February 28, 2008 8:30 PM | Report abuse

To many things here to take apart point by point so I will mention a few. First Chris Matthews was totally correct in his asseration that Sen. Clinton would not be Sen. without the name of her husband. The fact she remained with him despite all of his infidelity suggests that she had a purpose or agenda of her own. To divorce him would have taken her out of the limelight and reduced her to nothing more than a woman scorned. They moved to New York for the EXPRESS purpose of trying to attain a political office for HER, and the only way she could accomplish that was to "stand by her man". Secondly, the attack on Sen. Obama for lack of work on a subcommittee. Let's be real, none of the candidates for POTUS have spent any real time in DC doing their elected jobs, and even hillary stated "she's been busy" as a reason she hadn't released her tax return. In answering the question Sen. Obama was at the very least, HONEST. I believe I would rather have a honest answer to a question than most of the political rhetoric that passes for answers by the clinton campaign. Has anyone noticed that very often when asked a direct question Mrs. Clinton gives a 5 mintue diatribe and in the end the question was never answered?
And lastly...what committees does the senator from NY serve on and how many times did it meet with her in attendence?

Posted by: Pete | February 28, 2008 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Obama is the pre-packaged "New & Improved Chocolate Flavor" Presidential candidate PRODUCT - being hyped, promoted, sold, PUSHED by GE and its WHOLLY-Owned subsidiaries NBC & MSNBC ... along with Westinghouse & its subsidiary CBS / ....while slamming the Clintons all day every day.

(Assisted by ... CNN/FOX/ and a lot of newspaper and radio media ... dependent on advertising dollars.)

WHY? Obama is IN with the Nuclear Industry crowd: Excelon Corp of Illinois has been one of his largest contributors from his entry into politics to the present. Excelon is the largest nuke operator on the planet; owns Con-Ed of NY; more nukes in Illinois than any other state.

GE, Westinghouse, Excelon & 3 consortiums of dozens of other companies are planning to build 29 new nuclear power plants. Their Wholly-Owned & Wholly Influenced "News" media are selling the Obama Product because Obama is in favor of Nukes, McCain is in favor of nukes - and Clinton is not.

In 2005 Obama Voted FOR the Cheney Energy Bill (H.R.6) which ENABLED the nuke industry to make its Plans to build 29 new nukes - by Guaranteeing Taxpayer Payback of any nuke loans that default. (No nukes were built for the past 30 years because the banks wouldn't loan the money - too risky).

Obama Voted FOR the Cheney Energy Bill - despite the fact the Congressional Budget Office rated the risk of default on the nuke loans at 50% or greater. (Does that sound like ... GOOD ... JUDGMENT to You?)

[NY Times has several articles about the nuke plans & a map showing all 29 locations; Wikipedia covers the subject]

Clinton Voed AGAINST the Cheney Energy Bill and said her Energy Plan does not include nuclear.

?"Its about the FUTURE ... Turn The PAGE" ?

Nope. Its about Turning the PAGE Back to the PAST: Obsloete 50 year old nuclear power plants - the dirtiest most expensive kind/ centrally-controlled MONOPOLY POWER.....instead of inventing New, Clean, Green, De-Centralized inexpensive Energy.

An advertising campaign has already begun in the TV media to re-package & re-name nuclear power plants as: GREEN & CLEAN .... for .... everybody too young to remember the 1970's anti-nuke movement and all the Bad News about nuclear energy.

Don't be taken in by the ad campaigns - Google 'nuclear waste dumps' & read about the hundreds of BILLIONS of gallons of nuke waste at the Hanford Washington dump; 140 tons of plutonium stored at Rocky Flats, Colorado; Barnwell, South Carolina; leaking into groundwater and rivers; plutonium released into the air around Denver from 500 instances of fires at Rocky Flats; stored on-site at every nuke reactor in America .... presenting hundreds of potential "dirty bomb" targets for terrorists.

Posted by: elme13 | February 29, 2008 4:41 AM | Report abuse

The list supplied above by Fact Checker makes clear that Virginia has mothered not just more presidents but better presidents than the upstart Ohio.

Posted by: jhbyer | February 29, 2008 4:45 AM | Report abuse

Is it true that Obama takes No Contributions/NO MONEY from Registered Federal Lobbyists?

Yes, it's a LawyerSpeak/Trick Instance of: Speaking a Small truth covering up a Big Lie.

Nope, doesn't take money from REGISTERED FEDERAL Lobbyists.

DOES take money from STATE Lobbyists, Not Registered Lobbyists, AND the wives, husbands, law partners, aunts, uncles cousins ..... of Registered Federal Lobbyists. Gets money from the same big corporate donors as any other candidate.

Obama's campaign finances are involved in the prosection (Patrick Fitzgerald, prosecutor) and trial of his friend of 20 years Antoin Rezko. Some of the funds .... allegedly .... extorted by Rezko went into Obama's campaign coffers. Curiously, Power Plants, In Iraq are also involved in Rezko's trial.

Notice - that the following excerpts from newspaer articles cannot be .... freshly created material invented for the purpose of smearing Obama - because they were written in news publications years in the past when 98% of the population had never heard of Obama:

Obama -Rezko- Alsammarae-Auichi- IRAQ POWER PLANTS:

Obama's "friend" Rezko must have had some very good connections with the Bush-Cheney WAR PROFITEERING Machine from the earliest days of the Iraq War (2003):

Aiham Alsammarae (Ahyam al Sammarai) was appointed July 13, 2003, as Iraq's Minister of Electricity by L. Paul Bremer, Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq. A Sunni Muslim and a citizen of both Iraq and the United States, he is under investigation for setting up a deal to loot Iraq's powerplants with Rezko.

Chicago Business reported July 29, 2005, that Chicago-based Rezmar Corp., owned by indicted political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, had "entered into a joint venture with a British firm in a $150-million deal to build a [250-megawatt] power plant in Iraq," with construction to begin in the fall. However, construction did not commence in 2005.

Chicago Business identified the unnamed "British firm" as General Mediterranean Holding SA which belongs to Nadhmi Auchi, the Iraqi-British billionaire who provided Rezko with the $3.5 million that caused him to lose his bond and wind up in jail to await his March 3, 2008, trial date.

The handshake heard round the world took place in April, 2004, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago between Barack Obama and a mysterious London billionaire named Nadhmi Auchi.

What does the handshake mean? It places Mr. Obama, then a state senator from the 13th District who had just won his party's nomination to run for the U.S. Senate in the fall, in the same critical meeting between Mr. Auchi and his Chicago-based partner, Antoin "Tony" Rezko,

It places Mr. Obama in association with Mr. Auchi, who is now, because of three particular wire transfers of cash, one in 2005 and another two in 2007, a weighty figure in the trial about to begin

That entanglement, assert Bone and Kennedy, began immediately the next year when Mr. Auchi lent Mr. Rezko $3.5 million on May 25, 2005. In the article, these veteran investigative reporters raise the possibility that Mr. Rezko's wife, Rita Rezko, used some of that cash to help Mr. Obama buy his home in the Hyde Park Kenwood section of Chicago, when she, with no credible income or savings of her own, found the means to secure a $500,000 loan and provide another $125,000 in cash to purchase the yard of the estate.

Also, according to the Times, there was more cash coming from Mr. Auchi to Mr. Rezko: another $11 million in September 2005, two months before Mr. Rezko and other "Illinois government officials" wrote letters to the State Department attempting unsuccessfully to gain another visit by Mr. Auchi to Chicago. And then in 2007 came the two most troubling Mr. Auchi cash transfers so far, $3.49 million in April, and another $200,000 in July, both passed to Mr. Rezko via a Beirut bank in a manner surreptitious enough for the Federal re-arrest of the accused Mr. Rezko.

... Obama has TIES to Bush/Cheney's PAST Iraq War Profiteering era (a now abandonded Iraq Power Plant- which was listed on an Iraqi website as: under construction),

AND has TIES to Cheney's PLANNED FUTURE Next BIG ENERGY RIPOFF .... 29 New Nukes.

Obama's and "The "News" media's efforts to -CONTINUE- glossing over and ... pooh-pooh-ing the Bad News about Obama with: (He's answered all the questions, he's denied it, so there's just Nothing more to it; ... it was a 'perfectly legal' transaction; and well, if there were any skeletons in his closet they would already have been found) - will not succeed:

"Answered all the questions, denied it, nothing to it": same things Scooter Libby was saying - until Patrick Fitzgerald proved he was lying. Must not be any skeletons in Obama's closet? That closet door has been opened. Given all the bones that have fallen out and are now posted on the internet .... all unbiased persons must be .... highly suspicious of finding one or more skeletons in that closet.

It's not about ideaology it's about reality. Do not ALLOW Cheney's Big Scam to succeed. Do not allow 29 new nukes to be built. The working people of America cannot pay higher electricity rates. The U.S. Taxpayer/Government Income is insufficient to pay back all the nuke loans that will default/insufficient to pay for the nuke waste dumps.. The working people of America have been so thoroughly robbed for so long a time that Congress must take its cue from the moral of the story - (from an old Fairytale .... that is entirely devoid of racism): The geese that lay the golden eggs are nearly dead. Don't kill them. To do so will bring about your own ruin.

Revitalize the people and Democracy in America , or stand by and watch this great nation wither, degenerate, and die. Establish a NASA size and quality entity for the invention of -decentralized- clean electricity and transportation. Eradicate the graft and corruption in government.

Posted by: elme13 | February 29, 2008 5:07 AM | Report abuse

The cries of bias were practically non-existent when Clinton was the supposed inevitable nominee. She even had the black support up until the South Carolina blunder.

She's lost all contests since February 5th and in doing so, her rampant behaviour has been deserving of scrutiny. I do not consider this media bias.

Obama's worked for his support and media coverage while Clinton has dug herself into a negative light.

As for the sexism complaints, keep in mind Obama is black. Racism and sexism does come into play, but not to such extremes where we can claim America does not want woman or a black. Clinton was once a front-runner, Obama has taken the lead now, Edwards (the white male) is no longer running. -- Evident enough that general America is in search for the best candidate.

Posted by: Etienne | March 4, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Another point not mentioned in this Fact Checker is that Medicare Parts B & D are in fact both voluntary in terms of enrollment and paying monthly premiums. Obama briefly pointed that out in his response during the debate:

OBAMA: "In fact, Medicare Part B is not mandated, it is voluntary. And yet people over 65 choose to purchase it, Hillary, and the reason they choose to purchase it is because it's a good deal."

I have also described this issue in more detail in my blog:

http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/spartobama/gGgNbv

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