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More Baloney at ABC/Yahoo! Debate

We fact-check the candidates' claims at the latest presidential debate in Iowa.


False and misleading claims were flying again at the latest Republican presidential candidates’ debate in Iowa.

  • Romney falsely claimed that no president before Obama had cut Medicare, and that Obama favored pre-1967 borders for Israel.
  • Gingrich said he opposed cap-and-trade, even though he once spoke favorably of it, if combined with other measures to curtail carbon emissions.
  • Perry again falsely accused Romney of writing that the Massachusetts health care law should be a model for the nation, and once again made an apples-to-oranges comparison to make his Texas job-creation record look more impressive.
  • And Bachmann recycled a bogus claim about projected job losses under the new federal health care law.


The debate was held Dec. 10 at Drake University in Des Moines and was sponsored by ABC News and Yahoo! News, and by others, including the Iowa Republican Party. Six candidates participated: Rep Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Romney Wrong on Medicare Cuts

Romney wrongly said Obama is the only president ever to cut Medicare:

Romney: Let’s not forget, only one president has ever cut Medicare for seniors in this country and it’s Barack Obama.

That’s far from true. Numerous changes to rein in the rising cost of Medicare have been made over the years. Joe Antos, a health economist with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told National Public Radio that “we’ve had a series of cuts, year after year, decade after decade.”

One dramatic example is the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, signed by President Bill Clinton. By one count, that measure required no fewer than 97 cuts in Medicare spending on teaching institutions, hospitals and home health agencies. The Congressional Budget Office estimated at the time it would cut $112 billion from the future growth of Medicare over a five-year period from 1998 to 2002.

Romney Wrong on Obama and Israel

Romney wrongly accused President Obama of saying Israel must “go back” to 1967 borders. But that’s not true. Obama called for Israel to negotiate “mutually agreed swaps” of territory with those borders as the starting point.

Romney: This president decided he was going to try and negotiate for Israel by saying, lets go back to the ’67 borders. That’s not what Israel wanted to hear.

What Obama really said, in remarks at the State Department on May 19, 2011, was this:

Obama, May 19: So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. . . .  We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.

So, Obama said the 1967 borders would be a basis for negotiations for new borders to be arrived at by making “swaps” of unspecified size. That’s much different from saying the 1967 borders would be reinstated.

Romney got one part right when he said, “That’s not what Israel wanted to hear.” Israeli leaders reacted strongly to Obama’s statement, which was viewed as a policy shift for the United States. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of American commitments made to Israel in 2004 which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.” Those commitments “relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.”

Our fact-checking colleague Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post wrote about Obama’s comment, saying that “until Obama … U.S. presidents generally have steered clear of saying the negotiations should start on the 1967 lines,” even though the Israelis and Palestinians had held negotiations with just the basis Obama mentioned.

On May 22, the president defended his remarks and complained that they had been misreported and misrepresented. He said that what he did was to “say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.”

Obama, May 22: And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.

By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation.

Perry on Job Creation

Perry once again puffed up the contrast between his job-creation record and that of the nation.

Perry: Over the last 11 years, we’ve created over a million jobs in that state while America lost over 2 million jobs.

It’s true that Texas has added more than 1 million jobs from December 2000, when Perry became governor, through October, the most recent month for which state figures are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the country has lost 897,000 in the same time frame, less than half the figure Perry used.

He cherry-picks to make the nation’s job loss look worse than it actually has been. He uses January 2009 as his starting point, and there have been nearly 2 million jobs lost since then. But in that time frame, Texas only created 92,300 jobs.

The Texas governor has made this claim a few times, though he used to say the nation had lost 2.5 million jobs. At this debate, he lowered that number substantially, but it’s still an incorrect comparison.

Gingrich on Cap-and-Trade

Bachmann lumped Romney and Gingrich together as flip-floppers, saying, “If you look at Newt-Romney, they were for cap-and-trade.” Gingrich said Bachmann’s claim was “not true” and that, “I have never — I opposed cap and trade.” But Gingrich’s rebuke was misleading.

It’s true that Gingrich has never favored the approach taken by Democrats, but he said in 2007 that he would “strongly support” cap-and-trade if combined with “a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions.”

Furthermore, Gingrich said in House testimony in 2009 that he still might support a cap-and-trade system covering “the 2,000 most polluting places,” if packaged with incentives for nuclear power and “green coal,” among other things.

Perry on ‘Romneycare’

Perry once again falsely accused Romney of writing in his book “No Apology” that he wanted to impose his state’s health care plan at the federal level.

Perry: I read your first book, and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts, which should be the model for the country — and I know it came out of the reprint of the book, but, you know, I’m just saying, you were for individual mandates, my friend.

Romney: You know what, you’ve raised that before, Rick. And you’re simply wrong.

Perry refused an offer from Romney to bet $10,000 as to who was right. In fact, Perry is wrong and Romney is correct. As we have written a couple of times before, the book was revised and this line was removed: “We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country.” But the phrase “the same thing” refers to the goals of the state law: “portable, affordable health insurance,” not the controversial individual mandate or the entire law. Romney saw the Massachusetts plan as a potential model for other states, if they so choose, but not as a federal mandate.

Bachmann’s False Jobs Claim

Bachmann falsely claimed that “the small business agency” said the nation will “lose 1.6 million jobs over five years if we keep Obamacare.” She’s referring to a study by a trade group, not a federal agency. And the study was not of the new health care law at all, but of a “hypothetical” requirement that never became part of the law.

Bachmann: [W]e can cut government bureaucracy which is Obama Care. NFIB tells us, that’s the small business agency, that we will lose 1.6 million jobs over five years if we keep Obama Care.

The NFIB of course is the National Federation of Independent Business, which is not a government “agency” by any stretch. It has for many years adamantly opposed any federal requirement that businesses provide health insurance to their workers.

We have written about this misleading job-loss claim before. Bachmann is referring to a report that the NFIB published on Jan. 26, 2009 — more than a year before the law was enacted in March 2010. The NFIB estimated potential job loss based on a “hypothetical employer mandate” that would have required all businesses to pay half or more of the insurance premiums for their workers. That’s more onerous than the employer mandate that became enacted into law.

Under the law, companies with fewer than 50 employees wouldn’t face any kind of penalty — instead, they could receive tax credits if they offer health insurance to their employees. Companies with more than 50 workers must pay a penalty if they fail to provide affordable coverage and at least one employee receives a tax credit or subsidy to buy a plan in the insurance exchange. As Elizabeth McGlynn, former associate director of the health unit at RAND Corp., told us once before, the effect of employer mandates on jobs “is likely to be quite minimal” because “most large businesses already offer health insurance. And most small businesses are excluded from the mandate.” And that was before Congress settled on the less stringent requirements and penalties.

— by Brooks Jackson, Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson, Robert Farley and D’Angelo Gore


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