Post-debate fact check round-up

First, factcheck.org compiled the factual shortcomings of both candidates:

? Palin mistakenly claimed that troop levels in Iraq had returned to “pre-surge” levels. Levels are gradually coming down but current plans would have levels higher than pre-surge numbers through early next year, at least.

? Biden incorrectly said “John McCain voted the exact same way” as Obama on a controversial troop funding bill. The two were actually on opposite sides.

? Palin repeated a false claim that Obama once voted in favor of higher taxes on “families” making as little as $42,000 a year. He did not. The budget bill in question called for an increase only on singles making that amount, but a family of four would not have been affected unless they made at least $90,000 a year.

? Biden wrongly claimed that McCain “voted the exact same way” as Obama on the budget bill that contained an increase on singles making as little as $42,000 a year. McCain voted against it. Biden was referring to an amendment that didn’t address taxes at that income level.

? Palin claimed McCain’s health care plan would be “budget neutral,” costing the government nothing. Independent budget experts estimate McCain’s plan would cost tens of billions each year, though details are too fuzzy to allow for exact estimates.

? Biden wrongly claimed that McCain had said “he wouldn’t even sit down” with the government of Spain. Actually, McCain didn’t reject a meeting, but simply refused to commit himself one way or the other during an interview.

? Palin wrongly claimed that “millions of small businesses” would see tax increases under Obama’s tax proposals. At most, several hundred thousand business owners would see increases.

But their list is nowhere near complete. On Lebanon, Biden gaffed on Hezbollah, which is surprising for a fella who’s spent so time on the Foreign Relations Committee:

In Thursday night’s vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin, Biden said the strangest and most ill-informed thing I have ever heard about Lebanon in my life. “When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.” Now what’s happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.” [Emphasis added.]What on Earth is he talking about? The United States and France may have kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon in an alternate universe, but nothing even remotely like that ever happened in this one.Nobody – nobody – has ever kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon. Not the United States. Not France. Not Israel. And not the Lebanese. Nobody.Joe Biden has literally no idea what he’s talking about.It’s too bad debate moderator Gwen Ifill didn’t catch him and ask a follow up question: When did the United States and France kick Hezbollah out of Lebanon?The answer? Never. And did Biden and Senator Barack Obama really say NATO troops should be sent into Lebanon? When did they say that? Why would they say that? They certainly didn’t say it because NATO needed to prevent Hezbollah from returning–since Hezbollah never went anywhere.

ABC News is in the bag for Obama. They correctly noted that Palin got General McKiernan’s name wrong, but they failed to mention that Biden got McKiernan’s position wrong. Which mistake is more pronounced? Biden kept saying that the “commanding general” in Afghanistan stated that the surge strategy wouldn’t work there. Biden was wrong, as McKiernan’s transcript makes clear, and it demonstrates that (like with Obama) he rejects the Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Biden also made an outrageously false comparison of expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Biden is telling absurd lies about Afghanistan tonight. In particular, he’s repeatedly claimed that “we’ve spent less in Afghanistan in seven years than we spend in a month in Iraq.”

He’s made that claim, or claims to that effect, repeatedly. It is, to put it bluntly, a complete Goddamned lie.

According to the Congressional Research Service, spending on the war in Afghanistan since 2001 has been $172 Billion. Spending in Iraq is, as the Democrats repeatedly mention, a little under $10 Billion a month.

In other words, Biden’s number is off by, oh, something like 2000%. Perhaps Obama’s Sub-Committee ought to have held some hearings on Afghanistan after all.

I wouldn’t call it a lie, but it’s definitely a major factual error.

Politifact weighed in and found two “barely true” comments by Biden and one “barely true” comment from Palin.

Biden flubbed on his understanding of the Constitution and the vice president’s role:

Meanwhile, Joe Biden is wrong about the Vice President and the Constitution — the Vice President does have a legislative role, and the VP doesn’t just preside over the Senate in case of a tie. The VP only votes in case of a tie, but voting isn’t the same as presiding. Good grief.

Also, Joe, Article I of the Constitution deals with the legislative branch, not the executive. Again, good grief.


And, yes, the VP’s legislative duties are in Article I. But that cuts precisely against the point that Biden was trying to make. Here’s what Biden said: “Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that. . . . The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he’s part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.” This is wong on multiple levels at once. Article I — which deals with the legislative, not the Executive branch, says: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.” The Vice President presides over the Senate by right, whenever he/she wants to, regardless of whether there’s a tie vote.

What’s more, Vice Presidents, until Spiro Agnew, got their offices and budgets from the Senate, not the Executive Branch. The legislative character of that office is traditional — treating the VP as part of the Executive Branch, and a sort of junior co-President, is a recent and, to my mind, unwise innovation. That’s discussed at more length in this article from the Northwestern University Law Review.

Here’s one on Biden and elections in the Palestinian Authority:

Here’s what the president said when we said no. He insisted on elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, “Big mistake. Hamas will win. You’ll legitimize them.” What happened? Hamas won.

I’m not sure what Obama said, but Biden was in favor:

If ever there was a time that proved that “good policy makes good politics”–and that politics makes strange bedfellows–today’s global program to advance the cause of liberal democracy surely must be it.

What events are creating this critical mass the president is talking about? There’s January’s free elections in Iraq and Palestine, March’s free municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, Egyptian President Mubarak’s commitment to allow competitive elections for president, and the Lebanese people’s demands for Syrian withdrawal and for free parliamentary elections.

[Update:] Glenn Kessler has more:

Biden claimed that Obama warned against the administration’s decision to push for Hamas participating in Palestinian legislative elections in early 2005. Obama had only been a senator for a few days when the election took place, but if he made such statements they did not appear in news reports or transcripts that are contained in the Nexis or Factiva news databases.

Obama was one of 70 members in the Senate who signed a letter a month before the Palestinian election expressing concern that Hamas was participating without disarming. The letter did not say a victory in the election would give Hamas credibility, but urged Bush to insist that Hamas adhere to “a basic set of principles before they can run for political office.” Biden did not sign the letter.

[End update]

On meeting Ahmadinejad without preconditions:

PALIN: Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, the Castro brothers, others who are dangerous dictators are one that Barack Obama has said he would be willing to meet with without preconditions being met first.

BIDEN: Can I clarify this? This is simply not true about Barack Obama. He did not say sit down with Ahmadinejad.

Biden was speaking an untruth. Here’s what Obama said at a debate, and Joe Biden was at that debate:

QUESTION: In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since.

In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.

Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.

And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them. We’ve been talking about Iraq — one of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they’re going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.

They have been acting irresponsibly up until this point. But if we tell them that we are not going to be a permanent occupying force, we are in a position to say that they are going to have to carry some weight, in terms of stabilizing the region.

Emphases mine. The Corner has more. Biden even said that Obama’s comments were “naive”.

I’m running out of steam, but I’ll update (as time permits) when more factchecks come in. I’m purposely not using any “factcheck” links from either of the campaign websites.

[Update:] Biden touted a couple of legislative accomplishments:

And, by the way, a record of change — I will place my record and Barack’s record against John McCain’s or anyone else in terms of fundamental accomplishments. Wrote the crime bill, put 100,000 cops on the street, wrote the Violence Against Women Act, which John McCain voted against both of them, was the catalyst to change the circumstance in Bosnia, led by President Clinton, obviously.

McCain vote against Violence Against Women Act, but Biden failed to mention that the Supreme Court voted against it, too:In United States v. Morrison, the Court ruled that much of Biden’s law was an unconstitutional power grab by Congress of rights reserved to the states.

And Biden is the one who with a law degree. On Bosnia, McCain supported Bill Clinton’s efforts on Bosnia and Kosovo. I saw Fred Thompson on Special Report last night, and he said it was McCain who talked Thompson into supporting those efforts.

On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Biden said:

Number two, with regard to arms control and weapons, nuclear weapons require a nuclear arms control regime. John McCain voted against a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that every Republican has supported.

Another false statement. The Senate vote was mostly party line.

When the roll was finally called on October 13, the resolution to ratify the CTBT (including the six safeguards that Daschle had submitted as an amendment) was defeated by a 51-48 vote with one abstention. (See the voting record.) Forty-four Democrats voted for ratification as did four Republicans: John Chafee (R-RI), James Jeffords (R-VT), Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Arlen Specter (R-PA). Fifty Republican senators and one independent (Robert Smith of New Hampshire) voted against ratification, and Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) voted “present.” The treaty fell 19 votes short of achieving the necessary two-thirds majority necessary for ratification.

From the WA Post Fact Checker, Palin stretched the truth on Biden’s agreement with McCain on Iraq.

Sarah Palin just asserted that Sen. Joseph Biden backed John McCain’s military policies until this presidential race. That is flatly false. Biden was an outspoken opponent of President Bush’s troop increases in Iraq as soon as Bush announced them after the 2006 elections. As Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, he led the most heated hearings before the troops were actually deployed.

Palin also repeated the untruthful claim that Obama voted for 94 tax increases, which is false according to factcheck.org. On the McCain health care plan, Biden said:

And then you’re going to have to replace a $12,000 — that’s the average cost of the plan you get through your employer — it costs $12,000. You’re going to have to pay — replace a $12,000 plan, because 20 million of you are going to be dropped. Twenty million of you will be dropped.So you’re going to have to place — replace a $12,000 plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.”

According to the WA Post Fact Checker:

Joe Biden mischaracterized McCain’s proposal for giving Americans a tax credit to pay for their own health insurance programs in return for taxing the health benefits they receive from employers. He suggested that the average American family would lose around $7,000 on the deal, receiving a $5,000 tax credit in return for having to pay $12,000 for their own health care program. In fact, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center has calculated that most American families would come out slightly ahead for the next decade at least. Higher-income Americans with expensive health care plans would be somewhat worse off after 2018.

Biden was telling half stories on his claim that McCain supported tax breaks for big oil.

Sen. Joseph Biden accused John McCain of offering big oil companies $4 billion in tax breaks. That is misleading. The figure comes from the share that the oil companies would get from McCain’s corporate income tax cut proposal. He has not proposed a tax break solely for oil companies.