Two key senators stretch facts when making their case

Valentine’s Day may be next week, but two high-profile senators aren’t showing any love for the truth.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., argued the military is going to have to make some spending cuts because lawmakers have already made trillions in cuts from non-defense programs.

“The American people need to understand that it’s not as if we’ve done nothing for the debt.  $2.6 trillion, $2.6 trillion already we’ve made in cuts. And all those cuts have come from non-defense programs,” Reid said on ABC’s “This Week.”

But those facts don’t match what his party leader said.

President Barack Obama said the government has taken action to reduce the deficit by about $2.5 trillion – but listed only $1.4 trillion of that as actual spending cuts. The rest of the money – the part Reid failed to mention – has been taken from tax increases, including in part increased taxes on wealthy Americans, which Republicans vigorously opposed.

And despite Reid’s statement, the cuts have already targeted the Pentagon.  In fact, the White House unveiled plans to trim the Defense Department’s budget by $330 billion over the next ten years – a number that was included in the president’s $2.5 trillion plan of spending cuts and tax hikes.

Across the political aisle from Reid, Kentucky’s Republican Sen. Rand Paul told the conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation that the U.S. should be prepared for a long haul in the fight against radical Islam.  And Paul said he wasn’t the only senator that was feeling that way.

“When candidate John McCain argued in 2007 that we should remain in Iraq for 100 years, I blanched and wondered what the unintended consequences of prolonged occupation would be,” Paul said.  “But McCain’s call for a 100-year occupation does capture some truth: that the West is in for a long, irregular confrontation not with terrorism, which is simply a tactic, but with Radical Islam.”

But Paul’s fellow Republican senator has been opposed to any long-term occupation in Iraq.  What McCain, a Vietnam vet and former POW, actually said was that the U.S. should be prepared to engage in many parts of the world and offer assistance to countries combating terrorism – so long as American troops aren’t in harms way.

“That’d be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. Then it’s fine with me, I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day,” McCain said, answering a question during a rally for his presidential bid – the quote Paul was referring to.

And note McCain’s use of the word “presence,” a far different meaning than the “occupation” Paul mentions.

Appearing on PBS’s “Charlie Rose” show, Rose asked if American citizens could expect to see a 20 or 25 year troop presence in Iraq.  McCain said no.

“I can see an American presence for a while. But eventually I think because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it that America eventually withdraws,” McCain replied.

So the veteran senator’s opinions are a far cry from the century of occupation that Paul described.  And the $2.5 trillion in spending cuts that Reid claimed missed its factual mark too.

That why Reid and Paul win the Whopper of the Week, a Washington Guardian distinction awarded to examples of misstatements, misrepresentations and miscues from politicians.

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