Sorting Out McCain's and Obama's Spin, Exaggerations—and Worse

Fact-checking some of the candidates television ads and speeches.


Social Security at risk

The Claim: A foreboding ad from Barack Obama's campaign alleges that if John McCain had his way, "privatizing Social Security," retirees would be in deep trouble with today's economic crisis.

The Reality: McCain supported President Bush's plan to allow people to privately invest some of their Social Security payroll deduction in the stock market or other investment funds. But the program was to be voluntary, wouldn't affect current retir-ees, and was never enacted.

Sex ed for kindergartners

The Claim: A McCain campaign ad claims Obama's sole accomplishment on education was introducing legislation as an Illinois state senator "to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners."

The Reality: This ad has been roundly attacked as a gross distortion and singled out as perhaps the worst of this election season. The portion of the sex-ed bill geared toward youngsters was aimed at teaching them how to protect themselves from predators.

100 years of war in Iraq

The Claim: Obama frequently quotes McCain as saying that he would be willing to stay in Iraq for 100 years. The remark came in January in response to a query about whether troops would be needed for 50 more years. McCain replied, "Make it a hundred."

The Reality: Obama ignores the rest of the answer. McCain went on to say that he was fine with 100 years "as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed," comparing it to Japan or Korea.

The Bridge to Nowhere

The Claim: Echoing McCain's attacks on pork-barrel spending, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin claims that she said "thanks but no thanks" to the "Bridge to Nowhere." The project, funded by a congressional earmark, would have sent federal tax dollars to Alaska to build a bridge to connect two sparsely populated areas served by a ferry.

The Reality: Palin supported the project until it became a symbol of the kind of wasteful earmarks McCain has long opposed.