Factcheck.org: Misleading Ads in Texas

The American Leadership Project, an independent group raising large donations to support Clinton, is running two ads in Texas praising her health care plan. One misrepresents what FactCheck.org said about her plan. Another plucks a positive phrase, movie review-style, from a decidedly mixed analysis.

The first ad says FactCheck.org said that "Hillary Clinton's healthcare plan would help every American get affordable, quality health care" while Obama's plan would leave millions without coverage. What we actually said is that Clinton's plan also "would leave out a million people or perhaps more."

The second ad quotes The Washington Post as saying Clinton's plan "beats anything else out there." It could also have quoted the same article by a business columnist as saying that her plan contains features that are "bad tax policy and bad health policy" and that she was presenting her plan as "the health-care equivalent of a free lunch."

Word got out late last month that a new, independent group had formed to raise money from Hillary Clinton's supporters in amounts too large for her campaign to accept directly. Although the group had reportedly planned to raise $10 million by the end of February, The American Leadership Project had been silent since posting a sample ad on YouTube, leading some to wonder whether the contributions had failed to materialize.

Now, two ads have begun running in Texas, hitting the airwaves just hours before the start of voting in the March 4 primary there. And we find both worthy of criticism.

     American Leadership Project Ad: "Health Insurance"

We Said What?
The first ad says that the difference between Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's health care plans is that Clinton's "would help every American get affordable, quality health care," while Obama's "would leave as many as 15 million Americans uncovered." It cites our Feb. 14 article as the authority. But that's a distortion of what we actually said.

In fact, both Clinton and Obama would "help every American" by making subsidized coverage available to low-income persons and also, they claim, by reducing health care costs and insurance premiums. The major difference is that Clinton proposes a personal mandate that would require all individuals to obtain coverage, while Obama proposes a mandate only for children. As a result, it's likely that more people would be covered by Clinton's plan. We quoted independent experts who predict that Obama's plan would leave out 15 million or more who would choose to go without coverage, but we also said that even Clinton's mandate "would leave out a million people or perhaps more, depending on how severe the penalties would be for those who don't comply." Clinton won't specify how tough those penalties might be.

"...Travolta is as smooth as ever..."
The second ad includes a graphic that says, "Clinton health care plan: 'beats anything else out there' - Washington Post, 9/19/07." In fact, that's not an editorial statement from the newspaper itself; it's a phrase from a review headlined "A Healthy Dose of Hillary" by Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein. Furthermore, this reminds us of the (actual) Hollywood movie blurb we used at the top of this section. The reviewer really said that "although Travolta is as smooth as ever, the picture is a bust."

     American Leadership Project Ad: "Count On"

Pearlstein praises Clinton's plan in the first half of his column, and his review is, on balance, a positive one. He says, for instance, that Clinton's plan is "internally consistent and realistic in both a financial sense and a political one," and that it "incorporates the lessons learned from the failure to enact a more ambitious effort in 1993." But the column isn't all puppies and kisses. Pearlstein also argues that Clinton presents her plan as "the health-care equivalent of a free lunch" while downplaying the "trade-offs implicit" in it. He also characterizes her plan to have "$25,000-a-year retail workers subsidize the health benefits of $60,000-a-year auto workers" as "lousy."

Pearlstein closes with the suggestion that Clinton should stop soft-pedaling her health care plan and "tell voters the hard truths they have suspected all along but don't want to confront." We'll leave it to others to decide how well Clinton has carried out that advice. In the meantime, we note that this ad from the American Leadership Project is notably lacking in the telling hard truths department.

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