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Posted at 5:59 PM ET, 01/15/2008

Democratic Debate Las Vegas

By Michael Dobbs

Diplomatic reporter Glenn Kessler joined me for a live fact check of tonight's Democratic debate from Las Vegas, Nevada, on MSNBC beginning at 9 p.m. EDT. Researcher Alice Crites helped dig up facts for us, and the campaigns also contributed.

This was our third live fact check. We inaugurated this new feature with the back-to-back Republican and Democratic debates from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on January 5. Last week, we fact checked a GOP debate from Myrtle Beach, S.C.

11:05 p.m.

Clinton and Iraq

Hillary Clinton was more specific than she has been previously on withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. "We will start withdrawing within 60 days," she said. "We will move as carefully and responsibly as we can, one to two brigades a month, I believe, and we'll have nearly all the troops out by the end of the year, I hope." Previously she has used words like "can" or "may" to describe her intentions.

What "nearly all" means is open to question, of course. Clinton has said it will be necessary to keep some combat troops in Iraq to fight al-Qaeda, protect U.S. interests, counterbalance Iran, train Iraqi troops, and support the Kurds in the north. That is quite a long list of caveats . It is unclear how many troops will be required to accomplish these missions.


--Michael Dobbs

10.45 p.m.

Contributions from Pharmaceutical interests

The Obama campaign is disputing a claim by John Edwards that Obama has overtaken Clinton as the candidate who has taken the most money from pharmaceutical and insurance interests. Data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics appear to support the Obama case. Clinton took around $525,000 from employees of insurance companies, compared to $390,000 for Obama. Or does the Edwards campaign have more recent data?

--Michael Dobbs

10.30 p.m.

2005 Energy Bill

Hillary Clinton slammed the 2005 energy bill as the "Dick Cheney lobbyist energy bill," saying that it had "enormous giveaways to oil and gas industry." In fact, according to a paper by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the 2005 bill provided for $2.9 billion of tax increases for the gas and oil industry--against $2.6 billion of tax cuts. That resulted in a net tax increase to the industry of "nearly $300 million over 11 years," according to the CRS report.

--Michael Dobbs

10 p.m.

Warren Buffett's tax rate

Obama came up with a surprising stat. Warren Buffett pays tax at a lower rate than his secretary. Buffett's tax rate, mainly on capital gains, is 17.7 per cent. Buffett says that his secretary, who earned $60,000, was taxed at 30 per cent. Glenn Kessler, a former economics reporter, believes this is right if you include social security and medicare. The secretary would pay 23 percent of her income in income taxes and about 7 percent in social security and medicare. [This assumes that she does not have big exemptions.] Buffett, making $46 million, pays only about 1.5 percent of his income on medicare but his social security payments are capped. Anybody got any thoughts on this one?

--Michael Dobbs


Tuesday, January 15, 9.25 p.m.


Edwards and Lobbyists

Little to fact check in the first 20 minutes. All "Kumbaya" and fraternity so far. Clinton rules Robert Johnson's statements about Obama doing strange things "in the neighborhood" as "out of order." Obama regrets saying that Hillary was "likable enough" in the Saint Anselm debate in New Hampshire, saying the comment "didn't come out the way it was supposed to."

Edwards repeats his claim that he has "never taken a dime" from a Washington lobbyist. Depends on how you define Washington "lobbyist." His former campaign manager and occasional contributor, Nick Baldick, was a registered Washington lobbyist at one time, although he tried to get his name off the list.

Update: The Edwards campaign points out that Baldick was not a registered lobbyist when he contributed to the Edwards campaign in 2003 and 2004. His company, Dewey Square, said in 2003 that he had been registered incorrectly. Dewey Square had registered Baldick as a federal lobbyist in 2000, 2001, and 2002.

--Michael Dobbs

By Michael Dobbs  | January 15, 2008; 5:59 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama, Live Fact Check  
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Next: Clinton vs Obama on Iraq

Comments

I found this great article on the topic at www.SAVAGEPOLITICS.com. It raises some great issues. Here is an excerpt:

"For the last couple of days we have heard incessant commentary in the mainstream mediums about the racial issues brought up recently in the Democratic side of this season's primary elections. This, amongst the vast criticisms that the Clinton campaign has received for supposedly sending out "agents" to spread rumors about Barack Obama's not too lustrous past, has Hillary's supporters scrambling for cover. Apparently, or so the press claims, there exists certain knowledge about a candidate's past that we are not supposed to discuss because they are "insensitive" or "negative". Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and supporter of Hillary Clinton's candidacy, recently caught some heat when he made public references to Barack Obama's past drug use (cocaine and marijuana) for being "ugly" attempts to discredit Obama's reputation amongst conservative Democrats. Tonight, in Nevada's Democrat debate, we will probably get to hear these candidates respond to this so-called "mud slinging" charges, which up until now are being leveled against both camps, and probably witness a pathetic "coming together" in which both lead candidates leave all this controversy behind. An act which is only done out of pure self-interest since they both know that this "race and gender" discussion hurts both camps somewhat equally. Once again, instead of witnessing an actual debate on real issues, we will get washed down campaign slogans, ad nauseum. What is the information contained in this Fine Print that the Media keeps pushing us to ignore until the election is over?..." Visit www.SAVAGEPOLITICS.com to see the rest of the article.

Posted by: Elsylee | January 15, 2008 9:21 PM | Report abuse

When will someone in a position of responsibility discuss that egregious performance by the debate's moderators. It's journalistic malpractice and deserves examination.

Posted by: zukermand | January 15, 2008 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Democrats Debate in Las Vegas

Who Won the MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas?

http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=1548

.

Posted by: PollM | January 15, 2008 9:45 PM | Report abuse

That's not "surprising" re: Buffett's secretary unless you've been on Mars for the past year!

Posted by: JakeD | January 15, 2008 10:19 PM | Report abuse

The Buffett thing is a gimme. What's really surprising is Tim Russert isn't the laughingstock of our high end press corps.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 15, 2008 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, I don't get MSNBC. However, it looks like immigration matters were handled in an MSM-standard superficial fashion, and the candidates responded with their stock speeches, saying the same things they've said time and time again.

Perhaps Dobbs could ask Russert or Williams why they didn't ask the follow-up questions. Are they trying to become the next Larry King?

And, according to talkleft.com/story/2008/1/15/221259/624, Obama said something like "the Latinos will know they have an advocate with him". I really want to see what he actually said, because it might be a good idea for presidential candidates to avoid pandering to people who aren't even citizens of the U.S. as well as race-based pandering in general.

If anyone's tired of MSM hacks asking lightweight questions, help me push this plan:

http://nomoreblather.com/policy-debates

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | January 15, 2008 10:43 PM | Report abuse

As an aside, Warren Buffet pays his secretary $60,000!!Let's hope he pays her an excellent bonus, because with a salary of 46 million, I think he can do better.

Posted by: ginny | January 15, 2008 11:07 PM | Report abuse

An investor making $60,000, or the same as Warren's secretary, would pay less in taxes than the secretary. Why? Because Bill Clinton cut taxes for captial gains in 1997. This, after turning down a GOP-sponsored tax cut aimed at the poor - on gasoline.

Blaming Bush and the Republicans once again is not reasonable.

Posted by: The Angry One | January 15, 2008 11:09 PM | Report abuse

Hillary blamed Big Oil for imposing hardships on Americans who have to fund their "huge" profits and givebacks.

That was a whopper.

The most profitable oil company, ExxonMobil, recently made $40 billion in yearly profits. Perhaps that was a burden, perhaps not. But they and their customers were forced to pay $100 billion in taxes too. That's two and a half times a "huge" burden, Hillary. Where's the gas tax cut you should be proposing, for consistency's stake?

Posted by: The Angry One | January 15, 2008 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Obama was excellent tonight! I like the way he walked to all the competitors and congratulated them after the debate. He was precise, clear and firm.

Go Obama!!!

Posted by: Adjetey | January 15, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Surprising?
That Sen. Obama paid attention when Warren Buffett testified before the Senate finance committee on the estate tax Nov.14?

Posted by: Soldier's Mom | January 15, 2008 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Have to say I thought Hillary was the clear winner tonight with precise reasons and answers to questions and hopefully will replace Bush and correct the problems he has created and set our country back on the right track.

Posted by: tiredofit | January 15, 2008 11:41 PM | Report abuse

"We will start withdrawing within 60 days," she said. "We will move as carefully and responsibly as we can, one to two brigades a month, I believe, and we'll have nearly all the troops out by the end of the year, I hope."

She said whaaat?

Have I not been paying attention or isn't this a sharp change of position (for the better)?

For God's sake, somebody ask her what she means by "nearly all the troops".
How many does she plan to leave there? About 5000? 15,000? 50,000? Just get us a ballpark figure. If she's got a plan like she claims, she must know.

Posted by: OD | January 15, 2008 11:44 PM | Report abuse

One thing I noticed so big was how Chris Matthews was so skewed towards Hillary tonight. He felt she was easily the big winner and almost pronounced her the next President!
Was he asked to step aside from his previous excitement from Barack?
I can understand that he may have been caught up previously in the dynamic appreciation for change, and a charismatic leader towards such a change, but does he really have a 'true' respect for a candidate like Hillary?!! I am sorry, but I fell she comes across as a candidate full of petty rivalry, bitterness and low level tactics, with no true message to put our for change and realism.
I look forward to learning more about how this media machine is driving this election.
While you may have driven one campaign to another with the purpose of selling papers or TV time...while you may have been working on creating the news for tomorrow to sell more commercials or advertising spots for your profit mongering machine, I truly hope that the media will soon become accountable for thier ways.
Whether my candidate Barack, or the others, such as a Hillary or a Ron Paul that you may deem to be selected, I truly hope that us as a nation and that you as a new source, become knowledgeable, compassionate, patriotic, understanding and above all else, moralistic, in conveying the true news without opinionated level.
We all need to move to a higher ground. If my candidate is not truly worth the muster of candidacy, than it is your requirement as a journalist to tell us!
God please help us become better writers and better readers and better voters.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 15, 2008 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Nice 'block' format today. My comment (thanks for asking) on Buffet, is he pays more taxes, as well he should, but no way is that the last word that Republicans here will wish it to be. Obama's point is no less true and relevant, because Republicans claim to have cut everyone's rates, without divulging they cut them more for people who don't work for income. Since you can only work so many hours a week, whereas income from investments is unlimited, this hardly seems fair.

Posted by: jhbyer | January 16, 2008 1:59 AM | Report abuse

I am sorry to notice that once again, the Fact Checker got his facts wrong again. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was a boondoggle that gave $85 billion to Big Oil & Gas, Coal, and Nuclear interests. The Congressional Research Service report is on a narrow aspect of the taxation and doesn't take into account direct expenditures, slush funds (one that was $1.55 Bil for Sugarland, TX), fee waivers on public lands, etc. Read just the top 10 most wasteful provisions from Taxpayers for Common Sense - http://www.taxpayer.net/energy/pdf/worstten.pdf

I understand that there are a broad diversity of issues from the debates, but I would expect a higher quality of fact checking from an eponymous feature. Especially as on Global Warming and energy, there have been minimal questions and much misinformation.

Posted by: Richard Graves | January 16, 2008 3:37 AM | Report abuse

Unnoticed but very important news-
%80 of voters in black precincts in Michigan voted "uncommitted" over Clinton. !

Posted by: tomdc | January 16, 2008 3:38 AM | Report abuse

What we ALL need to realize, is that the big $ corporations that own the Networks are attempting to skew all of our opinions by limiting our access to ALL of the canidates. They are excluding canidates who aren't being subsidized by their companies for their campaign dollars like Dennis Kucinich. They don't want the American people to hear what Dennis has to say because it is in direct conflict with their own self interests. The fact that he has been excluded from all of the recent debates, makes each of the debates worth nothing. When are the American people going to stand up for their right to make an informed decision. A Presidential election in this country, should not be about who can spend the most money on their campaign. If our "for the people" goverment limits the access of information to those said people by allowing Lobbyists and big corporations to influence what information we are given, then the entire election process is a joke.

Posted by: Flossie | January 16, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

In response to Buffet vs Secretary tax rate

With all of the problems that Social Security and Medicare face, there appears to be a no brainer solution. So, why won't Congress vote out the income cap on having to pay into Social Security and Medicare?

Posted by: Francine, Baltimore, MD | January 16, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Concerning Warren Buffett's tax rate, you state: "Glenn Kessler, a former economics reporter, believes this is right if you include social security and medicare."

Why wouldn't you count that? You pay your rent and bills out of the money you have left after all the taxes are taken out, not just the income taxes.

Posted by: Jinchi | January 16, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I do agree that it is frustrating that "journalists" don't follow-up or insist that candidates answer questions and I think the recent fueling of the racism fire, as others have said, was driven by the media who seem to need to create "fights" and unfortunately people in each campaign or speaking on behalf of their candidates inflamed the situation further. As long as our news media are profit and ratings-driven, we do not have a free press who will responsibly report the facts of the news, rather than the drama of the "news" they create. Regardless, I felt proud of all three democratic candidates who are far more detailed and articulate and compassionate than any of their republican counter-parts (one exception possibly John McCain). Huckabee is now pandering to christians by wanting to change the constitution to fit the bible; Romney's message changes with the wind; Guliani has too much unethical baggage in his past and the arrogance to wait until FLA; Thompson looks like he needs a ventilator to keep going most of the time (another media-created candidate); and Ron Paul, while refreshing, has gotten little attention from the press to boost his chances in the race. I am hopeful that if McCain goes up against any of our democratic candidates, at least we may have a more straight-talking, low-smear, campaign. Please!

Posted by: bethechange1 | January 16, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Every since Hillary gave Mathews a peck on the cheek hs has nothing but good comments for Hillary and Obama is now out in the cold. Did Mathews hear Hillary's response to question from Tim R. Are you not going to have B. Johnson on stage or at your future functions. (something like that) She totally ignored the question. Personally I think Obama is the clear winner. Just because he has one style of management and she has another does not make a winner of the debate.

Posted by: Loraine Pace DeBary, Florida | January 16, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Obama is the agent of change? Unbeleivable! The only thing he can change without a willing congress is his underwear.

Posted by: roncraw | January 16, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Umm, Michael, you are accurate but wrong about the Congressional Research Service paper on the 2005 energy bill. That paper was woefully inconclusive, because it did not address handouts to the oil, coal, gas, and nuclear industries, such as 1.8 cent-per-kilowatt-hour production tax credit for new nuclear plants that will cost taxpayers up to $6 billion, $1.8 billion for "clean coal," and $1.55 billion for the "Texas Energy Center" in Sugar Land, Texas.

Taxpayers for Common Sense has thoroughly documented this. May I hope for a bit more thorough fact checking next time?

http://www.taxpayer.net/energy/pdf/worstten.pdf

Posted by: vorkosigan1 | January 16, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Warren Buffet did a survey of his employees, which he publicized. Buffet, who distains "tax shelters" & does not use them, still paid the lowest tax rate among all his employees, including his secretary. He said this was wrong and called for revamping the tax systemdid offer $1 Million to any

Posted by: Stephen Terrell | January 16, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Anyone notice how silmilar Hillary's Iraq position is to Obama's? She says she will carefully remove 1to2 brigades a month from Iraq. From the start Obama has said " we have to be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless going in. I will remove 1to2 brigades a month and have all troops out within 16 months." She has not had an original thought since entering the race.If her opponent has something that catches on she uses it (e.g. "change".)

Posted by: mazd273 | January 16, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Buffet's example is apples and oranges - he kows it but preferes the populist and emotional grab of the comment. Buffet on any wages he would earn would be taxed at 39.6% before FICA taxes. His capital gains rate of 15% is the same as his secretary pays on any capital gains she would earn. The fact that this comment still lives and breaths and is never called on its accruacy just shows how unqualified 95% of all journalists are to cover economics or business as they are so easily swayed by stats and numbers without understanding the underlying relevance.

Poor fact checking as the tax on $60,000 of taxable income is $11,430 or 19% - not 23%. but that is before any standard deductions or exemptions. after those deducts of $$8,750 to which she is entitled, her tax would be $9,230 or 15.4% of her $60,000 wages. Can the Former Economics Reporter not read tax tables?

Buffet doesn't ever say what he specifically objects to in his example. does he think captial gains should be taxes at the same rate as oridary income/wages? No, because it would kill captial investment, torpedo his Berkshire's portfolio and send caapital makets into a tailspin. So what does he propose?

Posted by: Bob | January 16, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

i thought kucinich did a great job. oh was he shut out by miliary owned msnbc?

Posted by: djw3505 | January 16, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

With all the candidates preaching about how they're the right candidate for the next presidency, I sense a little propaganda in all their messages. If you listen to every Primary they try to sell you a dream about how they're going to make your life better with one vote. The Bush administration has left the White house in shambles for whoever inherits it this November. No one with any sense can believe that if we elect any of these candidates that the United States will make a turn for the better in the future. With the lobbyist and big corporations running Washington how can we put our trust in a candidate when he/she isn't running the country. We don't have any lobbyist for the American citizen to help keep our interest at hand. It seems that the system is flawed to the core. It's our duty as American citizens to see this and become proactive.

Subscribe to my blog @

http://thescholarsforum.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Mahnee | January 16, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong about takeing up a canadates past behavior. Didn't the Grand Obstructionst Party crusify W. Clinton for saying he didnot inhale and try to use it against him? Why should Saddam Obama get a free ride?

Posted by: K. Hurd | January 16, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Please, we need to hear equally from all the candidates. These are not debates as much as they are personality contests with the moderator calling on the people he likes the best. I want equal time and serious questions given to each person on the stage. Yes, Dennis Kucinich should be there, and Edwards should be allowed to speak as often and as long as the Hillary/Obama show.

Electing a candidate is serious and these are deadly serious times. We cannot indulge the mainstream press in their vapid preoccupation with the "personality and character" charade this time. Press corps: grow up.

Posted by: Nora | January 17, 2008 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Please, we need to hear equally from all the candidates. These are not debates as much as they are personality contests with the moderator calling on the people he likes the best. I want equal time and serious questions given to each person on the stage. Yes, Dennis Kucinich should be there, and Edwards should be allowed to speak as often and as long as the Hillary/Obama show.

Electing a candidate is serious and these are deadly serious times. We cannot indulge the mainstream press in their vapid preoccupation with the "personality and character" charade this time. Press corps: grow up.

Posted by: Nora | January 17, 2008 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Please, we need to hear equally from all the candidates. These are not debates as much as they are personality contests with the moderator calling on the people he likes the best. I want equal time and serious questions given to each person on the stage. Yes, Dennis Kucinich should be there, and Edwards should be allowed to speak as often and as long as the Hillary/Obama show. BTW, Edwards came out with policy statements on the economy and Iraq before either Hillary or Obama. The Fact Checkers need to dig deeper.

Electing a candidate is serious and these are deadly serious times. We cannot indulge the mainstream press in their vapid preoccupation with the "personality and character" charade this time. Press corps: grow up.

Posted by: Nora | January 17, 2008 12:10 AM | Report abuse

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