It’s always fun to fact check after a presidential debate, and the third and final one may put Barack Obama in the lead, but Mitt Romney is still a strong competitor in this race to the White House.
So who was truthful and did anyone lie? Well, both candidates were truthful during the debate, but there were a few misconceptions that didn’t sit well with the facts. Let’s check some of them out.
Obama: Romney was “very clear that [he] would not provide government assistance to the U.S. auto companies, even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn’t true.”
Obama overreached here, say NPR’s Mark Memmott, Scott Montgomery, and Mark Stencel. In a famous November 2008 New York Times op-ed, Romney said if the government bailed out GM and Chrysler, “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye,” but he did propose a “managed bankruptcy” in which the federal government provides “guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing.” The problem is, according to auto executives and outside experts, there would have been no post-bankrupt GM or Chrysler to help, says Jeremy W. Peters at The New York Times.
In late 2008, credit markets were frozen and no private firms were “looking to invest to the tune of the $80 billion the car companies needed at the time.” That means “the only path through bankruptcy would have been Chapter 7 liquidation, not the more orderly Chapter 11 reorganization that the company ultimately followed” under Obama. “In the tangled debate over whether the auto industry would have survived under Romney’s bankruptcy plan, Obama has the edge on the argument,” says Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post.
Romney: Upon taking office, Obama “said by now we’d be at 5.4 percent unemployment.”
This claim stems from an economic projection two Obama economists laid out before he took office, to predict the effects of a $775 billion economic stimulus bill. The economists, Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, added “numerous caveats and warnings” to their analysis, says Kessler, “because, after all, it was merely a projection,” based on an unwritten bill. But yes, a chart on Page 4 of the report did foresee unemployment dropping to 5.6 percent by mid-2012. “The chart is now infamous, but it was never pitched as a promise,” says PolitiFact. And the caveats were there for good reason: “The economy was, in fact, much worse than economists knew.”
Obama: Romney “said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day.”
Romney didn’t really contest Obama’s narrow point, that he thinks we should still have combat troops in Iraq, says Kessler. But ultimately, “Romney has the better part of this argument,” because as he points out, Obama tried to keep troops there, too. The Obama administration attempted to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would keep roughly 5,000 troops in Iraq, but the talks fell apart when Iraq declined to put the agreement to a parliamentary vote and the Obama administration decided that would expose U.S. troops to Iraqi prosecution.
Romney: Obama began his term with “an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America.”
In the debate, Obama called the “apology tour” line “probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign,” and the fact-checkers agree. The idea that Obama traveled abroad and apologized for America “is a persistent and false Republican talking point that we have debunked a number of times,” says PolitiFact. It stems from a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Karl Rove, says David Sessions at The Daily Beast, and “almost instantly, the right-wing blogosphere began savaging the president’s attempt at diplomacy, taking up Rove’s ‘apology tour’ moniker” to try and paint Obama as “weak and confused, reminiscent of Jimmy Carter.”