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Originally published October 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 8, 2008 at 11:27 AM

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Palin stretches truth on election trail

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin tells audiences the election is about the "truthfulness and judgment" needed to be president. But the Alaska governor often stretches the truth herself.

The Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin tells audiences the election is about the "truthfulness and judgment" needed to be president. But the Alaska governor often stretches the truth herself.

She has exaggerated the nature of Barack Obama's personal ties to a former 1960s radical and falsely claimed the Democratic presidential candidate plans to raise most people's taxes.

On Tuesday, she tried rebutting the Illinois senator's criticisms of Republican presidential candidate John McCain over health care and Social Security. She said Obama was misleading and wrong, but she told less than the full story.

Most of Palin's assertions about Obama echo claims McCain has made or lines from Republican TV ads.

At a rally Tuesday, Palin tried to link Obama to the failure of housing giant Fannie Mae by noting that two Obama supporters once led the troubled company. The government last month seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, another housing-finance company, to prevent their collapse from worsening the global credit crisis.

"What's next, claiming that he didn't know two of his biggest supporters were running Fannie Mae, the subprime-mortgage giant?" Palin said. "That has done harm to the American economy."

She referred to Jim Johnson, who chaired Fannie Mae from 1991-98, and Franklin Raines, his successor who stepped down in 2004 in an accounting scandal.

But Palin exaggerated Obama's ties to Raines and Johnson while omitting mention of a closer relationship between a top McCain aide and the failed housing giants.

Raines and Johnson support Obama but do not have strong ties to him or his campaign. Johnson briefly headed Obama's vice-presidential search last spring but resigned amid controversy over loans he received with help from an executive of Countrywide Financial, a lender damaged by the mortgage meltdown.

Meanwhile, until August, Freddie Mac paid $15,000 a month to a lobbying firm headed by McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. The payment came on top of more than $30,000 a month Davis was paid directly by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from 2000-05 to head the Homeownership Alliance, an advocacy group.

Davis has not taken compensation from his lobbying firm since 2006, the McCain campaign said.

Palin has made other questionable assertions:

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• She suggested Obama was disrespectful of U.S. soldiers when he said troops in Afghanistan were just "air-raiding villages and killing civilians."

The partial quote is misleading. Obama said once, in August 2007, when pressing to send more troops to Afghanistan: "We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops" so they aren't just "air-raiding villages and killing civilians."

Shortly before his comment, an Associated Press analysis showed that more civilians in Afghanistan had been killed by Western forces than by militants.

• Her claim that Obama would raise most people's taxes. "The phoniest claim in a campaign that's full of them is that Barack Obama is going to cut your taxes," she said.

Obama has promised a tax cut for those making less than $250,000 a year, about 90 percent of all taxpayers. Only couples making more than $250,000 or individuals making more than $200,000 would be taxed more under Obama's proposal.

McCain has pledged not to raise taxes.

Aboard her campaign plane, Palin defended her tough talk. Asked if her claims suggest Obama is dishonest, Palin said, "I'm not saying he's dishonest. But in terms of judgment, in terms of being able to answer a question forthrightly, it has two different parts to this — that judgment and that truthfulness."

At a fundraiser Tuesday, Palin also pushed back against an Obama TV ad suggesting McCain's health-care plan would force employers to drop coverage for millions.

"Every middle-class American family will have a $5,000 credit, tax credit, to buy the health-care coverage that you choose and Barack Obama's calling that a tax," Palin said. "I don't know how he can capture this and spin it into being a tax on Americans. No, it is a credit."

In fact, McCain's plan would tax health-care benefits people receive from employers to finance the $5,000 tax credit. Obama's ads argue that the new tax would raise the cost of insurance for employers, forcing millions off the rolls.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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