Foreign Policy Debate

10.17.12

Obama vs. Romney Presidential Debate Round Two: Who Lied?

Romney was wrong when he said Obama doubled the deficit. The president misled when he said he cut taxes by $3,600. The Daily Beast turns to the Internet’s reliable fact-checkers to reveal the truth—or falsity—of the debaters’ claims.

The town-hall-style showdown between presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Barack Obama was facilitated by voters’ questions and filled with lies. From the three-way debate between the candidates and moderator Candy Crowley over the Obama administration’s handling of the U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, to the exaggerated promises of tax cuts and job creation, The Daily Beast takes a look at the night’s most glaring factual errors.

Obama: “Let’s take the money that we’ve been spending on war over the last decade to rebuild America, roads, bridges, schools.”

The Associated Press immediately jumped on one of the president’s first comments of the debate, pointing out that the U.S. government has been funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with borrowed money. “In fact, the government borrows nearly 40 cents for every dollar it spends,” the AP notes. “Thus using money that had been earmarked for wars to build schools and infrastructure would involve even more borrowing, adding to the federal deficit.”

Romney: He’ll create 12 million jobs during his first term.

Mitt’s said this before, including in a TV ad earlier this week—which the Washington Post gave “Four Pinocchios”—during the last presidential debate. Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler turns to the Romney campaign’s policy paper to explain how his economic plan would yield far fewer than 12 million jobs. While the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that, even if the economy is pushed into a recession, 9.06 million jobs will be created between 2013 and 2017, Moody’s Analytics thinks regardless of who’s in the White House, 12.3 million jobs will be emerge.

Obama: “Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, ‘This plant kills,’ and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal.”

In 2003, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stood in front of the Salem Harbor coal plant, said it was killing people, and declared he could not protect jobs if it meant killing people. Obama got that part right. Where the president was mistaken was when he said Mitt “took great pride” in closing the plant, since it’s still open.

Romney: “We have his own record which is we have four consecutive years where he said he was running for office he would cut the deficit in half, instead he has doubled it.”

Romney keeps saying this and he keeps getting shot down. While he’s right that Obama has not fulfilled his pledge to halve the deficit, he has not doubled it by any means. Politifact explains how Romney even gets to this point: by comparing today’s deficit to what it was at the end of 2008. This doesn’t include the $700 billion added to the deficit by President Bush’s first Wall Street bailout. They argue, instead, that during his time in office Obama actually has shrunk the deficit by 8 percent.

Obama: “I cut taxes by $3,600.”

This claim is a bit misleading. Glenn Kessler makes sure to clarify that this $3,600 was cut over four years—not all at once, as Obama’s statement might suggest. He also notes that, even if he successfully extends Bush-era tax cuts for those with yearly incomes of $250,000 or less, taxes will inevitably go up because Obama hasn’t made any plans to extend the payroll tax cut or renew the Making Work Pay tax credit.

Romney: “We of course don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.”

This has not been true since 2004, when the ban on some semi-automatic firearms signed by Bill Clinton in 1994 expired. FactCheck.org called Romney out on making a similar comment following the Aurora, Colo., shooting to which his campaign responded that he was talking about the bombs in James Holmes’s apartment, not the weapon he used in the movie theater.

Romney: “It took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”

Moderator Candy Crowley interrupted the Republican candidate to insist that, “He did, in fact, sir,” refer to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya as an act of terror while addressing the country from the Rose Garden the day after it took place. The New York Times and other fact-checkers on duty during the debate note that, technically, Crowley was right. The president said, in his speech on Sept. 12, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”

Still, determining whether Romney’s claim is true is complicated. Obama did mention “acts of terror” in his speech following the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, but in an interview days later he referred to “natural protests.” Tuesday night, after the debate, Crowley explained her interjection and conceded that Romney was correct in saying the Obama administration avoided confirming the Benghazi attack had been an act of terror.

Obama: “In my hometown of Chicago there’s an awful lot of violence, and they’re not using AK-47s. They’re using cheap handguns.”

Cheap handguns may often be used in many of the Windy City’s violent crimes, but AK-47 assault rifles have been responsible for a number of deaths in Chicago this summer alone.