October 17, 2012

Fact check: Stumbles in latest presidential debate

CALVIN WOODWARD and TOM RAUM/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — In the rough-and-tumble of a town hall-style presidential debate, the facts took something of a beating Tuesday night.

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Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, listens as President Barack Obama answers a question from a member of the audience during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

AP

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Mitt Romney wrongly claimed that it took 14 days for President Barack Obama to brand the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya a terrorist act. Obama yet again claimed that ending the Afghanistan and Iraq wars makes money available to "rebuild America," even though it doesn't.

A look at some of their claims:

OBAMA: The day after last month's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, "I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime."

ROMNEY: "I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."

OBAMA: "Get the transcript."

THE FACTS: Obama is correct in saying that he referred to Benghazi as an act of terrorism on Sept. 12, the day after the attack. From the Rose Garden, he said: "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. ... We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act."

But others in his administration repeated for several days its belief that the violence stemmed from protests over an American-made video ridiculing Islam. It took almost a month before officials acknowledged that those protests never occurred. And Romney is right in arguing that the administration has yet to explain why it took so long for that correction to be made or how it came to believe that the attack evolved from an angry demonstration.

___

OBAMA: "Let's take the money that we've been spending on war over the last decade to rebuild America, roads, bridges, schools. We do those things, not only is your future going to be bright, but America's future is going to be bright as well."

THE FACTS: What Obama didn't mention is that much of the money that has been paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was borrowed. In fact, the government borrows nearly 40 cents for every dollar it spends. 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: "As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters."

OBAMA: "Very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We've opened up public lands. We're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration and my — the previous president was an oilman."

THE FACTS: Both statements ring true, as far as they go. Obama more correctly describes the bigger picture.

According to an Energy Department study published in the spring, sales of oil from federal areas fell 14 percent between 2010 and 2011 and sales of natural gas production fell 9 percent, supporting Romney's point. The lower oil production was a result mainly of a moratorium on offshore drilling imposed by the Obama administration after the April 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

(Continued on page 2)

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