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Molly Moorhead
By Molly Moorhead August 26, 2012

Romney ad says Obama attacked McCain on Medicare in ‘08

As the presidential campaigns trade attacks about Medicare, a new TV ad from Mitt Romney accuses President Barack Obama of hypocrisy.

The ad says that in 2008, Obama attacked his opponent, U.S. Sen. John McCain, for wanting to cut Medicare -- and then did so himself to to pay for Obamacare.

The ad uses a clip of Obama speaking at a campaign rally in October 2008.

"Sen. McCain would pay for part of his plan by making drastic cuts in Medicare, $882 billion worth," Obama says from a podium.

The ad then says Obama "cut $700 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare" -- a claim PolitiFact previously rated Half True -- and concludes with another clip of Obama saying "it ain’t right."

"No, Mr. President," the announcer says, "it ain't right."

Here, we’ll rewind to 2008 to see how candidate Obama handled the delicate topic of Medicare. It turns out we fact-checked Obama's claim back then.

Rallying voters in Virginia

We went back to a transcript of the 2008 event to make sure Obama's comments were not taken out of context. Speaking before a crowd of more than 8,000 on Oct. 17, 2008, Obama unloaded on McCain’s Medicare proposal, according to a transcript of the event:

"It turns out, Sen. McCain would pay for part of his plan by making drastic cuts in Medicare, $882 billion worth, $882 billion in Medicare cuts to pay for an ill-conceived, badly thought-through health care plan that won't provide more health care, to people, even though Medicare is already facing a looming shortfall.

"Now, this should come as no surprise. It's entirely consistent with Sen. McCain's record during his 26 years in Congress, where time and again he's opposed Medicare. In fact, Sen. McCain has voted against protecting Medicare 40 times -- 40 times, he's failed to stand up for Medicare.

"So what would Sen. McCain's cuts mean for Medicare, at a time when more and more Americans are relying on it? It would mean a cut of more than 20 percent in Medicare benefits next year.

"If you count on Medicare, it would mean fewer places to get care and less freedom to choose your own doctors. You'll pay more for your drugs. You'll receive fewer services. You'll get lower-quality care.

"I don't think that's right. In fact, it ain't right. (Cheers.) When you've worked hard your whole life and pay into the system and done everything right, you shouldn't have the carpet pulled out from under you when you least expect it and can least afford it."

An ad, and ensuing criticism

Back in 2008, the Obama campaign released a television ad making the same basic claim.

"How would your golden years turn out under John McCain?" the announcer said in the 2008 ad. "His health care plan would cut Medicare by $800 billion. That means a 22 percent cut in benefits. Higher premiums and co-pays. More expensive prescription drugs. Nursing home care could suffer. ... After a lifetime of work, seniors' health care shouldn't be a gamble. John McCain's plan? It's not the change we need."

PolitiFact examined the claim from Obama’s speech about McCain’s Medicare plan and rated it False.

"McCain has never talked about Medicare benefit and service cuts to pay for his health care plan. Instead, his campaign says it would achieve the necessary cost savings by overhauling Medicare reimbursement policies, streamlining treatments for certain chronic diseases, cracking down on fraud and waste, expanding the use of lower-cost generic drugs and assorted other steps," we wrote.

While not the same in every detail, McCain’s ideas for cost savings sound an awful lot like the ones Obama has pursued as president.

The New York Times was similarly critical of the 2008 ad, saying it  "does mischaracterize Mr. McCain's plan by stitching together vague language from a news report with back-of-the envelope calculations by a partisan policy group."

Our ruling

Romney’s new ad says "candidate Barack Obama attacked John McCain for proposing cuts to Medicare."

That's an accurate description of what Obama said. We rate Romney's claim True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

"It Ain't Right," Romney campaign ad, Aug. 26, 2012

Newark Star-Ledger, "Obama accuses McCain of plan to trim Medicare," Oct. 18, 2008, via Nexis

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "McCain, Obama grapple on health care," Oct. 18, 2008, via Nexis

PolitiFact, "Obama knows McCain's intentions better than McCain?" Oct. 20, 2008

New York Times, "Campaigns Tangle Over Health Care," Oct. 18, 2008, via Nexis

Washington Post, "Obama's Iffy Numbers On McCain Health Plan," Oct. 22, 2008

PolitiFact, "Romney says Obama 'cuts' $716B from Medicare to pay for Obamacare," Aug. 20, 2012

Federal News Service, transcript of Roanoke, Va., campaign rally with Sen. Barack Obama, Oct. 17, 2008, via Nexis

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Romney ad says Obama attacked McCain on Medicare in ‘08

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