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Dem Debate Fact Check

The four remaining Democrats in the race for president disagreed as often Sunday over whose turn it was to talk as over major policy questions. When they did hit "the issues," they were sometimes at odds with each other, and — occasionally — with the facts.
  • Begin at the beginning
    Speaking the day Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled his country in the face of a rebellion, John Edwards chided the Bush administration for failing to act "when this problem began to develop."

    In fact, Bill Clinton was president when the problem began to develop.

    Haiti's electoral dispute started in the summer of 2000, when Aristide's Lavalas party won legislative elections in which a controversial vote-counting formula decided a handful of seats. The Haitian opposition then boycotted Haiti's presidential election later in the year, tainting Aristide's victory.

  • Trading places
    Revisiting a top theme of the campaign to date, the candidates sparred lengthily over trade. While Edwards and John Kerry went back and forth over their Senate votes, Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich offered deeper critiques of free trade.

    Both lower-rung indicated that the agreements under pinning the World Trade Organization cannot be amended by individual countries.

    "WTO does not permit any modification," Kucinich said. Sharpton chimed in "You cannot change it."

    In fact, the WTO treaty allows some exceptions to its provisions. Countries who sign on are not obligated to accept measures that hurt "public morals," threaten "human, animal or plant life or health," or affect "national treasures of artistic, historic or archaeological value" or "exhaustible natural resources."

    However, the treaty specifies that any exception cannot be "a disguised restriction on international trade." That means that if a country objects to an exception called for by another country, the exception is open to interpretation by the WTO's dispute resolution process.

    A country can be punished if it does not heed the WTO ruling.

  • Tax and spend
    Edwards cited a Washington Post story that faulted Kerry's deficit-reduction plan. The story says Kerry "will run into the same problem Bush is having with soaring deficits, especially considering his myriad spending programs."

    Kerry said the story was inaccurate, because it neglected that "a stimulus is by definition something that you do outside of the budget for one year or two years."

    In fact, The Post said Kerry would extend the Bush tax cuts for people with incomes less than $200,000 a year, provisions that would otherwise expire. Kerry's Web site indicates he supports extending the marriage penalty relief and child tax credit among other measures.

    Those extensions could last for any number of years. And the Congressional Budget Office indicates that the biggest costs of extending the Bush tax cuts would fall more than one or two years into the future, although it is unclear if Kerry would reduce that future cost by restricting the extensions to those with incomes under $200,000.

    And whether or not a stimulus is inside or "outside the budget," as Kerry suggests, it still adds to the federal deficit.

  • Wind beneath his wing
    Kerry was asked if he's a liberal. He punted.

    "Labels are so silly," he said.

    But not in the presidential campaign, according to Kerry's Web site.

    There, the candidate excoriates "right-wing ideologues" for pushing conservatives into federal judgeships, slams the "right-wing assault on the rights of women," and claims the president has "appeased his party's right wing" by skewing scientific decisions along partisan lines.

  • A capital idea
    Arguing Kerry is a longtime insider and establishment figure, Edwards asked Kerry if he thought real change for America would come from Washington.

    "Yes," Kerry replied, "because that's where the Congress of the United States is and that's where 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is."

    That was true, the last time we checked.

    By Jarrett Murphy