Politics

09.07.12

Fact Check: Four Beefs With Obama’s DNC Speech

Not every politician can give a great speech and stick to the facts. How did the president do at the DNC on Thursday night?

Ever since Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan made a number of misleading claims in his speech at the Republican National Convention last week, fact checkers have kept a close eye on the assertions candidates from both parties make onstage.

President Barack Obama stepped out as the Democratic Party’s nominee in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday evening, delivering a 37-minute speech that urged Democrats to stay the course. The Daily Beast took a look at the claims Obama made in his speech, finding that while he didn’t tell any outright fibs, he did bend a few facts to his advantage.

1. Increases in Domestic Energy 

Obama said: “In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day—more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades. Now you have a choice—between a strategy that reverses this progress, or one that builds on it. we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more.”

Some of the energy claims Obama made here were a little slippery. The statistic that oil imports fell by 1 million barrels a day comes from a study released by the Obama administration in March. As Republicans have noted, however, much of the increase in domestic oil production during Obama’s tenure took place on private land. As Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute noted in an appearance before a Congressional committee in May of this year, crude oil production on federal lands fell 14 percent in 2011 and natural gas production on federal lands fell by 9 percent over the same period. Independent analysts have also said that some portion of the decline in imports may be attributable to a decreased appetite for oil among cash-strapped Americans.

2. Boots on the Ground

Obama said: “Four years ago I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did.”

Barack Obama certainly oversaw the withdrawal of troops from Iraq while commander-in-chief, but the Status of Forces Agreement that set a date on the drawback of American soldiers was signed by President George W. Bush in December of 2008 in one of the 43rd president’s last acts in office.

3. The Cost of an Education

Obama said: “Millions of students are paying less for college today because we finally took on a system that wasted billions of tax-payer dollars on banks and lenders.

While the college loan reforms Obama worked toward have meant savings for college students, the cost of a four-year college education jumped 15 percent between 2008 and 2010. Student debt has also continued to swell, and in March of 2012, the education debt carried by American students passed $1 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

4. Trimming the Deficit

Obama said: “Independent experts say that my plan would cut our deficit by $4 trillion.

This claim drew some attention when Bill Clinton made it on Wednesday night as well, and just how Obama would achieve that reduction in the deficit in a second term is not completely clear. The number includes $1 trillion in cuts that have already made their way into law, as well as hundreds of billions projected to be saved as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end—though some dispute this way of accounting for the change in war costs. Obama also made the $4 trillion claim in an essay that was distributed at the DNC, and the campaign clarified on Thursday that Obama and Clinton arrived at the $4 trillion figure using the same arithmetic. “President Obama and President Clinton are describing the same thing,” campaign spokesman Adam Fetcher told reporters, “President Obama’s plan to reduce deficits over the next decade by more than $4 trillion, which would also make the debt more than $4 trillion lower at the end of that decade.”