Beliefnet
WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (AP)--From education to Social Security, George W.Bush and Al Gore fudged some facts and oversimplified others in a firstdebate that included just a few outright misstatements.

Bush must not have been thinking about the $93 million he spent gettingthe GOP nomination for president when he pointed to Gore and said "thisman has outspent me" in the race for president. Gore spent just $46million winning the Democratic nomination.

For the fall campaign, each of them get the same $67.6 million in federalfunding. During the first month, Bush spent nearly twice as much of hisallotment than the vice president.

But Gore also had some questionable moments.

On the first question, moderator Jim Lehrer asked what he meant when hequestioned whether Bush has the experience to be president. "I have actually not questioned Bush's experience. I have questioned hisproposals," Gore said Tuesday night.

But Gore and his aides have repeatedly questioned Bush's experience. In an April 13 interview with The New York Times, Gore said Bush's callfor a large tax cut "raises the question, 'Does he have the experience tobe president?'" In a foreign policy speech, he criticized "these gaps inGovernor Bush's foreign policy views and experience." And Gore'sspokesman has called Bush a "lightweight."

Republicans pounced on a Gore statement that he accompanied James LeeWitt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to inspectTexas floods and fires. They said he was never there.

After the debate, Gore's campaign clarified that the vice president did go--in June 1998--but not with Witt.

The trickiest exchanges involved big numbers in big-government programs. The vice president regularly asks Bush where he will get an extra $1trillion to pay for his plan to privatize Social Security. The plan letsyounger workers create personal investment accounts with a portion oftheir Social Security contributions, and the extra money is needed to makeup what they would be contributing toward current retirees' checks. Bush has never made it clear where this money would come from. But onTuesday, he said simply it "comes from the surplus."

If he meant the projected federal budget surplus, that's a problem,because he's already proposed spending and tax cuts that consume this pot.

If he meant the "Social Security surplus," that would further stress thefinancial future of a program that is already in danger of going broke. "I couldn't figure out what he was saying," said Bob Bixby, executivedirector of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that advocatesdeficit reduction.

On several occasions, Bush called Gore's calculations "fuzzy math,"though he didn't really dispute the vice president's points.

On adding a prescription drug plan to Medicare, Gore argued that Bush'splan would not help middle-class seniors during its first few years. Bush responded that Gore was using "fuzzy math." But in fact, unlesssomeone's drug costs reach $6,000, Bush's plan only helps low-incomeseniors during its first four years.

When Gore said Bush would spend more cutting taxes for the top 1%than he does to increase spending on domestic programs, Bush again calledGore's math "fuzzy" but didn't dispute his bottom line.

Discussing the economy, Gore suggested that the nation had been through a"triple-dip recession," which occurs when economic growth stalls twiceor turns negative after experts thought that a recession had ended. Infact, while some feared a triple-dip recession in 1992, it never happened.

Other times, the candidates left out essential information or stretchedfacts:

  • On education, Gore accused Bush of supporting a plan that leaves childrenin failing schools for three years before giving parents vouchers to helppay for private schools. He didn't mention that the accountabilityprovisions in his own plan don't kick in for three years.

  • Talking about his tax plan, Bush said that no American would pay morethan a third of his or her income in federal taxes. He didn't say thatvirtually no one pays that much now.
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