Factchecking Palin

I thought Palin’s speech was quite good: well-written, well delivered. And, as I said earlier, I think she’s a genuinely engaging person, and comes across very well. There were just a couple of problems. One, which I have seen people notice, but which I suspect won’t be a big deal for a lot of voters, is that it had very little substance. The other, which the commenters I saw on TV for some reason neglected to mention, was that she told a lot of lies. A few that stood out for me, or that I spotted in my quick run-through of some blogs:

Palin: “To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.”

Sarah Palin might have changed her mind on this one recently. However, a comment here notes that Palin actually slashed funding for schools for special needs kids by 62%. Budgets: FY 2007 (pre-Palin), 2008, 2009 (all pdfs).
UPDATE: This is wrong. As you can see if you look at the list of component budgets here (2007) and here (2009), funding for the Alaska Challenge Youth Academy was broken out into its own budget category, which accounts for the drop in funding for the original item. I regret the error. Thanks to rory in comments.END UPDATE.

Palin: “As for my running mate, you can be certain that wherever he goes, and whoever is listening, John McCain is the same man.”

Steve’s list of McCain flip-flops is here. See for yourself whether constancy is, in fact, John McCain’s middle name.

Palin: “I told the Congress “thanks, but no thanks,” for that Bridge to Nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, we’d build it ourselves.”

Just to reiterate what others have said: Congress’ requirement that funds be spent on that bridge (aka the ‘earmark’) were removed before Sarah Palin became governor. She was therefore in no position to tell Congress anything about the bridge, one way or the other. During her campaign, she said she supported funding for the bridge. Brad Plumer, citing the Anchorage Dialy News via Nexis:

“5. Would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?

Yes. I would like to see Alaska’s infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now–while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.”

Later, she accepted the money — now not restricted by an earmark — and used it for other infrastructure projects. Here’s her statement about why she wasn’t building the bridge (also via Plumer.) Decide for yourselves what role a principled opposition to earmark funding plays in it. Hint: here’s what residents of Ketchikan AK said when they heard her recent remarks:

“In the city Ketchikan, the planned site of the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere,” political leaders of both parties said the claim was false and a betrayal of their community, because she had supported the bridge and the earmark for it secured by Alaska’s Congressional delegation during her run for governor. (…)

“People are learning that she pandered to us by saying, I’m for this’ … and then when she found it was politically advantageous for her nationally, abruptly she starts using the very term that she said was insulting,” Weinstein said.”

Palin: “But listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform – not even in the state senate.”

Ha, ha, ha. I gave a rundown of Obama’s accomplishments in the Senate here. They include the Lugar-Obama bill on nonproliferation, and an ethics reform package that the Washington Post called “the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet.” Ruth Marcus summarizes his record on reform:

“He helped pass a far-reaching ethics and campaign finance bill in the Illinois state Senate and made the issue a priority on arriving in Washington. Much to the displeasure of his colleagues, Obama promoted an outside commission to handle Senate ethics complaints. He co-authored the lobbying reform bill awaiting President Bush’s signature and pushed — again to the dismay of some colleagues — to include a provision requiring lawmakers to report the names of their lobbyist-bundlers. He has co-sponsored bills to overhaul the presidential public financing system and public financing of Senate campaigns.”

Not a single major law or reform, indeed.

And I wasn’t aware that writing memoirs was something to be ashamed of. Obama has, in fact, written only one. McCain (with Mark Salter) has written at least two.

Palin: “America needs more energy … our opponent is against producing it.”

No — he plans to develop a lot more energy than John McCain does. It’s just that a lot of it is renewable, not carbon-based. Moreover, Obama hasn’t skipped the last eight votes on renewable energy.

Palin: “The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes … raise payroll taxes … raise investment income taxes … raise the death tax … raise business taxes … and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars. My sister Heather and her husband have just built a service station that’s now opened for business – like millions of others who run small businesses. How are they going to be any better off if taxes go up?”

Well, it all depends whose taxes go up, doesn’t it? If Heather and her husband make less than $250,000, their taxes will not go up. Most Americans will pay less in taxes under Obama’s plan than under McCain’s. So they might well be better off.

Those are just the falsehoods that leapt to mind. I’m sure there are others.

Whether or not Sarah Palin’s engaging personality matters more than the fact that she tells lies depends a lot on the media, and whether they allow her to say that she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere, or that Obama has never authored a major law or reform, without calling her on it. I hope they do. But I’m not holding my breath.


UPDATE: Mark Kleiman posts an Obama campaign rebuttal, which is more thorough than I was.