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Washington Wrap

Dotty Lynch, Beth Lester, Allison Davis, David Berlin and Allen Alter from the CBS News Political and Campaign '04 Units have the latest from Washington and from the trail.


Wednesday's Headlines:

  • Debate Fact Checking
  • Bush Prepares By Speaking
  • Kerry Prepares for Next Debate
  • Cheney Takes Victory Lap in Florida, Too
  • Edwards, The Day After
  • Clinton Fundraising Under Investigation

    Fact Checking: Fact-checking is at an all-time high Wednesday after a website affiliated with the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania called Factcheck.org received significant attention during the vice presidential debate. Vice President Cheney referenced the website as a group that had disputed some of the allegations regarding the vice president's actions while at Halliburton. Cheney cited the website's URL incorrectly, calling it Factcheck.com, as opposed to its proper URL, www.factcheck.org. After the slight gaffe by Cheney, web users who type in Factcheck.com are now re-directed to GeorgeSoros.com, a site maintained by the financial power behind such liberal groups as MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress. That site now leads with the headline, "Why we must not re-elect George Bush."

    Here is what the real Factcheck.org reports about the issues covered in Tuesday night's debate:

    On Halliburton: In his attack on Cheney's wrongdoings while at Halliburton, Edwards implied that Cheney was in charge of the company when it did business with Libya in violation of U.S. sanctions. According to Factcheck.org, that incident happened long before the vice president joined Halliburton. But, Edwards was correct in his assessment of some ongoing investigation into Halliburton accounting procedures: Halliburton failed to disclose some accounting practices which increased their earnings outlook, reports the website.

    On Combat Pay: Senator Edwards accused the Bush-Cheney administration of lobbying Congress to cut combat pay for troops on the ground in Iraq. Actually, according to Factcheck.org's research, "the Defense Department proposed allowing a temporary pay increase for all troops worldwide (even those not in Iraq or Afghanistan) to expire, and promised to maintain current pay levels for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with separate pay raises if necessary."

    On Voting for the War: Vice President Cheney said to Sen. Edwards, "You voted for the war, and then you voted against supporting the troops..." which is a twist of his words. The Iraq resolution, for which both Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry voted, actually left the decision for war up to the President. In October of 2002, reports Factcheck.org, Edwards said, "strong domestic support and a broad international coalition will make it less likely that force would need to be used."

    On Job Loss: Both Edwards and Cheney cited selected job loss numbers, reports Factcheck.org. Edwards said, "1.6 million private sector jobs have been lost, 2.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost." These numbers are correct but they leave out employment growth numbers in the public sector. The net loss in total employment, according to Fact Check is "913,000 as of August, the most recent figures available." Cheney claimed that Senator Edwards' job loss data was out of date but according to the Fact Check website that is not true; Edwards' data is recent.

    On the First Meeting: In claiming that Sen. Edwards has a poor attendance record in the Senate, Cheney said that Tuesday night was the first time in which the two had met. But in a transcript from a prayer breakfast in February of 2001, Cheney is acknowledged among the guests, says Factcheck.org. Various Democrats are circulating a picture of the two to make this point.

    Republicans and Democrats, in their own spin cycle, are pushing fact checks as well. The Democrats are focusing on Cheney's continued comments about a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. During the debate on Tuesday night Cheney said, "I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11." In emails circulating Wednesday morning, the Democrats point to a Washington Post article from September of 2003 saying, "Cheney described Iraq as 'the geographic base of the terrorist who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

    In turn, the Republicans are citing a Washington Post article from Wednesday that disputes an Edwards quote from the debate. "Edwards asserted that 'millionaires sitting by their swimming pool pay a lower tax rate than the men and women who are receiving paychecks for serving' in Iraq. President Bush last year cut the tax rate on dividends to 15 percent, whereas most soldiers would be in a 15 percent tax bracket -- and pay an effective rate much less after taking deductions for children and mortgages."

    Bush Prepares By Speaking: On Tuesday, President Bush travels to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for what is billed as a major speech on the war on terror and the economy and then flies to Farmington Hills, Mich. for a rally at Oakland County Community College. Bush will then return to the White House for the evening. CBS News' Mark Knoller reports:

    Knoller Nugget: It was must-see TV at the White House as President Bush stayed up past his normal bedtime to watch the vice presidential debate. When it was over, a spokesman says Bush was quick to telephone his running mate and congratulate him for a job well done.

    The spokesman quoted the President as telling Dick Cheney he did both a "great" and "outstanding" job. Of course, if Mr. Bush thought otherwise, they wouldn't tell us.

    On Tuesday, gearing up for his own debate on Friday with John Kerry, the President begins the day with a campaign in Pennsylvania. The White House says the address is a "significant speech on the two highest priorities facing the nation: Iraq and the Economy." The speech is meant to be an indictment of Kerry's approach to both issues. Bush has repeatedly charged that Kerry's record of flip-flops and mixed signals on Iraq shows he has a "fundamental misunderstanding" of the war on terror. And on the economy, Mr. Bush says Kerry will raise taxes and spend more - the opposite of a sound policy.

    The speech also gives the President his first chance to respond to the assertion by Ambassador Paul Bremer, former US administrator in Iraq, that more American troops were needed after Saddam was toppled to stop looting and lawlessness.

    Bremer tried to clarify his remarks Tuesday at Michigan State University, saying they had been somewhat distorted by the media. He said he believes the US had enough troops in Iraq at the start, "because we won the war in a very short three weeks."

    But, looking back, he said it would have been better to stop the looting that was widespread after Saddam was toppled. Bremer said: "One way to have stopped the looting would have been to have more troops on the ground. That's a retrospective wisdom of mine, looking backwards. I think there are enough troops there now for the job we are doing." The White House says the President accepted the judgment of US military commanders that they had all the troops they needed.

    As Bush responds to Bremer, the speech represents a general change in strategy. The speech in Wilkes-Barre was originally to focus on the issue of Medical Liability Reform. In a shift of strategy, the White House decided the President needed to stay focused on Iraq and the economy.

    A standard stump speech by Mr. Bush is expected later in the day in Michigan when he addresses a rally at Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills.

    By traveling to Pennsylvania and Michigan, the President is once again reaching out to two states he lost in 2000. Wednesday marks his 39th visit as President to Pennsylvania and 22nd stop in Michigan. Together, they have 38 electoral votes, 14% of the 270 needed for election.

    Kerry Prepares for the Next Debate: John Kerry is in the battleground state of Colorado on Wednesday. No public events so far, but he and Teresa's pre-taped "family segment" on Dr. Phil airs on Wednesday afternoon. CBS News' Steve Chaggaris reports on Kerry's attempt to make news on Tuesday:

    Trail Byte: As John Kerry spends the next two days holed up in Englewood, Colorado preparing for Friday's second presidential debate, his campaign is probably hoping he remembers this lesson: read exactly what is prepared for you by your staff.

    On Tuesday, Kerry's campaign promised reporters the candidate would start his town hall meeting in Tipton, Iowa by mentioning Paul Bremer's comments about the number of troops in Iraq. In fact, the campaign was so ready to go that they even handed out Kerry's prepared text in advance.

    "Today, we learned that the top official who was in charge of Iraq after the invasion, Paul Bremer, now believes we made two mistakes in Iraq," Kerry was to say, according to the prepared remarks. "One, we didn't deploy enough troops to get the job done; and two, we didn't contain the violence and looting after Saddam was ousted.

    "Folks, for weeks, I have been asking George Bush to be as candid as he can with the American people. But maybe he is simply incapable of facing the truth. It's now clear that everyone knew the facts about Iraq. But the President's stubbornness prevented him from learning about these mistakes and getting it right," the text continued.

    Here's what came out of Kerry's mouth instead: "Just today we have learned that America's top official, who was responsible for managing the Coalition Provisional Authority, has acknowledged two big mistakes -- those are two they've acknowledged. Number one, but they're not insignificant: Paul Bremer, who was running the Coalition Provisional Authority, admitted we didn't deploy enough troops to get the job done and two we didn't contain the violence after Saddam Hussein was deposed," Kerry said before he digressed for 51 seconds.

    He finally interrupted himself and tried to salvage what he could saying, "I can run down a - I'm not going to spend all my time on it today. But there are a long list of mistakes and I'm glad that Paul Bremer has finally admitted at least two of them and the president of the United States needs to tell the truth to the American people."

    Realizing that Kerry "didn't hit it," according to one aide, the campaign hastily set up a press conference following the Tipton town hall meeting, to give the candidate one more chance to deliver the concisely written statement, which he did.

    Cheney Takes His Victory Lap in Florida, Too: Vice President Cheney and his wife Lynne hold a town hall in Tallahassee and meet with small business owners in Gainesville. CBS News' Josh Gross reports on Camp Cheney:

    Trail Byte: There was no shortage of opinion about who won the veep debate. Both sides flooded email accounts and swamped phone banks to offer analysis just minutes after the first question was asked.

    Reporters on the floor on the filing center were cornered by partisan spinners before their favored candidate even finished talking. Everyone in Cleveland had something to say about the debate except for one person: Dick Cheney.

    Unlike Senator Edwards, who spoke earlier in the day to a town hall meeting, the Vice President's first public words Tuesday came after he sat down on stage across form his debate opponent. Similarly, those looking for reaction or reflection from the Vice President on the event may have a long wait.

    Minutes after the debate ended, Cheney, his wife Lynne, and granddaughter Kate, motorcaded across Cleveland to address well-wishers and supporters. Accompanied by pounding dance music, Cheney stood grinning widely as he was introduced by Lynne to the ecstatic crowd.

    "There is just one word for it - awesome!" Lynne told the audience as they waved placards and cheered wildly. "Your welcome tonight has given us the energy we need to push through to victory!" When the Vice President got to the podium, those in the audience looking for a self examination of the debate by Cheney were disappointed. He hardly made mention of the contest and did not reference his opponent. The sterile comments focused more on the importance of the proceedings.

    "These debates are always interesting. You spend a great deal of time thinking about them and getting ready for them. It is a highly important part of the process," was all he said, exhausting the topic.

    It was less an attempt to avoid the subject as it was to refocus attention back on the overall race. "The important thing, of course, is that four weeks from tonight we will select the next President of the United States," he quickly reminded the crowd.

    For days before the debate, the Bush/Cheney campaign stressed that Tuesday's debate was not about Edwards vs. Cheney. That approach continued afterwards as the Vice President spent much more time on the importance of re-electing the President Bush. He also stressed the importance of the volunteers' campaign work. "Every phone call, every time you ring a doorbell, every dollar that is contributed, every hour of volunteer time is absolutely crucial to making this a success."

    "Now we all know how close the election was. We're going to try to do better this time," Cheney said, promising to hold up his end of the deal. To set an example, the Vice President jetted off to Florida on Wednesday morning for several days of campaigning in the state that was so crucial in the 2000 election.

    Edwards, The Day After:After rallying in Cleveland post-debate John Edwards flew to Florida and holds a noon rally in West Palm Beach. He then heads to Greensboro, NC. Despite the decision of the Kerry campaign to pull out of North Carolina, Edwards is returning to his home state to make up for a cancelled event in July when his voice was weak. CBS News' Bonney Kapp reports on the mood of Camp Edwards:

    Trail Byte: "How'd you think I did, Miles?" was among the first questions posed by John Edwards to campaign advisor Miles Lackey following the debate, according to one backstage source. It's unclear what Lackey's response was, but Senator Kerry seemed pleased. "You held them accountable. You did a great, great job," Kerry told his running mate in a post-debate phone call recorded by cameras.

    Win, lose, or draw -- depending on whose spin you buy and which poll you cite -- Edwards came out swinging in his first ever one-on-one debate. Often criticized for not being a strong enough Democratic attack dog, Edwards set the tone for the often-heated debate in his opening remarks. "Mr. Vice President, you are not being straight with the American people," he accused in his first response to Dick Cheney's defense of the administration's Iraq policy.

    Edwards balanced his accusations with a bit of token hope and optimism in his closing remarks but the senator mainly pointed fingers at the administration for what he called failed policies in around the world and at home on issues like jobs and healthcare.

    "Did I fight hard enough for you?" an enthusiastic Edwards later asked a crowd of about 2,000 who waited hours in the cold to hear the senator at a late night Cleveland rally. "I was there tonight to fight for you, John [Kerry] is fighting for you-that's what this fight is about and we're also fighting to make sure the American people hear the truth, right?" he continued as someone in the crowd yelled out, "Sock it to 'em!"

    "He was very aggressive," spokesman Mark Kornblau said after the debate, but was quick to add that Edwards "doesn't see this as a fight between politicians. He doesn't see care about that. He cares about fighting for the country and he takes that very personally."

    A "fight between politicians" played out when the Vice President pulled a few punches of his own in a less than subtle reference to Edwards' political ambitions and when pointing out Edwards' no-show record as a U.S. senator.

    Responding to Cheney's memorable line that debate night was the first time he'd met the senator, Edwards told rally-goers this inaccurate assessment was "continuing this pattern" of deceit. Citing two occasions where the two had met, Edwards reported his wife approached Cheney on stage after the debate. "She reminded him about the truth and come November we're going to remind him the American people do not want four more years of George W. Bush."

    Edwards also took a jab at moderator Gwen Iffel's omission of healthcare from the debate's itinerary. "I was glad to be able to get a chance tonight although it took a little work, to be able to lay out our healthcare plan, which America needs to hear," he said before moving back to the competition.

    Attempting to paint Cheney as a politician void of hope for the future, Edwards concluded his rally saying, "So since we didn't hear any of it from the Vice President tonight, since we didn't hear any from the President last Thursday night, how 'bout if we hear a little bit tonight." He continued just before midnight, "Hope is on the way."

    Justice Department Eyes Hillary: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is being targeted by the Justice Department for suspected fund-raising violations in her 2000 Senate campaign, reports the Associated Press. Prosecutors are particularly interested in a man named Peter Paul, an indicted businessman.

    The FBI claims that the former first lady's campaign attempted to spend more money on the election by deliberately understating their fund-raising costs. Prosecutors believe that Peter Paul, a three-time felon who hosted a Los Angles fund-raising event for the Senator in 2000, helped the campaign in order to get a pardon from Clinton's husband, then-president Bill Clinton.

    A 2002 FBI affidavit which was unsealed in the summer says, "The event's costs exceeded $1 million, but the required forms filed by New York Senate 2000 ... months after the event incorrectly disclosed that the cost of the event was only $523,000." The document added, "It appears that the true cost of the event was deliberately understated in order to increase the amount of funds available to New York Senate 2000 for federal campaign activities."

    Attorneys for Sen. Clinton and the former chief fund-raiser for New York Senate 2000, David Rosen, say their clients have done nothing wrong. "New York Senate 2000 properly reported all donations in 2000," Mrs. Clinton's attorney, David Kendall told the Associated Press.

    Quote of the Day: "Well, that's all you got." --Debate moderator Gwen Ifill's response to Vice President Cheney saying, "I can respond, Gwen, but it's gonna take more than 30 seconds."

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