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Fact checking RNC comments from Mike Huckabee and John McCain

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Wednesday’s speeches at the Republican National Convention struck us as somewhat safer than those from the previous day, but that doesn’t mean the event that day was completely free from misleading and factually incorrect remarks. Here are a few dubious comments that stood out.

“I understand that the job of the president is admittedly tougher than running a company, an Olympic contest or a commonwealth. But when one sees what even Bill Clinton noted as a sterling record of problem-solving that has marked the life of Mitt Romney, we are confident that we will do better.”

-- Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee during RNC speech, Aug. 29, 2012

Huckabee is referring to comments from former President Bill Clinton, who during a CNN interview in May addressed a spate of attacks on the business record of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Opponents had tried to pin blame for layoffs at struggling companies on the GOP candidate, whose private-equity firm owned those businesses.

We’ve written about Bain issues in many columns, noting that Romney’s critics have mostly dredged up issues that occurred after the former Massachusetts governor had left the firm. Eventually, we threw together a collection of Bain claims we’d fact-checked, because the attacks became so common.

As for Clinton’s comments, the former president essentially said that private-equity firms operate in one of two ways: by looting companies to make a quick profit or by genuinely trying to save them with smart cutbacks, greater efficiency and better production. He also cautioned against trying to judge Bain’s management practices based on a few examples, and that’s when he used the word “sterling” in relation to Romney.

Here are Clinton’s own words:

“I don’t think that we ought to get into the position where we say, ‘This is bad work, this is good work.’ I think, however, the real issue ought to be: What has Governor Romney advocated in the campaign that he will do as president? What has President Obama done and what does he propose to do? How do these things stack up against each other? That’s the most relevant thing.
There’s no question that in terms of getting up and going to the office and, you know, basically performing the essential functions of the office, the man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold. But they have dramatically different proposals. And it’s my opinion, anyway, that the Obama proposals and the Obama record will be far better for the American economy and most Americans than those that Governor Romney has laid out.”

One problem for Huckabee is that Clinton didn’t use the word “sterling” to describe Romney’s “record of problem solving,” as Huckabee claimed. Clinton said the GOP candidate’s business career helped him meet the minimum standard for becoming president.

Another problem for Huckabee is that Clinton very clearly endorsed Obama and said the current president is better qualified than Romney to lead the country, particularly because of the president’s proposals. So it’s disingenuous for Huckabee to use Clinton’s comments to suggest Obama is wrong for the White House.

We’ll let Clinton clarify this matter himself. Here’s how he characterized his remarks during a rally in Paterson, N.J.:

“I said, you know, Gov. Romney had a good career in business and he was a governor, so he crosses the qualification threshold for him being president. But he shouldn’t be elected, because he is wrong on the economy and all these other issues.
“So today, because I didn’t attack him personally and bash him, I wake up to read all these stories taking it out of context as if I had virtually endorsed him, which means the tea party has already won their first great victory: ‘We are supposed to hate each to disagree.’ That is wrong.”

Huckabee quoted Clinton inaccurately and out-of-context. He earns Three Pinocchios.


“[Obama] tells people of faith that they have to bow their knees to the god of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls health care.”

-- From Huckabee speech at RNC, Aug. 29, 2012

With this claim, Huckabee is referring to a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers and their insurers to cover the full cost of birth control for workers. Religious institutions are exempt from the mandate, but their affiliated employers, such as Catholic hospitals and schools, must still find a way to provide insurance that fully covers contraceptive costs -- the insurer could foot the entire bill without help from the church-affiliated group, for instance.

Critics of the birth control requirement say employers should be allowed to opt out of the rule if they morally object to it.

Huckabee’s argument is similar to one we covered in a column about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who suggested back in February that the contraceptive-coverage mandate prohibited free exercise of religion, which is a constitutional right. We didn’t award any Pinocchios in Cantor’s case, instead noting that his claim is a matter of legal opinion that the courts are already wrestling with in multiple lawsuits.

We’ll give Huckabee the same leeway, but it’s worth noting that the Obama administration has argued that the birth control requirement prevents employers from trampling on the rights of workers who don’t share their religious beliefs.

(An article from Washington Post reporter N.C. Aizenman provides a more in-depth look at the legal issues surrounding the mandate, in case readers are interested.)

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

“We can’t afford another $500 billion in cuts in our defense budget on top of the nearly $500 billion in cuts that the president is already making.”

- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during speech at RNC, Aug. 29, 2012


Sen. John McCain took to the stage Wednesday to address what he characterized as Obama’s foreign policy flaws. During his speech, the former GOP presidential nominee referred to the roughly $500 billion in defense-spending cuts that will be required as part of the Budget Control Act if the president and congressional lawmakers cannot negotiate a deal to trim $1.2 trillion from the deficit -- there are no signs yet that the two parties will reach a deal on this.

The Budget Control Act came about last summer as a resolution to the heated debt-ceiling debate. For what it’s worth, the bill would require about $500 billion in discretionary spending reductions on top of the defense cuts. In theory, this would spur Democrats toward a deal, whereas the defense cuts would prompt Republicans to compromise.

McCain’s comments are misleading because they imply that the president deserves all responsibility for the bill. Congressional Republicans surely didn’t like the defense-cut provision, but it was part of the deal they agreed to.

The president doesn’t deserve all the credit for looming cuts in defense spending, so McCain earns Three Pinocchios.







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