Politicians sometimes treat the truth as if it were a balloon, by taking a fact and blowing it up into something distorted and entirely new.
Take, for instance, one of President Bush's oft-repeated claims about Sen. John Kerry, one he reiterated today during a stump speech in New Mexico.
Said Bush: "On issue after issue, [Kerry] has shown why he earned the ranking as the most liberal member of the United States Senate."
Bush bases that remark on annual rankings given by "National Journal," a non-partisan magazine about government. But does the magazine really rank Kerry as the most liberal member of the Senate?
"The way the Bush campaign has used this is misleading," said Patrick B. Pexton, the magazine's deputy editor. "We feel that our rating shows that John Kerry was the most liberal senator in 2003. Over his lifetime he was the 11th-most liberal senator. This has been used by the president, by the vice president, constantly over the past few months to portray Kerry as the most liberal senator ever, and that is just not the case."
The Kerry campaign recently introduced a television commercial that makes a number of charges against Bush and Republicans.
"CEOs get big corporate tax breaks for shipping our jobs overseas," Kerry said in the ad.
But has the Bush administration given chief executive officers tax breaks to shift jobs overseas?
"The tax breaks aren't going to the CEOs," said Martin Sullivan, publisher of "Tax Notes" magazine. "The tax breaks are going to the corporations. It's misleading to imply that somehow the Bush administration created or originated these tax breaks. They've been around for decades."
Some economists argue there has been an acceleration in the use of these tax incentives in recent years. Kerry has said he would work to put an end to them, while Bush has not.
Finally, Kerry made another claim in the commercial: "The Saudi royal family gets special favors while our gas prices skyrocket," he said.
But according to Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, "the idea that gasoline prices are higher because we've got some kind of a deal with the Saudi family doesn't pass any kind of real test of reality."