Friday, October 01, 2004

Friday Factcheck

I had held back on accusing Bush of distorting certain issues I thought he likely misrepresented because I wanted to be sure on my facts. But a bit of research shows that Bush seriously misled America on a few of his key points in the debate.

1) The whole 100,000 Iraqi troops trained. I already addressed this earlier, so I'm not going to do it again. Suffice to say, that isn't how many Iraqi troops are actually available for us to use in combat.

2) Bush's claim that he raised funding 35% for the Nunn/Lugar program (which secures loose nuclear material around the world) surprised me, because it certainly doesn't mesh with what I've heard. And surprise surprise, it looks like Bush hasn't been a big fan of this program after all. The Washington Post reports this morning that:
Bush said he has increased spending on curbing nuclear proliferation by "about 35 percent" since he took office. But in his first budget, he proposed a 13 percent cut -- about $116 million -- and much of the increases since then have been added by Congress.

Bush fought on Nunn/Lugar alright. He fought against it, and thankfully he lost. But that isn't a benefit to his side.

3) I'm almost tempted to not include this, because there is some room for opinionated disagreement. However, Bush's assertion that opening bilateral talks with North Korea would cause the ruin of the multilateral ones seems to be without a warrant. The Post continues:
On North Korea, Bush charged that Kerry's proposal to have direct talks with that country would end the six-nation diplomacy that the administration has pursued over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. Kerry has said he would continue the six-party talks as well. Bush said direct talks with North Korea would drive away China, a key player in the negotiations.

But each of the other four countries in the talks has held direct talks with North Korea during the six-party process -- and China has repeatedly asked the Bush administration to talk directly with North Korea. Moreover, the Bush administration has talked directly with North Korean diplomats on the sidelines of the six-party talks, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell met with his North Korean counterpart over the summer.

At the very least, this isn't as cut and dry as President Bush has made it out to be. It appears that all party's but the US believe that US bilateral talks will improve, not harm, relations. And for the record, Kerry saying that both multi- and bilateral talks are necessary is not an inconsistancy, its a realistic and legitimate policy position (no different from Bush saying we need to fight both Iraq and Al-Qaeda).

Most of the other gaffes were relatively minor and inconsequential (whether Bush was right in identifying Poland as part of the coalition strikes me as splitting hairs, not mention ignoring the larger point that Poland is not evidence of a 'grand coalition.'). The only important issue on which Kerry is alleged to have misspoke is when he said that Bush let Bin Laden escape in Tora Bora. The media claims that we don't actually know that Bin Laden was there. This may be true, but we certainly suspected it (kind of like we suspected Iraq had WMDs?), and at the very least we DID know there were alot of Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists out there whom we presumably wanted to catch. On the basis of the best possible intelligence and most feasible military action, President Bush made the wrong choice and that doesn't change regardless of whether Bin Laden actually was there or not.

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