Pulling punches in Vegas

SUMMARY: The Democratic candidates held a friendly chit-chat in Las Vegas. We found they got some facts right and stretched the truth with a few others.

After a week of sniping about racial issues and Iraq, we were ready for the Democrats to mix it up during their Jan. 15, 2008, debate in Las Vegas. But Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards decided to play nice and spent much of the time saying how much they agreed with each other. When Clinton got an opportunity to ask Obama a question, she opted not for a sly attack, but for a friendly request that he co-sponsor a bill preventing the Bush administration from making a long-term commitment on Iraq.

"Well, I think we can work on this, Hillary," he replied.

Earlier in the debate, explaining the new truce with the Obama campaign over racial issues, Clinton declared, "We're all family in the Democratic Party."

A title fight it wasn't. (Where are Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich when we need them?! They had not been invited by the debate organizers.)

But despite all the friendly conversation, there were still a few facts for us to check:

* Obama gave a misleading impression of a bill he passed about soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He gave the impression his legislation fixed a broad problem of soldiers being billed for meals when in fact that had been addressed two years earlier with a bill by U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. We gave Obama a Half True.

* Clinton erred when she said the 2005 energy bill "was a big step backwards on the path to clean, renewable energy." We gave that a False.

* But we found Clinton was accurately quoting John McCain's comment that the United States might have troops in Iraq for 100 years. We gave that a True.

* John Edwards got it wrong when he said Clinton gets more money from the oil and gas industry than any candidate, Democrat or Republican. Two Republicans beat her, so we gave Edwards only a Half-True .

* Barack Obama correctly said he gets more in small donations (less than $200) than Clinton or Edwards.

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