Fact Checking Claims in the VP Debate

10:54 PM, Oct 11, 2012   |    comments
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Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan disputed a range of facts during their debate Thursday in Danville, Ky. Here are a few foreign policy claims worth examining:


Claim: Ryan said President Obama took two weeks to acknowledge the Sept. 11 attack on the Benghazi consulate was conducted by terrorists rather than protests.

The facts: This is mostly false. White House spokesman Jay Carney said at the Sept. 20 White House press briefing that the incident was a terrorist attack. The president himself, speaking on the David Letterman Show on Sept. 18, a week after the attack, said "terrorists and extremists" had attacked U.S. diplomatic installations in Libya and elsewhere, using a controversial video that portrayed the prophet Mohammed as a pedophile as a pretext. In fact, Obama called the assault "an act of terror" in remarks on Sept. 12. But Carney and other top administration officials, including Obama's envoy to the United Nations, continued to describe the incident as part of a protest outside the American diplomatic mission for several days after the incident.

Security cuts

Claim: Biden said Ryan's budget called for a $300 million cut to security of the U.S. embassy in Libya.

The facts: Ryan's budget plan would have cut non-defense discretionary spending by 19% in 2014, according to The Hill newspaper. The blueprint doesn't specify cuts to embassy security, but the Obama campaign says the figure - if applied across the board - would result in a $300 million decrease in funding for protection, construction and maintenance of all U.S. embassies. The Romney campaign disputed the claim, saying no specific cuts were recommended.


The claim: Biden says Romney said he wouldn't move heaven and earth to get Osama bin laden.

The facts: Romney said in an AP interview, "It's not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," according to Politifact.com. But the quote was taken out of context. He said the country would be safer by only "a small percentage" and would see "a very insignificant increase in safety" because another terrorist would take his place. Romney also said the country should not focus on one person, but should have a "broader strategy to defeat the Islamic jihad movement," according to FactCheck.org.

In a subsequent interview with CNBC, he clarified that he would aggressively pursue bin Laden but that another leader would rise to power.


Claim: Biden says that Mitt Romney wanted to leave 30,000 troops in Iraq beyond the end of the U.S-Iraq status of forces agreement that expired at the end of 2011.

The facts: Obama administration officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government negotiated for months that would have allowed a small residual force to remain in Iraq beyond 2011 under a new status of forces agreement. The negotiations, however, fell apart because Maliki believed he would be unable to nudge the Iraqi parliament to agree to immunity for U.S. forces in American troops operating in Iraq.

After Obama announced his plan to withdraw the last remaining troops from Iraq in October 2011, Romney issued a statement criticizing the president's "astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women."

Romney upped the ante in a town-hall-style meeting in Mason City, Iowa, on Dec. 29. "How in the world the president was incapable and unwilling to exert the personal effort to put in place a status of forces agreement which would provide protection for our troops while they were in Iraq and then leave at least 10 to 20 or 30,000 behind to help in the transition beyond me," Romney said.


The claim: Biden said sanctions are damaging Iran's economy as oil exports drop 50% and its currency falls.

The facts: This is mostly true. Iraq's exports fell from 2 million barrels of oil a day in early 2012 to 1 million barrels a day by July, though they recovered to 1.2 million by September, according to the Financial Times.


The claim: Biden said Ryan's Medicare plan would force seniors to pay an extra $6,400 per year.

The facts: This figure actually applies to the first of three Medicare proposals Ryan has made, as he tweaks his core idea of shifting Medicare toward a voucher-based approach for people now younger than 55. It was calculated by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and confirmed by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Even so, The most recent version of Ryan's plan may require seniors to pay as little as $800 a year more than under current law, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported in August.

Tax cuts

The claim: Biden said Romney and Ryan are pushing the continuation of a tax cut that will give an additional $500 billion in tax cuts to 120,000 families.

The facts: Biden made this claim referring to the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 during a speech last month in Green Bay, Wis., Romney would make these cuts permanent. Obama wants to end the cuts for taxpayers with incomes of $250,000 and above.

At that time, Politifact checked the claim noting that if the tax credits were permanently extended those in the upper tax brackets will benefit.

"Overall, the top fifth of earners got 65% of the savings from the Bush cuts as a whole, according to a Tax Policy Center study of the cuts' impact as of 2010.

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