AllPolitics - Debates '96

Truth Was An Occasional Casualty In Sunday's Debate

By Brooks Jackson/CNN

WASHINGTON (Oct. 7) -- Both debaters said they were telling it straight.

"I also want a bridge to the truth," GOP nominee Bob Dole declared at Sunday's debate in Hartford, Conn. "We have to tell the truth."

"There were several off-the-subject whoppers in that litany," President Bill Clinton told Dole at one point.

Well, there WERE some miscues.

clinton debate claims

"He's deployed more troops than any president in history around the world," Dole said.

Wrong! George Bush sent 541,000 troops overseas during one deployment, Desert Storm, far more than all Clinton's deployments, to Haiti, Bosnia, Somalia and elsewhere. The Dole campaign says he meant to say there had been a greater number of deployments under Clinton.

Then there was the drug issue.

"I know more young people are experimenting with drugs today than ever before," Dole said.

Wrong again. It's true that teen drug use doubled from 5.3 percent in 1992 to nearly 11 percent last year, but in 1979 it was more than 16 percent, much higher than now.

Sometimes the candidates gave different versions of reality.

"I have reduced the size of government more than my Republican predecessors," Clinton said. Dole responded, "There are actually more people in government except for the people in defense-related jobs -- they're gone."

dole debate claims

Who's right? In fact, federal civilian employment has fallen nearly 225,000 under President Clinton, to well under two million, not counting the Postal Service, over which the president has no control. And while most of that has come from shrinking the Pentagon, other bureaucracies also have downsized. Dole was wrong about that, too.

What about the economy?

"In February Senator Dole acknowledged the American economy was the best shape it's been in, in 30 years," Clinton said.

Whoa! Mr. Dole?

"I doubt I acknowledged that this year," Dole responded.

Did he say it or not? Let's go back and look at what Dole really did say.

"And some would say, well, it's true our economy's never been stronger in 30 years," Dole said Feb. 13 in New Hampshire.

Dole said "some would SAY it's true" Then he went on.

"But the real average hourly wage is five percent lower than it was a decade ago."

Score that one for Dole, misquoted by the president.

They also differed on who raised taxes most.

"The largest tax increase in the history of the world," Dole charged against Clinton.

"The '82 tax increase he sponsored was, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the biggest tax increase in American history," Clinton contended.

Well, in fact they're both right. Clinton's 1993 tax increase amounts to $238 billion over five years, the most ever. The 1982 tax increase Dole sponsored was $195 billion then, but that's equal to nearly $270 billion in today's dollars, larger than Clinton's.

Some other fuzzy facts:

  • Dole branded Clinton as a pawn of trial lawyers. While it's true Clinton has raised some $4 million from that group (more than any other interest group), Dole has raised $1.5 million from attorneys this year.
  • The president again took credit for putting 100,000 police officers on the beat. In fact, only 40,000 officers have been budgeted and only about 20,000 have made it to the streets.
  • Clinton hit Dole for trying to cut Medicare by $270 billion; what he didn't say was that proposal was to slow the growth of Medicare over seven years by that amount, and that he has proposed some $124 billion of the same, while the GOP has lowered its goal to $168 billion.
  • Dole repeated his charge that the average family pays more in taxes than they do on "food, clothing and shelter combined." The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, however, that the average family paid about $6,000 on taxes, or about one-third the amount families paid for food, shelter and clothing.

    Both debaters sometimes strained the facts to make a point, and Dole stumbled more than Clinton. But neither candidate fouled up as badly as President Gerald Ford in 1976, when he declared Poland free of Soviet domination.

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