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Now official debates are over, and the fact checking begins

Oct 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout

FACT OR FICTION: Obama and Romney face off.   Photo credit:  The Billings Gazette.

POST DEBATE polls are showing President Obama as the winner of the foreign policy TV debate, the third and final of the 2012 US election.

CNN’s post-debate poll puts Obama in front with 48% over Romney on 40%, while CBS report that half those polled picked Obama, with a quarter for Romney and a quarter undecided.

But in an election where debates can be won on performance, media outlets are hard at work checking the facts behind the candidate’s statements.

President Obama and Governor Romney’s voting records and positions in office are also under scrutiny up against their campaign promises.

The results are a revealing look behind the spin and theatre of a presidential election where campaign funds run into the high hundreds of millions of dollars.

In The Washington Post’s “The Fact Checker”, Glen Kessler says the foreign policy debate is generally a difficult area to fact-check, as differences can be more of opinions than numbers.

“But that did not stop President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney from making questionable claims,” he says.

Fact Check.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, has a rundown from the debate.

“In the third and final Obama-Romney debate, the candidates again contradicted each other, while each offered incorrect or twisted factual claims,” it says.

Fact Check.org’s views:

Photo: Hollywood Life

War:   President Obama erred when he accused Mitt Romney of saying during the 2008 campaign that “we should ask Pakistan for permission” before going into that country to kill or capture terrorists. What Romney said was that he’d “keep our options quiet.”

Obama wrongly accused Romney of not telling the truth when Romney said “you and I agreed” some U.S. troops should be left in Iraq. In fact, the president tried and failed to negotiate an agreement to keep 3,000 to 4,000 support troops there; Romney said he would have left 10,000 to 30,000.

Foreign Policy: Obama wrongly claimed Romney called Russia the “biggest geopolitical threat facing America.” Actually, Romney called Russia a “foe” and not a “threat.” He said “the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran.”

The Economy: Romney said the federal debt to “other people” is $16 trillion, which isn’t correct. The debt owed to the public is $11 trillion, and the figure he gave includes money the government owes to itself.

Obama claimed the record would back him up when he accused Romney of opposing any federal “help” or “assistance” for troubled automakers. In fact, the record shows Romney supported federal loan guarantees.

The Washington Post draws out some points of contention over statements about oil:

“With respect to what we’ve done with China already, U.S. exports have doubled since I came into office,” says Obama.

Obama has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014, but he seems to be getting ahead of himself. Exports of goods to China have gone from $69.7 billion in 2008 to $103.9 billion in 2011, according to the Census Bureau.

“I would tighten those sanctions. I would say that ships that carry Iranian oil can’t come into our ports. I imagine the E.U. would agree with us as well,” says Romney

This is a puzzling statement. No Iranian oil is coming in to the United States, and none has come here for quite some time. Ronald Reagan signed an executive order in 1987 banning all U.S. imports from Iran, and then President Bill Clinton in 1995 banned all U.S. participation in Iranian petroleum development.

The New York Times says that Mitt Romney’s accusation that Obama is cutting back the military is in fact the fault of the Republican Party:

Has President Obama promised large cuts to the military? The looming cuts to the military that Mr. Romney alluded to were not the president’s doing. They are the bipartisan product of a messy deal he reached last year with House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling and avert default.

It is also reporting Mitt Romney has a small problem with geography.

During a discussion concerning the bloodshed in Syria – and Iran’s role — Mr. Romney said: “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.”

Yes, Syria and Iran are allies. But Iran has a lengthy and sovereign coastline that stretches along the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and then linking to the Arabian Sea – which, in turn, leads to the Indian Ocean and onward to the world’s high seas.

In the second presidential debate, both parties were caught out, with CNBC reporting that the debate was a “fact checkers dream”.

They say both Obama and Romney had contradictory versions of a basic fact: the level of oil production on public lands.

Obama’s claim that production is up since he took office, and Romney’s claim that production is down 14%, were shot down by CNBC’s fact-checking team.

They report that Obama says oil production on public land has increased, but public land includes offshore – and Obama declared a temporary moratorium on offshore drilling after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

While production did jump from 575 million barrels in 2008 to 739 million in 2010, it fell to 646 million barrels in 2011 after the Horizon oil spill – the 14 percent drop Romney cited.

However, the 2011 figure was still higher than it was when the president took office, and analysts have predicted when 2012 is over, the number will be higher still.

Gawker.com is reporting President Obama poked fun at Mitt Romney’s selective memory loss, though Obama is no stranger to the phenomenon himself.

Speaking at Virginia’s George Mason University this week, the President told the crowd he knows why his rival Mitt Romney has been “backtracking and sidestepping” so much lately: “He’s suffering from a condition known as ‘Romnesia’.

“If you say you’re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you’d sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work – you might have Romnesia,” says Obama.

“If you say you’ll protect a woman’s right to choose, but you stand up at a primary debate and said that you’d be ‘delighted’ to sign a law outlawing that right to choose in all cases – man, you’ve definitely got Romnesia.”

Prior to the final debate, The Huffington Post reported a tight race between the candidates in eight national tracking polls.

“Three give a slight edge to Romney, three give the edge to Obama and two show an exact tie, including the latest from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal,” it says.

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