WHAM Calls in the Fact Checkers

Rochester's ABC affiliate has fact-checked the first MoveOn ad.  Their take is that the ad contains a number of distortions. I think they're not far from the truth.

The first WHAM claim concerns the statement "What happened to the $300 billion we sent to Iraq.  Halliburton got $18 billion.  $9 billion is just plain missing."

WHAM calls this "faction" -- all the claims are factually true, but it gives the false impression that the $9 billion came from Halliburton.  I think WHAM has a point, but the way the ad is read makes it clear (to me at least) that the 18 and the 9 are separate parts of the 300.

More importantly, WHAM thinks the claim that Kuhl was caught "red-handed" voting for everything is wrong on three counts.  First, they point out that the last Halliburton contract was authorized before Kuhl was a member of Congress.  Second, they argue that no member votes for individual contracts.  Finally, they think the phrase "caught red-handed" implies wrongdoing.

Again, this is a matter of nuance.  Though the Halliburton contracts were authorized before Kuhl took office, he voted on continuing appropriations for the war, and voted against stricter contract enforcement.  Halliburton is a big part of those continuing appropriations.

It's also true that no member votes for individual contracts, and that cherry-picking tiny pieces of gigantic omnibus appropriations is a tried-and-true method of distorting records.  But picking Halliburton as the example of spending in the bill certainly isn't the worst example of cherry picking I've seen.  Kuhl is on record strongly supporting the Bush administration's position on Iraq, and that administration picked Halliburton as a key contractor.

I have to agree completely with the WHAM criticism of the "red-handed" portion of the ad.  Kuhl hasn't tried to hide his support of the war, and the notion that he's been caught out voting for appropriation bills doesn't hold water.

When I watched the first MoveOn ad, my general reaction was: "So what?  Kuhl votes for Iraq appropriations.  So do a number of Democrats.  End of story. "  The issue is that Kuhl's position on Iraq is completely dictated by the Bush administration rather than by his and his constituents' own independent take on the war.

Unfortunately, the practical constraints of a 30-second TV ad dictate much of the MoveOn strategy.  They must capture attention and implant an image.  A truck dumping money in the desert captures attention.  Randy Kuhl with red hands implants the image.

This is the state of politics on television, and we are all the worse for it.