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We got a chain e-mail recently that purports to list 90 accomplishments from President Barack Obama's first six months in office.
Honestly, most of the chain e-mails we get are of the anti-Obama variety. This one is decidedly positive. It also breaks with the tradition of all-capital letters, liberal use of exclamation points and, in a serious breach of style, it's signed.
The list was penned by Robert Watson, a professor of American Studies at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Watson, a registered Democrat who says he voted for Obama, lectures a few times a week in the community on current issues and topics in history. He also hosts town hall events on political issues and has published a number of books on the presidency and American politics/history.
Watson said he spoke last spring at some Democratic political clubs and was asked by some members to compile the list as talking points to balance some of the claims about the Obama administration coming from Republicans. The list has since gone viral, and now Watson fields several calls and e-mails from faraway states every day.
"You are a Marxist!"
"Leave this country and stop lying about Obama!"
"Obama is a dictator and you are his pawn!"
Watson says he has rhinoceros skin, so the jabs don't bother him, but he was amazed by how many people have claimed numerous items on the list are flat-out wrong, even when easily verifiable.
We scanned the list and while we may quibble with a few that have not been fully accomplished, they are by and large accurate. And we should note that many conservative critics would likely contest the phase "accomplishments."
We decided to take a look at a couple of the items that piqued our curiosity.
We examined No. 46, that Obama "closed offshore tax safe havens" and concluded that while Obama has set out a plan to curb overseas tax havens, and Congress has introduced legislation backing up that plan, no legislation has passed. So we thought it was premature to list that as an accomplishment, and we ruled it Half True.
We also looked at No. 34, that Obama has "visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in office" and found that Obama's jet-setting has indeed set him apart from his predecessors. We ruled that claim True.
Watson said he never intended for such mass distribution of the list, "but that is the nature of things today so it is to be expected."
And if people doubt other items on the list, he encourages them to check it out.
"I encourage everyone to consult multiple sources, to be more civil in their discussion, and to be a critical thinker," Watson said.