Hillary Clinton was so irked by a couple of Barack Obama campaign mailers that a few days ago she publicly scolded him and said “every Democrat should be outraged.” Clinton herself has been accused of sending misleading mailers to voters, including one that went out shortly after her now infamous “shame on you” news conference. For inundated Ohioans, it’s a question of whom to trust.

The short answer is no one. It’s probably not best to base important political decisions on a glossy piece of mail anyway.

According to the excellent and independent FactCheck.org, both candidates’ mailers are misleading, but not entirely untrue.

The Obama camp sent out two items, one that alleged Hillary Clinton was a NAFTA booster until she started running for president and another that accused her of wanting to force people to buy health care they might not be able to afford.

The first charge is the hardest to parse. As David Sirota has pointed out on this Web site, Clinton is reported to have praised NAFTA. But, as FactCheck.org documents, she is also said to have opposed the agreement privately from within the White House, leading FactCheck to conclude: “We frankly find Clinton’s past position on NAFTA to be ambivalent.”

The second charge is more or less accurate, though lacking in details. Both campaigns have gone a bit overboard in stressing the one major difference in their health care initiatives, the mandate that is at the center of this accusation. It is true that Clinton’s plan would force people to buy insurance, perhaps even if they couldn’t afford it. What the mailer doesn’t mention is that Clinton and Obama both would offer subsidies to make health care more affordable and, by not mandating coverage, Obama’s plan could pass unforeseen costs on to the taxpayer.

Clinton responded to the Obama fliers with outrage, but then sent out her own mailer that distorted the truth. The subject, once again, was NAFTA. Citing two articles that covered the same 2004 event, the mailer portrayed Obama as a free trader while omitting key quotes that moderated his position, including: “The problem in a lot of our trade agreements is that the administration tends to negotiate on behalf of multinational companies instead of workers and communities.”

The good news in all this is the topic. When is the last time, outside of a Dennis Kucinich stump speech, that trade agreements and the plight of the American worker got this much attention?

Read more on FactCheck.org about Obama’s NAFTA and health care mailers.

Read more about Clinton’s response attack.

Read David Sirota’s column on Clinton and NAFTA.

Update: The Associated Press fact checks Clinton and Obama’s records on NAFTA.

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