Politics & Policy

Fact to Fact

With an eye on ABC.

St. Paul — When a candidate makes such a high profile — 37 million viewers! — debut on the national stage, it is fair to subject that speech to scrutiny. Russell Goldman of ABC News put Governor Sarah Palin’s statements in her acceptance speech through the wringer and the factchecker had some riticisms, both fair and unfair.

Goldman is fair to hit Sarah Palin on her line, “[Obama] is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word ‘victory’ except when he’s talking about his own campaign,” by pointing out a July 15 speech where he did use the word and talked a bit about how he defined victory in Iraq. It is worth noting that the usual line from Obama and his fellow Democrats is to pledge to “bring our troops home,” with the v-word left unmentioned. Hillary Clinton’s pledge to bring our troops home “with honor” stood out at the Democratic convention for those last two words, incongruent with the rhetoric of the other speakers.

But Goldman’s citing that Obama used the word “victory” three times in his Berlin speech, to describe Allied successes during World War II, strikes me as a stretch. She said wars America “is” fighting, and it seems safe to score the fight against Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy as a win by now.

They argue that Palin was unfair in saying that Obama had never passed any “major” pieces of legislation, pointing to the nuclear nonproliferation bill that he cosponsored with Republican Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana. Karl Rove gave a hard look at that boast:

In reality, the Lugar-Obama Bill was passed on a voice vote on December 11, 2006. It was so routine, there was no recorded vote. The media didn’t consider it important or controversial. Neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post reported its Senate passage, though the Post ran a 798-word op-ed by Senators Lugar and Obama the week before it was approved. It was not the subject of a story on the CBS, ABC or NBC evening news—not when it passed, not when it was signed, not ever. No story about it appeared in Roll Call or The Hill, the daily newspapers that cover the minutiae of Congress. It drew only one squib in Congressional Quarterly—and that story didn’t mention Obama, just Lugar. The Bush administration supported it. The legislation required the administration to report to Congress within 180 days “on proliferation and interdiction assistance” to secure the mostly conventional weapons stocks littering the nations born from the collapsed Soviet empire. It created a new State Department office to support the Bush administration’s “Proliferation Security Initiative” aimed at interdicting weapons of mass destruction and conventional weaponry. And the bill authorized $110 million in funding. But this legislation didn’t require a profile in courage to co-sponsor or hard work and powerful persuasion to pass, as Mr. Biden implied.

ABC News offers another argument, that in the state legislature, Obama helped pass “two contentious bills, one that studied racial profiling by police and another that ordered interrogations in potential death penalty cases to be recorded.” It’s tough to argue those bills were routine or unimportant, particularly if you’re ever arrested in Illinois. If you’re not, those laws may never impact your lives.

By contrast, Hill watchers are familiar with the Arizona senator’s role in McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform (groan) McCain-Kennedy immigration-reform legislation (double groan), or the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act (hey, why did we nominate this guy again?). Then there’s his fight against pork-barrel projects, his role in restoring diplomatic relations with Vietnam, his role in the Gang of 14 deal on judges, creating the 9/11 Commission, federalizing airport security, an amendment limiting the interrogation methods used on detainees… Conservatives often grind their teeth at these legislative acts, but they’re pretty big.

“Major” legislation is probably in the eye of the beholder. A reasonable observer might disagree with Palin’s skepticism. But does it make a voter ask, that man is ready to be president? Does that, as a signature legislative accomplishment, warrant a second memoir?

The criticism of Palin on exaggerating her porkbusting credentials are again, a mix of fair shots and stretches. It’s worth noting that as mayor of Wasilla, she hired a former staffer of Sen. Ted Stevens to lobby Congress. But her battles with Stevens since then are pretty well-established, and she did indeed announce she was stopping state work on the Bridge to Nowhere last year. Budget hawks and pork critics will gladly forgive her early support for her decisive role in slaying the project.

ABC really quibbles on Palin’s line about putting the state-purchased Westwind II on eBay. She did indeed do that, although the plane was eventually sold to an Alaskan businessman through word of mouth. Had she said that she sold the plane on the Internet auction service, the gripe would carry more weight, but as it is, we’re in hair-splitting territory.

Finally, the factcheck notes, “In July, her Chevy Suburban was rear-ended while driving from Wasilla to her office in downtown Anchorage.”

Some voters may see that as one more reason to put her in a vice-presidential motorcade.

Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot blog on NRO.

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