Check the facts prior to voting

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 30, 2008

The issue: Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign rhetoric reaches down into Alabama.

Our position: Wise voters will check facts and not depend on legends that spring up during campaigns.

Like many others during last year’s Jubilee, we were struck by the relationship Sen. Barack Obama claimed to the Kennedy family.

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In a speech here in Selma, Obama said his “very existence” was because of the generosity of the Kennedy family. He said the family had paid for his father to travel from Kenya to America on a college scholarship. It was in Hawaii that his father met his mother, a woman from Kansas.

But in Sunday’s Washington Post, Michael Dobbs, the Fact Checker, took a deeper look at the claims.

Facts are, the Kennedy family did not provide the money to airlift 81 Kenyan students to the United States in 1959. That would have been the group that included Obama’s father.

Instead, the Kennedys became involved a year later in 1960 with a $100,000 donation that paid for a second airlift in September 1960.

In fact, as Dobbs points out, Obama was all over the historical map when he pointed out that Kennedy was in the White House when this happened and that the president wanted a way to combat communism and counter charges of hypocrisy about the civil rights movement.

Actually, again, no.

The airlifts began because Tom Mboya, a Kenyan nationalist, came to the U.S. in 1959 and 1960 to ask Americans to help educate young Africans. Mboya didn’t talk to the Kennedys until Obama’s father was already in Hawaii.

Some of the earlier donations &8212; those in 1959 &8212; came from Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.

In Sunday’s story, Dobbs traces the entire history of Barack Obama Sr. in America through the various historical documents and papers.

When approached by Dobbs, the presidential candidate’s spokesman, Bill Burton, said Obama had made a mistake by crediting the Kennedy family with helping his father come to America.

Candidates misspeak. They get caught up in the moment, as do many. A good story becomes better.

It is the duty of wise voters to check facts on every level and not depend on what comes out of a politician’s mouth.

After all, candidates are selling themselves.

We must be wise consumers.