Fact-checking the final presidential debate

The stage is set for the final presidential The stage is set for the final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., where President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will battle for the final time in a debate focusing on foreign policy. (Oct. 22, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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RUSSIA

Obama said to Romney, “When you were asked, what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia — not al-Qaida.” Romney said, “I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin and I’m certainly not going to say to him, ‘I’ll give you more flexibility after the election.’

Romney did label Russia the biggest geopolitical threat. It came after a March 2012 summit in South Korea, where Obama was caught in the infamous “hot mic” incident. Without realizing he could be overheard, Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev he would have more ability to negotiate with the Russians about missile defense after the November election.

In a CNN interview March 26, Wolf Blitzer asked Romney if he thought Russia is a bigger foe than Iran, China or North Korea. Romney responded of Russia: “In terms of a geopolitical opponent, [it is] the nation that lines up with the world’s worst actors.” He added, “Of course the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran.”

Source: PolitiFact.com

 

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OBAMA'S 'APOLOGY TOUR'

Romney said that early in his administration, Obama went on “an apology tour of going to — to various nations in the Middle East and — and criticizing America.”

Obama’s 2009 foreign travels and speeches were not an apology tour. He criticized past U.S. actions, such as torture practices at Guantánamo, but he did not offer an apology. In some speeches, Obama drew distinctions between his policies and those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. In other instances, Obama appeared to be employing a bit of diplomacy, criticizing past actions of both the United States and the host nation, and calling for the two sides to move forward.

Sources: PolitiFact.com, FactCheck.org

 

CHINA TRADE REPRISAL

Obama said he was attacked by Romney for taking action to keep cheap Chinese tires off the market, which “saved American jobs.”

It’s not clear whether the tariffs accomplished the goal of protecting jobs since, while some tire jobs were saved, the higher cost of tires (because of reduced competition) may have depressed other consumer spending. A paper by Gary Clyde Hufbauer and Sean Lowry at the Peterson Institute said the tariffs saved very few jobs (about 1,200) at a huge cost of $1.1 billion in higher prices.

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Sources: PolitiFact.com, Washington Post

 

U.S. INFLUENCE IN THE WORLD

Romney said, “Nowhere in the world is America’s influence greater today than it was four years ago.”

It depends where you look. Public approval of the United States in key Muslim nations is quite low.

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According to the polling for the Pew Global Attitudes Project, only 12 percent of those in Pakistan have a favorable opinion of the United States in 2012, down 7 percentage points since 2008. In Egypt, only 19 percent view the nation favorably this year, down 3 points since 2008. Favorable opinion in Turkey is even lower, at 15 percent, though it has risen 3 points under Obama. The United States is seen favorably by 72 percent in Japan (up 22 points since 2008), 69 percent in France (up 27 percentage points) and 60 percent in Britain (up 7 points.)

Source: FactCheck.org

 

GETTING BIN LADEN

Obama cited Romney saying the United States “shouldn't move heaven and earth to get one man” — Osama bin Laden.

Romney made the comment in a 2007 Associated Press interview. He went on to say he supported a broader strategy to defeat the Islamic jihad movement. At the time, Democrats such as Obama were criticizing President George W. Bush for failing to find bin Laden. Republicans, in turn, were critical of Obama's focus on capturing or killing the terrorist leader.

A few days later, Romney expanded on his remarks during a debate: “We’ll move everything to get him. But I don’t want to buy into the Democratic pitch that this is all about one person — Osama bin Laden — because after we get him, there’s going to be another and another.”

Sources: PolitiFact.com, Washington Post

 

U.S. WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ

Obama said to Romney, “Just a few weeks ago you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now.”

Romney said in November 2011 it was “tragic” that the withdrawal was happening too quickly. And Romney has in the past said that his preference is to leave a large residual force of up to 30,000 troops in Iraq. In a speech Oct. 8 at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney reiterated his lament about the “abrupt withdrawal” of troops from Iraq.

Romney said Obama tried for a status of forces agreement that would have left more troops there, but couldn’t get Iraq to agree. So now Obama stresses he has removed all troops from Iraq, while knocking Romney for supporting what he originally had hoped to achieve.

Sources: Politifact.com, Washington Post and news media reports

AUTO INDUSTRY BAILOUT

Romney, who opposed the bailout, said, “Under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help this industry get on its feet” but that he had wanted to see the car companies go through a managed bankruptcy, with government help and guarantees as part of the process.

Obama replied that Governor Romney had not suggested government assistance would be available.

“You were very clear that you would not provide government assistance to the U.S. auto companies even if they went through bankruptcy.”

Romney did call for a “managed bankruptcy” – a process in which the company uses the bankruptcy code to discharge its debts, but emerges from the process a leaner, less leveraged company. Ultimately, along with getting nearly $80 billion in loans and other assistance from the Bush and Obama administrations, GM and Chrysler did go through a managed bankruptcy. But many independent analysts have concluded that taking the approach recommended by Romney would not have worked in 2008, because credit markets were so frozen that a bankruptcy was not a viable option at the time.

Source: Washington Post

 

MIDEAST GEOGRAPHY

Romney said "Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea."

Iran has a large southern coastline with access to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. And it has no land border with Syria.

Source: Associated Press

 

BUDGET SAVINGS FROM AFFORDABLE CARE ACT REPEAL

Romney said,: “You look at how we get to a balanced budget within eight to 10 years. We do it by getting — by reducing spending in a whole series of programs. By the way, number one I get rid of is Obamacare.”

There’s just one problem with that: repealing “Obamacare” wouldn’t reduce the deficit. It would increase it. At least, that’s the judgment of the Congressional Budget Office – which gives the official word on what costs money and what saves money. According to its most recent estimate, released in July, a repeal of the health care law would increase the deficit by $109 billion over 10 years.

 

MILITARY STRENGTH

Romney said the "Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917," suggesting a reduction in military spending and capability and that "our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947." 

It's true that the number of aircraft and vessels has dropped but experts said the advanced technology and firepower of the present-day Air Force and Navy makes the United States the world’s unquestioned military leader. Obama said "the question is not a game of Battleship where we're counting ships. It's -- it's what are our capabilities."

Source: PolitiFact.com

 

SYRIA

Romney said, “Of course, we see in Syria 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there.”

The United Nations estimates that 20,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians, with casualties generated by hostilities from both sides.

Source: United Nations