WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2004 -- In the homestretch of the presidential race, both candidates are launching attacks that bear little resemblance to reality here on God's green Earth. Both sides accuse the other of fear-mongering; both sides are right.
President Bush launched a new attack against Sen. John Kerry this week. To resounding boos in Marlton, N.J., on Monday, the president said, "Senator Kerry believes that fighting (Iraqi insurgency leader Abu Musab al-) Zarqawi and other terrorists in Iraq is a 'diversion' from the war on terror."
But Kerry never said that. "That's a distortion of what Senator Kerry said or meant," says Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. "Senator Kerry has said we need to go after terrorists, and that taking on Saddam Hussein in a war was a diversion from the central goal of taking on terrorists."
The idea that because Zarqawi is in Iraq right now Kerry thinks it's a diversion to pursue him "is misleading at best and flatly untrue at worst," Ornstein says.
A new Kerry television advertisement attacks Bush for the flu vaccine shortage. "Instead of fixing the problem, production of the vaccine was sent to a factory overseas," the ad says, noting that's where "the vaccines were contaminated."
But though the Food and Drug Administration is being blamed for not adequately supervising flu production -- a subject Kerry showed no apparent interest in until the recent shortage -- it was the private company Chiron Corp. that decided to produce the flu vaccine in the United Kingdom, not Bush or his administration.
Kerry told the "Des Moines Register" last week that a Bush re-election brings "great potential" for a military draft.
"The Pentagon says it doesn't want a draft, that volunteer soldiers make better soldiers and they don't need drafted soldiers," says Brooks Jackson of FactCheck.org. "What Kerry says is a matter of opinion, but I'm not sure what he is basing that opinion on."
Then there is this line from Bush on Monday, which he repeats every chance he gets. "As part of his foreign policy, Senator Kerry has talked about applying a 'global test,' " Bush said. "As far as I can tell, it comes down to this: before we act to defend ourselves, he thinks we need permission from foreign capitals."
"That is exactly the opposite of what Kerry has said many, many times," says Jackson. Including twice in the same debate -- and once in the same sentence -- when Kerry referred to the "global test."
The actual Kerry quote from the first presidential debate in Miami was: "No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to pre-empt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America, but if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do in a way that passes the test -- that passes the global test -- where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."
Kerry said in his very first answer in that debate that he would "never give a veto to any country over our security."
If you're looking for fair representations of what the candidates think, do not ask their opponents.