The Fact Checker: Ron Paul

Ron Paul’s misleading ad: Rick Santorum is ‘fake’ fiscal conservative

Santorum voted to send billions of our tax dollars to dictators in North Korea and Egypt, and he even hooked Planned Parenthood up with a few million bucks. Rick Santorum, a fiscal conservative? Faaake.” — New ad from Ron Paul campaign, released Feb. 21

Santorum has arguably claimed the mantle of GOP front-runner by virtue of winning the most primaries and polling at or near the front of the pack in Michigan and Arizona, where the next contests take place. So his rivals are taking aim at his record, mainly by attacking his fiscal policies.

Ron Paul has gone perhaps furthest in this regard with his latest ad, which suggests the former senator supports ruthless dictators and abortion services. The video only mentions spending, but it’s actually a two- or maybe three-for-one for all intents and purposes, since it questions the candidate’s social and foreign policy values.

We looked at Santorum’s record to find out whether Paul’s video misleads voters. (Note: Paul was asked to defend this ad in the CNN Debate on Wednesday night and he gleefully repeated the claim that Santorum is a “fake.”)

The Facts

The Paul campaign provided a list of five bills dedicating money to Egypt and North Korea — in one case, just Egypt. Each measure passed at least one chamber of Congress with a yes vote from Santorum.

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Ron Paul’s claims about life without Medicare and Medicaid


(Jack Dempsey, AP)

“When I started medicine, there was no Medicare or Medicaid, and nobody was out in the streets without it.”

-- Ron Paul, during a CNN debate in Jacksonville, Fla., Jan. 26, 2012

 

“When I got out of medical school in 1961, I practiced for a couple years before there was Medicaid. I worked in a Catholic hospital and didn't make hardly any money. Nobody was turned away, and people were treated. And back in those days, people weren't laying in the street with no medical care. Doctors always charged the least. Now, with the government coming in, with these programs that aren’t — you know, they’re totally bankrupt — everybody charges the most, everybody from the doctors to the labs to the hospitals.”

— Paul, during town hall meeting in Manchester N.H., Dec. 19, 2011

 

These comments reminded us of the character-probing question that CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer threw at Paul during the Sept. 12 debate in Tampa: Should society allow an uninsured 30-year-old to die from lack of medical care? You may recall that a portion of the audience erupted with a chorus of yeahs.  

The libertarian congressman suggested people should embrace personal responsibility, and he described Blitzer’s hypothetical as implausible, since hospitals don’t turn people away for lack of money or insurance coverage. Paul has said repeatedly that life before Medicare and Medicaid wasn’t so bad.

 We wondered about the state of health care for the elderly and poor just before those social programs took effect in the mid 1960s. Let’s take a tour down memory lane.

 

 The Facts

 The federal government implemented Medicare and Medicaid as part of the Social Security amendments of 1965, providing coverage for senior citizens and the poor, respectively. Payroll taxes pay for most of the Medicare expenses, while various state and federal taxes cover Medicaid costs. 

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Ron Paul's claims that U.S. is blockading Iran in act of war


(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“We're blockading [Iran]. Can you imagine what we would do if somebody blockaded the Gulf of Mexico? That would be an act of war. So the act of war has already been committed and this is a retaliation. But besides, there's no interest whatsoever for Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz. I mean, they need it as much as we do. I mean, so you have to put that in a perspective. But this whole idea that we have to go to war because we've already committed an act by blockading the country, I agree with Newt (that “the American people have no interest in going to war anywhere.”)”

-- Ron Paul, during NBC News debate in Tampa, Jan. 23, 2012

Paul made these assertions as the GOP candidates were discussing Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, which would interrupt the flow of Mideast oil to the rest of the world. The libertarian congressman chimed in as Brian Williams was moving to foreign-policy topics, suggesting he couldn’t let this one go.  

Paul’s remarks illustrate one of his primary foreign policy views: that the U.S. should mind its own business and stop trying to force other nations to meet its demands. But the candidate’s characterization of U.S. actions struck us as interesting. Has the nation really imposed a blockade on Iran and committed an act of war against the republic?

The Facts

Paul’s assertions are curious considering that the United States is not involved in a literal blockade of Iran, nor of any other part of the world right now. In fact, the U.S. hasn’t participated in a blockade since the Bosnian War of the 1990s, when NATO forces tried to stop supplies from reaching rival factions through the Adriatic Sea.  

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Fact checking the CNN debate in Charleston


(PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Two debates in a week…and another two next week. This could get tiring. Here’s quick round-up of some of the more dubious or interesting claims at the CNN Debate in Charleston, examined in the order in which they were made. As always, we may come back to do a fuller look at other, more elusive claims in the coming days.

Glenn Kessler will live chat with readers today at 1 p.m. ET about fact checking this debate. Submit your questions and opinions now.

A reminder: we do not award Pinocchios in these sorts of debate round-ups, only in full-length columns.

“The Corps of Engineers today takes eight years to study — not to complete — to study doing the port. We won the entire second World War in three years and eight months.”

— Newt Gingrich

We are not sure whether the U.S. involvement in World War II has any relevance to a study about whether to deepen the Charleston Port from 45 to 50 feet. Kudos to Gingrich for knowing local issues, but according to local news reports the Corps said that such a study would normally take five to eight years but “Corps officials say they are streamlining the review and approval process as much as possible to save time.”

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Fact Checking the Fox News-WSJ debate in South Carolina

And then there were five ... which made for a feisty evening of misstatements. We focused on 11, and may come back for more later in the week. Let’s take them in the order in which they were made.

“As [House] speaker, I came back, working with President Bill Clinton. We passed a very Reagan-like program: less regulation, lower taxes. Unemployment dropped to 4.2 percent. We created 11 million jobs.”

— Newt Gingrich

Former president Clinton would be shocked at this description, since he always credited the 22 million jobs created during his presidency to the deficit-reduction package he narrowly passed early in his tenure without a single GOP vote.

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Fact checking the ABC News and ‘Meet the Press' debates

Boy, three- and-a- half hours of debates to check this weekend! The candidates were up to their usual tricks and so the list of suspect statements is long and varied. We will go through them quickly, in the order the statements were made, beginning with the ABC News/Yahoo debate on Saturday night. After that, we tackle the Meet the Press/Facebook debate from Sunday morning. As always, we may take a deeper look at some assertions later in the week.

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THE ABC NEWS/YAHOO DEBATE, JAN. 7, 2012

“But in the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs.”

--Mitt Romney

Last week, when Romney mentioned this statistic, his campaign said the 100,000 figure was based on the number of employees at three companies with which Bain Capital was involved.

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Ron Paul biography: the complete collection

Reporter Josh Hicks compiled the following look at Ron Paul’s claims about his life and career. Click on the headlines to read the original column.

Ron Paul and racist newsletters

Paul earned three Pinocchios for offering implausible explanations about why so many racist statements made into his publications.





Ron Paul and Ronald Reagan

Paul earned two Pinocchios for his claim that he “stood with” Ronald Reagan during Reagan’s presidency.





Ron Paul’s constitutionalist record

Paul earned a prized Geppeto’s Checkmark for his assertion that he is an unwavering constitutionalist. Whether you agree with him or not, he is certainly consistent.





Ron Paul on earmarks and ‘corporate welfare’

Paul earned three Pinocchios for suggesting he never supports favoritism in the form of subsidies and earmarks.

Ron Paul on earmarks and ‘corporate welfare’ (Fact Checker biography)


(Charlie Riedel, AP)

“My priorities, you cut off all foreign welfare and foreign militarism and corporate welfare before you go after child health-care.”

-- Ron Paul remarks during Bloomberg TV interview, June 3, 2011

“I’ve never voted for an earmark in my life.”

-- Remark by Paul on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Dec. 23, 2007

Paul addresses a number of issues with these comments, but the common thread is government favoritism. The congressman portrays himself as a strict budget hawk and a candidate who never supports corporate subsidies or special funding for his congressional district.

Lots of politicians blast earmarks but find ways to justify them for their own constituents. And plenty of lawmakers support tax breaks and corporate subsidies -- so-called corporate welfare -- as a way to create jobs, foster innovation, and even protect the environment in certain cases. We examined Paul’s record to find out whether he’s truly any different.

THE FACTS

Paul’s campaign-finance record shows little indication of a politician who is tied to special interests. Individuals have provided the vast majority of his campaign cash, supplying 91 percent of the money since his first bid for office.

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Ron Paul’s constitutionalist record (Fact Checker biography)


(Joshua Lott, Reuters)

“Dr. Paul never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution. In the words of former Treasury Secretary William Simon, Dr. Paul is the ‘one exception to the Gang of 535’ on Capitol Hill.”

-- Biographical excerpt from the Ron Paul campaign site

“I have something different to offer. I emphasize civil liberties. I emphasize a pro- American foreign policy, which is a lot different than policemen of the world. I emphasize monetary policy and these things that the other candidates don’t talk about. But I think the important thing is, the philosophy I’m talking about is the Constitution and freedom.”

-- Paul, during Fox News GOP debate, Dec. 15, 2011

Paul has long portrayed himself as a constitutionalist, one who supports limited government and who values individual liberty above all else.

The term constitutionalist holds various meanings and incorporates numerous philosophies, but the main premise is that the government derives its powers from the Constitution. Paul applies the definition strictly, calling for the abolition of all federal programs not expressly authorized by the document.

We examined Paul’s record to find out whether he has lived up to his rhetoric. Could he really spend nearly 22 years in Congress without violating his principles?

THE FACTS

Paul has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for refusing to cut deals and for opposing virtually every piece of legislation that could be interpreted as government overreach or interference with the free market.

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Ron Paul and Ronald Reagan (Fact Checker biography)


(Charlie Riedel/AP)
“America must decide who to trust: Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader, or the one who stood with Reagan.”

— An ad from the Ron Paul Presidential Campaign Committee

We pulled this comment from an ad that accuses Rick Perry of trying to “undo the Reagan Revolution” when he backed Al Gore for president in 1988. Photos show Ron Paul looking chummy with the Gipper as a deep-voiced narrator describes the Texas congressman as a bold Reagan supporter. The gist: Paul has impeccable Reaganite credentials; Perry does not.

We examined Paul’s relationship with Reagan during the late 1980s to find out whether he was really so supportive of the Republican icon. Our colleagues at FactCheck.org covered this topic before, but we figure it’s worth another look as we continue our series on biographical claims of the 2012 Republican candidates.

THE FACTS

Paul has little room to criticize politicians for changing their party affiliations. He campaigned for president as a Libertarian in 1988, after running for office seven times as a Republican and serving as a GOP member of the U.S. House for more than six years at that point.

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Ron Paul and the racist newsletters (Fact Checker biography)


(Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column will be the first in a series of four columns this week examining how factual Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has been in describing his career in politics. Reporter Josh Hicks has spent weeks examining Paul’s statements and deciding which ones best represent how Paul talks about his past. Hicks has previously examined biographical statements by Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.

— Glenn Kessler

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“I’m not a racist. As a matter of fact, Rosa Parks is one of my heroes, Martin Luther King is a hero — because they practiced the libertarian principle of civil disobedience, nonviolence.”

— Ron Paul, responding during a Jan. 10, 2008, CNN interview to questions about racially charged articles published in the “Ron Paul Political Report” during the 1990s.

“I never read that stuff. I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written, and it’s been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this.”

— Ron Paul, responding to more questions about the newsletters during an interview with CNN, Dec. 21, 2011

Accusations of racism against Paul first surfaced during the candidate’s 1996 congressional campaign, when Democratic opponent Lefty Morris unveiled racially tinged quotes from a newsletter the Texas libertarian had published during his 12-year hiatus from public office.

The national media latched onto the issue during Paul’s 2008 presidential bid, after the New York Times and the New Republic highlighted derogatory statements about blacks and gays from the bulletins.

The issue resurfaced as Paul moved to the front of the GOP pack in recent weeks, and the congressman appeared to be fed up with the matter as he walked away from an interview in which a CNN reporter pressed for more answers. (See the video below).

We won’t be the judge of whether Paul is a bigot, but we can examine the extent to which he had control over his publications. Are we to believe he never reviewed the newsletters that bore his name? Would he have eliminated the messages if he’d seen them?

THE FACTS

Paul helped form the Ron Paul & Associates corporation in 1984, and the now-defunct company, for which he served as president, began publishing newsletters the following year. The monthly publications included Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report, the Ron Paul Political Report and the Ron Paul Investment Letter.

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Fact checking the Fox News debate in Iowa


(Eric Gay/AP)

It’s the final GOP debate before the Iowa caucuses. Let’s take a tour of the factually dubious statements made by the candidates, in the order in which they said them. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios during debate round-ups, though we will mention if a candidate has repeated something that we have previously rated.

“I balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in debt — pretty conservative. The first entitlement reform of your lifetime — in fact, the only major entitlement reform to now is welfare.”

— Newt Gingrich

Gingrich loves to make this claim, but it is simply not correct and is lacking context.

Listening to Gingrich, you would be forgiven for forgetting there was a president (Bill Clinton) in office at the time the nation started running a budget surplus.

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