10/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

FactCheck.Org Skewers McCain Again for Misrepresenting Obama Tax Positions

By Stephen C. Rose

When John McCain is confronted on his lies and distortions, his mumbled code word is "business" -- Corleone-like, head lowered.

As if this justified the low level of his noxious campaign.

It's no wonder the Obama forces are hitting back with telling force. What else can they do?

There are two modifiers of McCain's lying MO.

One is polls that show that the attacks are not that effective. But this does not deter the McCain people. They are on auto-pilot.

Another is the careful extraction of truth from the welter of McCain obfuscation by organizations like FactCheck.

A third modifier would be the media, but to date media willingness to venture into the work-intensive area of ascertaining truth has been ambient at best.

Today FactCheck has given us the latest on McCain's most recent fallacious attack on Obama.

The McCain-Palin campaign has released a new ad that once again distorts Obama's tax plans.

* The ad claims Obama will raise taxes on electricity. He hasn't proposed any such tax. Obama does support a cap-and-trade policy that would raise the costs of electricity, but so does McCain.

* It falsely claims he would tax home heating oil. Actually, Obama proposed a rebate of up to $1,000 per family to defray increased heating oil costs, funded by what he calls a windfall profits tax on oil companies.

* The ad claims that Obama will tax "life savings." In fact, he would increase capital gains and dividends taxes only for couples earning more than $250,000 per year, or singles making $200,000. For the rest, taxes on investments would remain unchanged.

The McCain campaign argues in its documentation for this ad that, whatever Obama says he would do, he will eventually be forced to break his promise and raise taxes more broadly to pay for his promised spending programs. That's an opinion they are certainly entitled to express, and to argue for. But their ad doesn't do that. Instead, it simply presents the McCain camp's opinion as a fact, and it fails to alert viewers that its claims are based on what the campaign thinks might happen in the future.

Here is the text of the ad.

McCain-Palin 2008 Ad: "Dome"

Narrator: When our economy's in crisis, a big government casts a big shadow on us all.

Obama and his liberal Congressional allies want a massive government, billions in spending increases, wasteful pork.

And, we would pay -- painful income taxes, skyrocketing taxes on life savings, electricity and home heating oil.

Can your family afford that?

McCain: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

FactCheck devotes considerable space to debunking the falsehoods. Here is part of what they say:

This isn't the first time the McCain-Palin campaign has claimed that Obama would raise taxes on electricity. The claim is just as false now as it was when it first came up. The campaign bases its charge on a single comment Obama made in an interview with a San Antonio columnist. Obama did in fact say, "What we ought to tax is dirty energy, like coal and, to a lesser extent, natural gas." But, as we said then, the comment is grossly out of context. Obama's remark comes after he was asked whether we ought to tax renewable energy sources. This was not a general call for increasing taxes on coal or natural gas, and Obama certainly does not have any such proposal as part of his public platform.

One could argue that Obama's proposed cap-and-trade program constitutes an indirect tax on electricity. But McCain proposes cap-and-trade, too, and we haven't heard McCain say that he wants to tax your electric bill. These programs are designed to reduce carbon emissions by requiring companies to pay for pollution credits. Since most electricity in the U.S. is generated via coal and natural-gas plants, both carbon-emitting fossil fuels, a cap-and-trade program will result in higher electricity costs.

Perhaps the McCain forces have earned such a general reputation for lying that the media will finally simply refer to their entire output with statements like, Here's another lying ad from the prevaricators in the McCain Camp. But I am not holding my breath.

So we will have to use outfits like FactCheck to ride herd, one lie at a time.