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Inside Politics

CNN Fact Check: Attacks on Bush

Editor's Note: This fact check, and the accompanying piece evaluating assertions made in speeches by the Bush-Cheney campaign, were researched by the CNN Political Unit.

• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
America Votes 2004

(CNN) -- Kerry-Edwards claim: "If we used smart diplomacy, we could have saved $200 billion and an invasion of Iraq."

CNN Fact Check: Sen. John Kerry overstates the cost of the Iraq war when he says that the United States already has spent $200 billion on the war effort. The Office of Management and Budget estimates the Iraq war cost about $120 billion through September 30, the end of fiscal year 2004. Kerry's $200 billion figure includes money for the new fiscal year, which started October 1, but these funds have not yet been spent. Kerry's figure also includes funds earmarked for both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kerry campaign clarifies its claim in press releases saying the Iraq war will cost $200 billion through September 2005, but Kerry frequently neglects to make this distinction when addressing audiences.

Kerry-Edwards claim: "By one count, the president offered 23 different rationales for this war."

CNN Fact Check: The source for this count was a Devon M. Largio, a University of Illinois college senior, who addressed the topic in her senior thesis. A Kerry campaign spokesman initially described this paper as a "doctoral dissertation." The implication in Kerry's speech was that President Bush gave 23 different rationales for war, but some of the rationales listed in this student paper are somewhat repetitive -- for example "prevent[ing] the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" and "the lack of inspections" both deal with the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Largio also lists "the desire to remove the Hussein regime" and "the fact that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator" as separate, discrete rationales. Largio graduated in spring 2004, and now is a law student at Vanderbilt University. The Bush campaign responds to the charge by saying there were indeed many reasons to go to war, including the threat of WMDs.

Kerry-Edwards claim: "You don't send troops to war without the body armor that they need."

CNN Fact Check: After frequent criticism that he voted against body armor, Kerry accused Bush of not providing enough body armor for troops. Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command, told a congressional committee on September 24, 2003, that there was not enough of the best-grade body armor to equip all the troops in Iraq at the start of the war. However, as Republicans often point out, Kerry voted against Bush's $87 billion Iraq/Afghanistan reconstruction bill in 2003, which included a $300 million request for state-of-the-art body armor for troops in Iraq. There were no up-or-down votes on funding specific pieces of equipment, so Kerry did not specifically cast a vote against body armor. Kerry did support a Democratic alternative reconstruction bill (which also included body armor funding) that would have temporarily rolled back Bush's tax cuts for those making $400,000 or more annually.

Kerry-Edwards claim: "They avoided even the advice of their own general. General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, said you're going to need several hundred thousand troops. Instead of listening to him, they retired him."

CNN Fact Check: Kerry implies that former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was forced to retire as a result of his comments about troop levels in Iraq, which is inaccurate. Shinseki served a full four-year term as army chief of staff and did not retire early. Since World War II, no army chief of staff has served longer than four years. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided in April 2002 who he would tap to succeed Shinseki, according to a Pentagon official, long before Shinseki's troop level comments in 2003. So by the time Shinseki made his comments on troop levels, it was already known that he would not remain in his post beyond his full four-year term.

Kerry-Edwards claim: " As vice president, Dick Cheney received $2 million from Halliburton."

CNN Fact Check: Cheney's annual financial disclosure statements do show that the vice president received about $2 million in various benefits resulting from his former position as CEO of Halliburton Co., but he received the bulk of the compensation before he became vice president. Of the $2 million, $1.6 million came in January 2001 -- after Cheney was elected but before he was sworn into office. The rest comes from a multiyear deferred salary package.

Kerry-Edwards claim: "Halliburton got billions in no bid contracts in Iraq."

CNN Fact Check: The Pentagon's Army Corps of Engineers did award a no-bid, or sole-source, contract to a Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root in March 2003. However, the General Accounting Office said in a June 2004 report to Congress that the contract was "properly" awarded and that KBR was the "only contractor that was determined to be in a position to provide the services within the required time frame." The Kerry campaign estimates that the KBR oil reconstruction contract was worth approximately $7 billion, but the Defense Department's comptroller gave Congress a slightly higher estimate in March 2004, up to $8.2 billion. KBR also provides various logistical support in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries under a competitively awarded contract granted in late 2001. In September 2004, the Pentagon announced it was considering breaking up part of the Halliburton/KBR logistical contract and accepting new bids in an effort to save money. Halliburton/KBR would be allowed to re-bid on the contract, but a company official said that it might not do so, depending on how the contract was divided.

Kerry-Edwards claim: "In the Senate we passed the right of Americans to import drugs from Canada. But the president and his friends took it out in the House, and now you don't have that right. The president blocked you from the right to have less expensive drugs from Canada."

CNN Fact Check: Kerry is correct that Bush opposed a measure to import inexpensive prescription drugs from Canada, but he doesn't mention that the Clinton administration killed a similar measure in December 2000. Clinton signed a Canadian drug reimportation bill in October 2000, but criticized the law as "little more than a false promise," citing various problems including safety concerns. Two months later, the Clinton administration invoked a provision in the law to kill the program entirely. In the second presidential debate this year, Bush explained his position: "Just want to make sure they're safe. When a drug comes in from Canada, I want to make sure it cures you and doesn't kill you." However, in the 2000 presidential debates, Bush did indicate support for drug reimportation: "Expediting drugs through the FDA makes sense, of course. Allowing the new bill that was passed in the Congress made sense to allow for, you know, drugs that were sold overseas to come back and other countries to come back into the United States. That makes sense."

Kerry-Edwards claim: 5.2 million Americans have lost their health insurance

CNN Fact Check: According to an August 2004 report by the U.S. Census, the number of uninsured Americans increased by 5.2 million from 2000 through 2003. The Kerry campaign incorrectly interprets this to mean that 5.2 million Americans who previously had health insurance lost their coverage while Bush was president. This is not correct. The Census does not track how many people "lost" health insurance; they track the number of uninsured. According to a Census spokesman, Kerry's claim does not take into account that the U.S. population grew by about 9 million since 2000, and that a sizable portion of the 5.2 million may be new workers or immigrants who moved to the United States since Bush took office and never previously had health insurance.

Kerry-Edwards claim: "George Bush's record speaks for itself. 1.6 million lost jobs. The first president in 72 years to actually lose jobs on his watch."

CNN Fact Check: Kerry is correct in saying that Bush is on track to have a net loss of jobs by the end of his first term, and possibly to become the first president since Herbert Hoover to leave office with a net loss in jobs. However the 1.6 million figure that Kerry refers to in his speech overstates the scope of the nation's total job loss. This number refers to the total number of private sector jobs lost since January 2001, when Bush took office, through August 2004, the date of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent jobs report. However, the 1.6 million figure does not factor in a net increase in public sector jobs, which reduces the loss in overall jobs to 821,000, according to BLS figures. The Kerry campaign explains this distinction in a fact sheet to reporters, but on the stump, Kerry himself only says that 1.6 million jobs were lost since January 2001, without clarifying that he is referring to only private sector jobs, and not all jobs overall.

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