The candidates and the facts in the first debate
Wednesday, October 4th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ From education to Social Security, George W. Bush and Al Gore fudged some facts and oversimplified others in a first debate that included just a few outright misstatements.
Bush must not have been thinking about the $93 million he spent getting the GOP nomination for president when he pointed to Gore and said ``this man has outspent me'' in the race for president. Gore spent just $46 million winning the Democratic nomination.
For the fall campaign, each of them get the same $67.6 million in federal funding. During the first month, Bush spent nearly twice as much of his allotment than the vice president.
But Gore also had some questionable moments.
On the first question, moderator Jim Lehrer asked what he meant when he questioned whether Bush has the experience to be president.
``I have actually not questioned Bush's experience. I have questioned his proposals,'' Gore said Tuesday night.
But Gore and his aides have repeatedly questioned Bush's experience.
In an April 13 interview with The New York Times, Gore said Bush's call for a large tax cut ``raises the question, 'Does he have the experience to be president?'' In a foreign policy speech, he criticized ``these gaps in Governor Bush's foreign policy views and experience.'' And Gore's spokesman has called Bush a ``lightweight.''
Republicans pounced on a Gore statement that he accompanied James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to inspect Texas floods and fires. They said he was never there.
After the debate, Gore's campaign clarified that the vice president did go _ in June 1998 _ but not with Witt.
The trickiest exchanges involved big numbers in big government programs.
The vice president regularly asks Bush where he will get an extra $1 trillion to pay for his plan to privatize Social Security. The plan lets younger workers create personal investment accounts with a portion of their Social Security contributions, and the extra money is needed to make up what they would be contributing toward current retirees' checks.
Bush has never made it clear where this money would come from. But on Tuesday, he said simply it ``comes from the surplus.''
If he meant the projected federal budget surplus, that's a problem, because he's already proposed spending and tax cuts that consume this pot.
If he meant the ``Social Security surplus,'' that would further stress the financial future of a program that is already in danger of going broke.
``I couldn't figure out what he was saying,'' said Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that advocates deficit reduction.
On several occasions, Bush called Gore's calculations ``fuzzy math,'' though he didn't really dispute the vice president's points.
On adding a prescription drug plan to Medicare, Gore argued that Bush's plan would not help middle-class seniors during its first few years.
Bush responded that Gore was using ``fuzzy math.'' But in fact, unless someone's drug costs reach $6,000, Bush's plan only helps low-income seniors during its first four years.
When Gore said Bush would spend more cutting taxes for the top 1 percent than he does to increase spending on domestic programs, Bush again called Gore's math ``fuzzy'' but didn't dispute his bottom line.
Discussing the economy, Gore suggested that the nation had been through a ``triple-dip recession,'' which occurs when economic growth stalls twice or turns negative after experts thought that a recession had ended. In fact, while some feared a triple-dip recession in 1992, it never happened.
Other times, the candidates left out essential information or stretched facts:
_On education, Gore accused Bush of supporting a plan that leaves children in failing schools for three years before giving parents vouchers to help pay for private schools. He didn't mention that the accountability provisions in his own plan don't kick in for three years.
_Talking about his tax plan, Bush said that no American would pay more than a third of his or her income in federal taxes. He didn't say that virtually no one pays that much now.