Politics

October 12, 2012

In the heat of debate, facts often suffer

So how did Vice President Biden and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan do when it came to getting their facts right?

By CALVIN WOODWARD The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Anyone who paid attention to a hearing in Congress this week knew that the administration had been implored to beef up security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya before the deadly terrorist attack there. But in the vice presidential debate Thursday night, Joe Biden seemed unaware.

click image to enlarge

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., shake hands before the start of the vice presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky., on Thursday night.

The Associated Press

Related headlines

FORIDA VOTERS FLOCK TO ROMNEY

Republican Mitt Romney has opened a large, 7 percentage-point lead over President Obama in must-win Florida, according to a new poll of likely voters conducted for The Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.

Romney’s 51 percent to 44 percent advantage is just on the cusp of the poll’s error margin – and it marks a dramatic 8-point shift since last month.

“Obama’s now swimming upstream,” said Brad Coker, pollster with Mason Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the survey of 800 likely Florida voters this month and last for the Herald and its news partners, including Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13.

The previous poll, which showed Obama with an inside-the-error-margin lead, was before last week’s debate when Obama gave a lackluster performance while Romney appeared to excel. This latest poll showed that 5 percent of those who said they were undecided before the debate say they will vote for Romney. And 4 percent of those who said they favored Obama pre-debate moved away from the president – 2 percent toward Romney and 2 percent undecided.

Even Democrats were upset with Obama’s performance.

“I was disappointed,” said Phyllis Apple, a 90-year-old Democrat from Aventura. “He didn’t look like he was ready to fight. Maybe the president thought it wouldn’t look presidential.”

A top political adviser to the president, David Plouffe, acknowledged that the debate was a “wakeup call” and that the race has tightened. But, he said, he believes in the campaign’s message and its vast volunteer army that can turn out nontraditional voters who don’t necessarily get picked up in polls such as this one.

– The Miami Herald

"We weren't told they wanted more security there," the vice president asserted flatly. During a night in which Biden and Republican rival Paul Ryan both drifted from the facts on a range of domestic and foreign issues, that was a standout.

A look at some of their claims:

BIDEN: "Well, we weren't told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view."

RYAN: "There were requests for more security."

THE FACTS: Ryan is right, judging by testimony from Obama administration officials at the hearing a day earlier.

Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told lawmakers she refused requests for more security in Benghazi, saying the department wanted to train Libyans to protect the consulate. "Yes, sir, I said personally I would not support it," she said.

Eric Nordstrom, who was the top security official in Libya earlier this year, testified he was criticized for seeking more security. He said conversations he had with people in Washington led him to believe that it was "abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?"

He said his exasperation reached a point where he told a colleague that "for me the Taliban is on the inside of the building."

RYAN: "Look at just the $90 billion in stimulus the vice president was in charge of overseeing — this $90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors and special interest groups."

THE FACTS: Dismissing an entire package of energy stimulus grants and loans as "green pork" ignores the help that was given to people to make their homes more energy efficient, grants to public entities constructing high speed rail lines and tax credits to manufacturers to install equipment fostering cleaner energy.

To be sure, there were notable failed investments, such as $528 million to the politically connected and now-bankrupt solar power company Solyndra. But Ryan's claim made it sound like every penny went down the drain.

More broadly, economists are nearly universal in saying Obama's $800 billion-plus stimulus passed in early 2009 helped create both public-sector and private-sector jobs, even if they fell short of what sponsors had hoped. Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, estimated the stimulus saved or created more than 3 million jobs.

BIDEN: "We went out and rescued General Motors."

THE FACTS: Actually, the auto bailout of General Motors and Chrysler began under President George W. Bush. The Obama administration continued and expanded it.

RYAN: "And then they put this new Obamacare board in charge of cutting Medicare each and every year in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors. This board, by the way, it's 15 people, the president's supposed to appoint them next year. And not one of them even has to have medical training."

THE FACTS: Ryan is referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law. It has the power to force cuts in Medicare payments to service providers if costs rise above certain levels and Congress fails to act. But it doesn't look like the board will be cutting Medicare "each and every year," as Ryan asserts. Medicare costs are currently rising modestly and the government's own experts project the board's intervention will not be needed until 2018 and 2019 at the earliest — after Obama leaves office if re-elected to a second term.

(Continued on page 2)

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