Separating Fact from Fiction: Obama Campaign Ads

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has accused her rival, Barack Obama, of distorting her views about health care and trade in flyers he mailed to voters. Obama responded to the attack, defending the flyers' accuracy.

Brooks Jackson, director of factcheck.org, a nonpartisan Web site that monitors the accuracy of campaign ads, talks to Liane Hansen about the veracity of the claims.

The two flyers tackle Clinton's positions on trade — and specifically, the North American Trade Agreement — and health care. They have been publicly available for several weeks.

Jackson says the flyer on trade is "misleading." It quotes Clinton as saying she believed NAFTA was a "boon" to the economy. But Jackson notes that she never used those words, which came from a newspaper article that characterized her position.

In fact, Jackson says, a Clinton biographer says she was privately opposed to NAFTA and only went along with her husband's plans to get it ratified reluctantly.

The health care flyer says that Clinton's plan forces all Americans to buy insurance — even if they can't afford it. Jackson says the claim is "out of context" and "strains the facts," but that to call it false is "an exaggeration in itself."

On health care especially, Clinton and Obama have been exaggerating the differences between their two plans. Jackson says the plans are quite similar — and starkly different from anything that any Republican is proposing.

Both candidates like to say their plan would cover everyone. In truth, neither of these plans would cover every American, Jackson says.

The main difference is that Clinton has what she calls a "personal mandate," a requirement that every individual obtain health care coverage — Obama does not.

But Clinton hasn't described how strong a mandate this would be, how big the penalties would be, how it would be enforced, or whether there would be any exemption for hardship cases, Jackson says.

At the same time, Jackson says Clinton is "no innocent" when it comes to attacks on a rival's positions. Her campaign sent out a mailer that twisted Obama's words and gave a false picture of his proposals on Social Security, home foreclosures and energy. Her flyer accused Obama of favoring a $1 trillion tax increase on Social Security, which Jackson says is a "big distortion."

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