Our monthly round-up of the most popular columns is a bit late this month, as The Fact Checker has been churning out so many fact checks and Truth Teller videos that we never found a moment to post it. For the first time in months, columns about Obamacare did not dominate the list. There was also a tie for fifth place.
“Let me tell you now about the single biggest lie in politics: It is that Republicans are the party of the rich. What complete nonsense. Do you know that under President Obama, the top 1 percent, those millionaires and billionaires that the president loves to demagogue, the top 1 percent are currently earning the highest percentage of our national income since 1928? Listen, when the government expands its control of the economy, the rich do fine. Five years ago if you had a private jet you’re still flying the private jet. Who are the losers? Who are the people who are getting hammered by the Obama economy? It’s the most vulnerable among us.”
“Five years ago, our national debt was $10 trillion. Today it is over $17 trillion. It has grown some 60 percent in just five years. It took 43 Presidents over 200 years to build $10 trillion in debt; one President in five years to grow it over 60 percent.”
--Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), remarks to the Heritage Action’s Conservative Policy Summit, Feb. 10, 2014
“What he [President Obama] misunderstands is that nine out of 10 businesses fail, so nine out of 10 times, he’s going to give it to the wrong people. He gave $500 million to one of the richest men in the country to build solar panels, and we lost that money.”
-- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Jan. 26, 2014
“Under Obamacare, when you turn Medicaid over to the states, what you’re saying to them is the money will be available up front for the expansion for a few years, then the money will go away but you get stuck with the unfunded liability.”
-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Jan. 12, 2014
“I actually tried to get my son signed up through the Kentucky exchange, you know, that the Democrats have said is so good. And I have here my son’s Medicaid card. We didn’t try to get him Medicaid, I’m trying to pay for his insurance. But they automatically enrolled him in Medicaid.”
-- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Jan. 5, 2014
Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) November 27, 2013
“Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare”
“You know, there’s a strange trade-off at the heart of Obamacare. There were roughly 45 million people who were uninsured. Obamacare is endeavoring to insure about a third of them, somewhere between 15 and 20 million people. Even fully implemented, there’ll be about 30 million people that don’t get health insurance. Now, look, there are a lot of people that would like to see more of the uninsured be able to get health insurance. But the trade-off behind Obamacare is to extend to that 15 or 20 million people, they are jeopardizing the health insurance of some 200 million Americans who get health insurance in the private health insurance market.”
“The U.S. Senate is not concerned about all of the people who are out of a job, all the people with part-time work, all the people whose health insurance premiums are skyrocketing, all the people who are losing their health insurance. And that’s happening because of Obamacare.”
-- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), interview with ABC News, Oct. 17, 2013
“I think it’s irresponsible of the president and his men to even talk about default. There’s no reason for us to default. We bring in $250 billion in taxes every month. Our interest payment is $20 billion. Tell me why we would ever default.”
-- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Oct. 6, 2013
“For inspiration and guidance, I often look towards America’s great military leaders. Some of the best observations on war and diplomacy come from the president who was also one of our most decorated generals, Dwight Eisenhower.”
“Unlike Eisenhower and earlier generations, we often don’t think before we act. I think many in Washington do things in our foreign policy to accomplish short-term goals but that ultimately hurt our national interests.”
“We have trouble telling friend from foe in Afghanistan. Syria is a thousand-fold more chaotic. Even our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, warns that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell friend from foe in Syria. Would Eisenhower, who believed small wars could lead to big wars, buy into such nonsense?”
“President Eisenhower said: ‘I have one yardstick by which I test every major problem — and that yardstick is: Is it good for America?’”
“We must be more prudent in our foreign policy. Eisenhower was right to observe that little wars can often lead to big wars.”
— Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, July 22, 2013
It is important to learn the lessons of history. But what if the history you know is not really the history that happened?
We wondered about this as we read Sen. Rand Paul’s speech this week to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. As shown in the quotes above, Paul repeatedly referenced Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president, as a model for Paul’s argument for a foreign policy that drastically cuts foreign aid and minimalizes overseas entanglements.
Interestingly, President Obama apparently views his fellow golf-loving predecessor as a model, too, especially for his “hidden hand” approach to governing.
We have previously examined Paul’s misstatements on foreign aid, which he repeated in this speech. And while his claim in the speech that in Benghazi, Libya, the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens “pleaded for more security before the attacks and the secretary of state ignored his pleas” is certainly worthy of Pinocchios, both The Fact Checker and PolitiFact have dealt with similar claims in the past.
So let’s examine Paul’s suggestion that Eisenhower is a reflection of his foreign policy views.
Eisenhower, who was president from 1953 to 1961, was of course no stranger to military conflict. He served as supreme Allied commander for the invasion of Normandy during World War II.
“In Egypt, democratic authoritarianism is replaced with military junta. American neocons say send them more of your money.”
— Tweet by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), July 8, 2013
Sen. Rand Paul has staked out a vaguely isolationist position in the Republican Party, skeptical of foreign aid and military intervention. Earlier this week, he reflected that stance with a pair of tweets.
In Egypt, governments come and go. The only thing certain is that American taxpayers will continue to be stuck with the $1.5 billion bill.— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) July 8, 2013
In Egypt, democratic authoritarianism is replaced with military junta. American neocons say send them more of your money.— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) July 8, 2013
We were struck by his use of the phrase of “American neocons,” meaning neoconservatives. This is a strain of foreign policy thinking generally associated with Republicans (or sometimes, in the distant past, Democrats such as the late senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson). But it is frequently misunderstood and misapplied.
Does Sen. Paul have it right? (His spokeswoman, Moira Bagley, did not respond to repeated queries asking for specific examples of “American neocons” calling for more aid.)
First of all, a precise definition of “neoconservatism” is rather difficult to come by, and people often associated with the term tend to dislike it. (Some argue that it is actually negative code for “Jewish,” though not all supposed neoconservatives are Jewish.) But broadly, neoconservatives are perceived to want to influence the internal politics of countries toward a more democratic path, in contrast to the so-called “realists” who prefer to deal with states, which may be headed by authoritarians, as they are.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: “I had a choice of whether to pick a handpicked replacement or let the people vote on their new senator. …This special election is not about playing politics. It is about doing the right thing.”
Jimmy Fallon: “You ain’t lying, C.C.”
— exchange during “Slow Jam the News,” Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, June 12, 2013
Under fire from newspaper editorials for scheduling a special election to fill the Senate seat of the late Frank Lautenberg (D), Gov. Chris Christie (R) used an appearance on a late-night comedy show to offer a defense of his actions.
In Christie’s telling, he had the choice of “whether to pick a handpicked replacement or let the people vote on their new senator,” and so he opted for a special election. “The decisions that need to be made in Washington are too great to be determined by an appointee for 18 months,” he said.
The clip has gotten the most notice for a segment in which Fallon’s house band, The Roots, refer to Christie’s apparent interest in running for president in 2016 by singing, “Baby, you were born to run.” But Christie’s presidential aspirations actually have a lot to do with his decision-making — something he left out of his claim that the decision was “not about playing politics.”
When Lautenberg died, many commentators quickly pointed to a conflict in the New Jersey laws regarding a Senate vacancy. While the governor clearly had a right to appoint someone to fill the seat until a successor could be elected, one provision (N.J.S.A 19:3-6) pointed to the election being held in November 2013 and another (N.J.S.A 19:27-6) suggested it should be held in November 2014. Most analysts suspected the vacancy statute, with its 2013 election date, would hold sway.
“Why does Benghazi go on? No one was ever fired? So, people made tragic errors. No one’s accepting responsibility and no one was fired.”
— Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), on CNN’s “State of the Union,” May 19, 2013
Paul’s comment this week jumped out at us because we remember the headlines back in December:
“4 Are Out at State Dept. After Scathing Report on Benghazi Attack” — The New York Times
“Four State Department officials disciplined following Benghazi probe findings” — The Washington Post
“Four State Department officials were removed from their posts,” The Times said, while The Post said they “were disciplined.” Eric J. Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, “resigned,” both reports said.
We will leave aside the question of responsibility — we recall then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking responsibility but perhaps that is in the eye of the beholder — and focus on whether anyone has been “fired.”
Depending on the dictionary, you get a variety of definitions: To discharge from a position; to dismiss from employment; having lost your job. Moira Bagley, spokesman for Paul, says that, for the senator, “fired” means “actual job termination,” meaning no longer working at the State Department.
The dismissals were announced after the completion of the Accountability Review Board report, which fixed the blame for the poor security that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, including the U.S. ambassador, at the Assistant Secretary level and below. Besides Boswell, two other officials in Diplomatic Security lost their positions, as well as a deputy assistant secretary in the Near East bureau.
"It's a mischaracterization of my position. I've never been against the Civil Rights Act, ever, and I continue to be for the Civil Rights Act as well as the Voting Rights Act. There was a long, one interview that had a long, extended conversation about the ramifications beyond race, and I have been concerned about the ramifications of certain portions of the Civil Rights Act beyond race, as they are now being applied to smoking, menus, listing calories and things on menus, and guns. And so I do question some of the ramifications and the extensions but I never questioned the Civil Rights Act and never came out in opposition to the Civil Rights Act or ever introduced anything to alter the Civil Rights Act."
— Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), during a speech at Howard University, April 10, 2013
There’s an old rule in politics: If it’s too complicated to explain, you are probably in trouble.
Paul, a potential GOP candidate for the 2016 presidential election, gave an interesting speech on Wednesday to historically black Howard University, but his remarks were overshadowed by his attempt to explain the controversy over his 2010 comments on the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“I have never wavered in my support for civil rights and the Civil Rights Act,” he said in his speech. “The dispute, if there is one, has always been about how much of the remedy should come under federal or state or private purview.”
But then Paul expanded on his remarks in the question-and-answer period, saying in response to a tough question that he had been concerned really only about the “ramifications and extensions” of the Civil Rights Act. We sought an explanation from Paul’s staff but did not get a response. So let’s go to the video tape!
The Civil Rights Act was pushed by President Lyndon Johnson but likely would not have become law without the shrewd legislative gamesmanship of then-Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois. Dirksen figured out a way to bring along wavering Republicans, in order to break a lengthy filibuster led by Southern Democrats, by carefully tweaking a House bill to reduce federal intervention in local matters — but not enough to force a rewriting of the whole bill in the House.
“Where would we cut spending? Let’s start with ending all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting ‘Death to America.’ In addition, the president could begin by stopping selling or giving F-16s and Abrams tanks to Islamic radicals in Egypt.”
— Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in the tea party response to the State of the Union speech, Feb. 12, 2013
We once gave Four Pinocchios to the American people for failing to understand the basics of the federal budget. A range of surveys showed huge misimpressions about the federal budget, with a majority incorrectly believing that the federal government spends more on defense and foreign aid than it does on Medicare and Social Security.
But where do such strange notions come from? Politicians, of course. Let’s see how big a chunk of the budget Sen. Rand Paul would save with his proposal.
Paul’s comment came just before he said that the looming automatic spending cuts known as the sequester would not reduce the budget deficit fast enough. He quoted “many pundits” as saying that “we need $4 trillion in cuts” over the next decade.
“Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health-care costs.”
— President Obama, State of the Union address, Feb. 12, 2013
“Obamacare, it was supposed to help middle-class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these companies aren’t hiring. Not only that, they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.”
— Sen. Mario Rubio (R-Fla.), GOP State of the Union response, Feb. 12, 2013
Obama’s health-care law was in many ways the dog that did not bark during the State of the Union. Obama felt no need to defend it, and Republicans no longer declared that they would repeal it. Rubio simply referenced “Obamacare” as a government program that could hurt the middle class — while Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in the tea party response, made no mention of the health-care law.
In other words, the law is more or less here to stay. The race is now on to define the law’s legacy and impact.
Let’s take a look at whether either man has the facts to back up their diametrically opposed statements.
We’ve written before about the effort by some Democrats to jump the gun on the impact of the health-care law — much of which has not been implemented. In the State of the Union address, Obama is more boldly making a connection between the law and a recent slowdown in health-care costs that former president Bill Clinton had also suggested in his speech at the Democratic National Convention last year.