Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Obama's first ad hits patriotic note

SUMMARY: Obama's new ad gets its points on taxes and welfare largely right. A third claim on veterans health benefits is less clear.

Sen. Barack Obama's first ad as the Democratic nominee for president is called "Country I Love" and features Obama waxing eloquent about how much he loves the good old U.S. of A. ( Watch the ad here. )

First Obama recaps his biography: "America is a country of strong families and strong values. My life's been blessed by both. I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. We didn't have much money, but they taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland where they grew up."

Then we get to the fact-checking meat of the ad: "I passed laws moving people from welfare to work, cut taxes for working families and extended health care for wounded troops who'd been neglected."

We took apart that sentence and found some truth and a bit of uncertainty.

• The tax cuts Obama is referring to are from his time as a state senator in the Illinois Legislature. In 2000, the Legislature created a state earned income tax credit, based on the federal earned income tax program, which is a tax credit for low-income working individuals and families.

Obama was one of several co-sponsors to create the tax in 2000, and he filed the bill in 2003 that made the tax cuts permanent. But it takes more than one person to pass a law, so we rate his statement Mostly True.

• We also found evidence to back up his statement that he "passed laws moving people from welfare to work." This too goes back to his days in the Illinois Legislature. After President Bill Clinton and Congress overhauled welfare in 1996, the states in turn had to change their laws to meet the new federal requirements.

In 1997, Obama was a chief co-sponsor (one of five in the Senate) on the Illinois version of the legislation. But the Illinois governor at the time, Republican Jim Edgar, got a lot of credit as well. Press reports from the time referred to the plan as "the Edgar plan." Because Obama was one of several players, we rated this statement Mostly True.

• For the statement that he "extended health care for wounded troops who'd been neglected," the campaign points to two pieces of legislation. In 2008, Obama and Sen. Claire McCaskill contributed key portions to the National Defense Authorization Act that required post-deployment mental health screenings and a national study on the needs of Iraq veterans. They can at least take some credit for developing the list of requirements, but it wasn't a major extension of benefits. Additionally, Obama missed the final vote on the bill because he was campaigning.

Obama also passed an amendment that picked up the tab for meals and phone calls for Iraq veterans receiving outpatient treatment. We looked at this legislation previously . Obama closed a loophole for outpatient veterans; hospitalized veterans were already covered. So in fairness, this was a tweak to previous legislation.

If Obama had said he had helped extend health care for wounded veterans who'd been neglected, we would have given him a better rating. But he phrased his accomplishment to take more of the credit than that. We found his statement Half True .

Update: This story has been updated to include a ruling on the statement that Obama "extended health care for wounded troops who'd been neglected."