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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/29/2008

Partial Quote Alert!

By Michael Dobbs

Romney rally, Panama City, FL, Jan. 24

It is an old advertising trick: select a few words from an article by a recognized media outlet and use them to promote your product and denigrate your opponent. Ruthlessly eliminate anything in the article that is at odds with the line that you are peddling. Use the quote to make it appear that the media outlet has endorsed your point of view.

The art of the partial or distorted quote is alive and well in the 2008 presidential campaign. I would like to make "Partial Quote Alert" a regular feature of the Fact Checker blog. To get us going, here are some recent examples of the genre from the campaign trail, complete with omitted words (in italics) that provide a rather different spin on the candidate. If you come across more examples, please pass them along, and I will add them to the collection.

From a TV advertisement for Mitt Romney:

"Romney was at his best in crisis mode."
--The Boston Globe, June 30, 2007.

Full quote:

"Many other observers say Romney was at his best in crisis mode, taking charge of an issue and seeing it through to resolution. At other times, though, Romney seemed conscious of little other than political image.

From a TV advertisement for Barack Obama:

"Obama offers universal health care plan."
--Associated Press, May 29, 2007.

The phrase about universal health care was used in a headline to an Associated Press story. The AP later issued a clarification saying that the news story "did not represent Obama's plan as universal health care."

Full quote:

"Obama's first promise as a presidential candidate was that he would sign a universal health care plan into law by the end of his first term in the White House. But there is some dispute over whether his plan would provide universal care - it's aimed at lowering costs so all Americans can afford insurance, but does not guarantee everyone would buy it."

"It's not totally clear that it would result in universal coverage," said Ron Pollack, executive director of the advocacy group Families USA.

From a TV advertisement for Barack Obama:

"Obama opposed Iraq war from the start."
--Associated Press, Oct. 2, 2007.

Full quote:

Nobody can dispute that Barack Obama opposed the Iraq war from the start and, with striking prescience, he predicted U.S. troops would be mired in a costly conflict that fanned "the flames of the Middle East."

But nobody should accept at face value the Illinois senator's claim that he was a "courageous leader" who opposed the war at great political risk.

The truth is that while Obama showed foreign policy savvy and an ability to keenly analyze both sides of an issue in his October 2002 warnings on Iraq, the political upside of his position rivaled any risk.

And, once elected to the U.S. Senate two years later, Obama waited months to show national leadership on Iraq.

From a web advertisement titled "Experience" for John McCain:

"Mitt Romney says the next president doesn't need foreign policy experience. John McCain for president."

--Quoting Romney on Fox TV program Hannity & Colmes, Dec. 29, 2007.

Full quote:
"If we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department and pluck out one of the tens of thousands of people who work there."

By Michael Dobbs  | January 29, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Ad Watch, Barack Obama, Candidate Record  
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