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 herself told less than the full story.
To be sure, most of Palin's assertions about Obama echo claims McCain himself 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 seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, another housing finance company, last month 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 1991-1998, 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 any 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 got with help from an executive of Countrywide Financial Corp., 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 2000-2005 to head the Homeownership Alliance, an advocacy group.
Davis has not taken any compensation from his lobbying firm since 2006, the McCain campaign said.
Palin has made other questionable assertions:
_She suggests Obama was disrespectful of U.S. soldiers when he said U.S. troops in Afghanistan were just "air-raiding villages and killing civilians."
The partial quote is misleading. The Illinois senator 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 tells supporters.
Obama has promised a tax cut for those making less than $250,000 per year _ about 90 percent of all taxpayers. Only those making over $250,000 would get tax increases under Obama's proposal.
McCain has pledged not to raise any taxes.
Speaking to reporters aboard her campaign plane, Palin defended her tough talk. When asked if whether 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 in order to finance the $5,000 tax credit. Obama's ads argue the new tax would raise the cost of insurance for employers, forcing millions off the rolls.
In the journal Health Affairs, economists projected McCain's plan would lead 20 million people to lose employer-sponsored insurance, while 21 million people would gain coverage through the individual market.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found McCain's tax credit would be more generous than the current tax break initially but could fall behind in later years. The center also found his plan would increase the deficit by $1.3 trillion over 10 years.
Palin also defended McCain against an Obama campaign TV ad on Social Security that began running last month in Florida and elsewhere. The ad says McCain supported Bush's plan to privatize Social Security and claims McCain supports cutting Social Security benefits in half and "risking Social Security on the stock market."
Palin disputed that.
"We will protect the retirement programs that Americans depend on, above all Social Security," Palin said. "No presidential election cycle is complete ... without the Democratic candidate coming down here to Florida especially and trying to stir up fear and panic on this issue of Social Security."
McCain did support Bush's unsuccessful Social Security plan to allow current workers to voluntarily divert some of their Social Security taxes into private stock accounts. Now, McCain says "nothing is off the table" in ensuring the soundness of the program. But none of what McCain supported would apply to current Social Security recipients.
The benefit cut comes from a separate Bush provision that would have changed how benefits keep up with inflation; independent analysts concluded this change could cut benefits by 50 percent for higher income beneficiaries who retire in 2080.