Checking Claims on Economy, Bin Laden Hunt

The economy and the war on terror have emerged as two of the major issues in this presidential race, so it is perhaps not surprising that the candidates continue to make myriad misrepresentations about facts surrounding those issues.

Monday night in Green Bay, Wis., Sen. John Kerry brought up his favorite critique about President Bush's economic record -- the subject of the outsourcing of American jobs.

"The president has a policy where he takes your tax money and he gives a great big tax break that rewards the companies that take the jobs for going overseas," Kerry said.

Does Bush have a policy of tax breaks for companies that outsource?

"It's misleading to imply that somehow the Bush administration created or originated these tax breaks," said Martin Sullivan of Tax Notes Magazine. "They've been around for decades."

Sullivan pointed out that in the past few years, since the end of the Clinton administration, there has been an acceleration in the use of such tax breaks, and that Kerry has targeted the tax breaks for elimination and Bush has not.

Job Loss

In Onalaska, Wis., today, Bush said 9/11 was to blame for the loss of a million American jobs.

"We were attacked and those attacks cost us about a million jobs in the three months after Sept. 11," Bush said.

But economists say that number is an overstatement, since it counts all job losses after Sept. 11, 2001, as being the result of the attacks. Experts with the nonpartisan Bureau of Labor Statistics say "it is not possible" to calculate which jobs were lost because of 9/11 and which were from "a generally weakening employment trend that had been evident for several months prior" to the attacks.

Economic Record

The president also likes to discuss Kerry's economic record, highlighting their different views on taxes.

"You tell your friends and neighbors, he voted against the child credit, marriage penalty relief, lower tax rates," Bush told a Davenport, Iowa, crowd on Monday.

Did the Massachusetts senator oppose all those tax breaks?

"What he voted against was George Bush's version of all those things," said Brooks Jackson of factcheck.org. "It's also true he voted for a Democratic version that included all those same things" in a bill that did not include tax cuts for the top two income brackets, as Bush's favored bill achieved.

Hunt for Bin Laden

Monday in Philadelphia, Kerry continued his charge that in December 2001 the president "miscalculated about Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora," a network of caves where al Qaeda fighters hid out after U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan. In the first presidential debate, on Sept. 30, Kerry explained it this way: "I would not take my eye off the goal: Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately he escaped in the mountains of Tora Bora."

Was bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora?

"The truth is we just don't know," said retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, now with the Council on Foreign Relations. "Some intelligence at the time placed bin Laden there, other intelligence had him elsewhere."

"We had him surrounded," Kerry said in the first debate.

Was bin Laden really surrounded?

"To say that he was surrounded may be an overstatement," Nash said.

But if Kerry overstates what is known for a fact about bin Laden's whereabouts, Bush may be too dismissive of criticism of that operation.

"Now my opponent is throwing out the wild claim that he knows where bin Laden was in the fall of 2001," Bush said Monday in Waterloo, Iowa, "and that our military had a chance to get him in Tora Bora."

Is the idea that bin Laden was in Tora Bora a "wild claim"?

No, it is not. "It's possible that he was or was not there," said Nash, "but the issue at hand, I believe, is whether or not the attack was pushed with sufficient aggressiveness and with the right amount of force in order to force to find out whether or not he was there."

That is Kerry's other point about Tora Bora -- one that stands up better to scrutiny -- that "the president should have sent U.S. forces, not Afghan warlords, to surround the caves."

Many military analysts see Tora Bora at the very least as a missed opportunity to attack al Qaeda. "The conventional wisdom today is there were insufficient American forces in the country at the time we needed them most," Nash said.

Regardless of the misrepresentations made in their arguments, all of these issues touch on significant -- and actual -- differences between the two candidates.

Kerry is more apt to cut the tax breaks that may encourage outsourcing than is Bush, while the president is clearly more of a hardliner against taxes than his Democratic opponent.

Regardless of what actually happened at Tora Bora, Kerry says the war in Iraq was a distraction from the war on terror. Kerry foreign policy adviser Jamie Rubin says the Democratic candidate intends to send more U.S. troops and try to enlist NATO troops in more military operations along the Pakistani-Afghan border, where he says there are reports of al Qaeda activities.

Bush says that while the U.S. military and its allies are pursuing terrorists around the globe, Iraq is the central front of the war on terror.

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