On the third night of the Republican National Convention, GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence gave his acceptance address. Here’s a roundup of 11 of the most noteworthy claims that were made at the RNC, focused mostly on Pence’s remarks. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios for a roundup of claims made in convention events.
“It was Hillary Clinton who helped to undo all the gains of the troop surge, a staggering failure of judgment that set ISIS on the loose.”
— Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence
This is a carefully phrased statement — note the use of the word “helped” — that tries to pin the blame on Clinton for a complex dynamic that both pre-dates and post-dates her tenure as secretary of state.
To a large extent, the Islamic State of today is simply an outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq. It was established in April 2004 by longtime Sunni extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to the National Counterterrorism Center. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006, and afterward his successor announced the formation of the Islamic State — more than two years before George W. Bush left office.
The Islamic State certainly gained strength and territory from the civil war in Syria, but Clinton as secretary of state had pressed to funnel arms to the rebels; she was rebuffed by the president.
President Obama did pull troops from Iraq at the end of the 2011, which weakened the security situation in the country. The Bush administration signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq in 2008 that established a deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011. But there was some expectation that the SOFA could be renewed after that, with at least a small U.S. force remaining.
Although key elements of the Iraqi political system were supportive of a SOFA, there was not enough support for approval in the Iraqi parliament. Experts disagree about whether the administration wasted valuable time or sent mixed signals about the level of troops it was willing to commit, but former defense secretary Leon Panetta in his 2014 memoir pinned the blame on Obama for failing to use his leverage with Iraq to get a deal. Obama, in his 2012 reelection campaign, frequently touted the fact that U.S. troops had left Iraq.
“It was Hillary Clinton who instigated the president’s disastrous agreement with the radical mullahs in Iran.”
There is a reason Pence uses the word “instigated.” Clinton, as secretary of state, helped impose new international sanctions on Iran that helped bring it to the bargaining table. Toward the end of her tenure, she dispatched two top aides to launch a secret effort to test the waters with the Islamic Republic. But virtually all of the agreement was negotiated by her successor, John F. Kerry.
“It was Hillary Clinton who left Americans in harm’s way in Benghazi and after four Americans fell, said, ‘What difference at this point does it make?’ ”
Pence really pushes the envelope with this line. Numerous investigations into the September 2012 Benghazi attacks have found that security was inadequate at the Benghazi diplomatic facility, but no evidence has emerged that security requests ever reached Clinton’s level. Lower-level officials dealt with these issues, particularly the security experts, and they often had to balance other needs and interests.
Then, Pence pulls out of context a Clinton’s quote from a contentious exchange during a 2013 congressional hearing about the attacks. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) pressed Clinton repeatedly why she did not directly speak to survivors of the attacks to find out if it had been prompted by a protest, as initial media reports indicated.
Her answer was an FBI investigation into the attacks had been launched and that it would have been inappropriate to speak to people who were being interviewed by professionals. Johnson called that “a good excuse” and asserted the administration misled Americans about whether the attacks were preceded by a protest.
Clinton replied: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”
Her statement thus referred to Johnson’s questions, not to the incident itself.
“It’s union members, who don’t want a president who promises ‘to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.’ They want American energy and they know Donald Trump digs coal.”
Pence’s attack on Hillary Clinton’s claim about coal jobs is another example of taking a statement out of context. During a March 2016 town hall in Ohio, Clinton was asked by a voter: “Make the case to poor whites who live in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, who vote Republican, why they should vote for you based upon economic policies versus voting for a Republican?”
Clinton gave a lengthy response, which included the line, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” But that line has been spun out of context since then and used as a soundbite. It was part of her longer answer about helping coal mine workers adjust after they lose their factory jobs. Coal mining jobs have declined in recent years, including in West Virginia. Many reasons have contributed to this decline, including efficiency improvements and the Obama administration’s decision to reduce coal plant emissions.
Her lengthy answer in March 2016 was consistent with themes in her November 2015 policy proposal for revitalizing coal communities. The proposal says that transitioning away from coal-powered plants has already affected mining communities like in Appalachia. Clinton supports the Obama administration’s clean energy plan, and proposed ideas to help improve coal workers’ health and retirement security, and to help with economic development in coal communities.
This was her full answer. The portion that Pence cited is in bold.
Well, first of all, I was happy to carry those states you mentioned, and I carried the white vote in those states, too, that voted Democratic now, I don’t want to get carried away here.
Look, we have serious economic problems in many parts of our country. And Roland is absolutely right. Instead of dividing people the way Donald Trump does, let’s reunite around policies that will bring jobs and opportunities to all these underserved poor communities.
So for example, I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim? And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.
Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.
So whether it’s coal country or Indian country or poor urban areas, there is a lot of poverty in America. We have gone backwards. We were moving in the right direction. In the ’90s more people were lifted out of poverty than anytime in recent history. Because of the terrible economic policies of the Bush administration, President Obama was left with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and people fell back into poverty because they lost jobs, they lost homes, they lost opportunities, and hope.
So I am passionate about this, which is why I have put forward specific plans about how we incentivize more jobs, more investment in poor communities, and put people to work.
“The national debt has nearly doubled in these eight years, and her only answer is to keep borrowing and spending.”
Since Obama became president, the total national debt (including money owed to Social Security and other trust funds) has increased from $10.6 trillion to $19.4 trillion, so “nearly doubled” is correct. Pence could have said it has doubled if he focused on debt held to the public, as it has increased from $6.3 trillion to $14 trillion under Obama.
But he misfires when he criticizes Clinton’s proposals. Clinton proposes $1.45 trillion in new spending, but it would be mostly offset by new revenues.
The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which pushes for reducing the national debt, concluded that Donald Trump’s tax and budget proposals would send the national debt soaring over the next 10 years — by another $11.5 trillion — while Clinton’s proposals would have a negligible effect. The group said neither candidate had offered a plan to reduce the national debt, but Trump’s plans would add significantly more debt than Clinton.
The group said that under Clinton’s plans, the national debt — now 75 percent of the gross domestic product — would reach 87 percent of the gross domestic product by 2026. By contrast, the national debt would reach 127 percent of GDP under Trump’s proposals.
“Yet, there I was a few days ago in New York City with the man who won 37 states … faced 16 talented opponents and outlasted every one of them … and along the way brought millions of new voters into the Republican Party.”
As Politico put it, “early statistics show that the vast majority of those voters aren’t actually new to voting or to the Republican Party, but rather they are reliable past voters in general elections. They are only casting ballots in a Republican primary for the first time.”
“Today, while the nation suffers under the weight of $19 trillion in national debt, we in Indiana have a $2 billion surplus and the highest credit rating in the nation even though we’ve cut taxes every year since I became governor. Today we have fewer state employees than when I took office and businesses, large and small, have created nearly 150,000 net new jobs, and we have more Hoosiers going to work than ever before.”
Since Pence became governor in January 2013, he has cut corporate tax and individual income tax, and repealed the inheritance tax earlier than scheduled. Indiana does have a $2 billion surplus, according to its budget. Indiana has the highest credit rating possible — triple-A — but it’s not the only state with that rating.
Pence has been criticized for cutting spending and building up the reserve while there are unmet budget needs across the state, local news reports show.
Pence mentioned roads during his speech. But he began improving the state’s roads only after an emergency repair of the Interstate 65 bridge led to a month-long traffic problem and caused a political liability, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Political ads attacked Pence for saving money in the state’s reserves at the expense of underfunding the state’s infrastructure.
Pence then proposed a plan to improve roads “that relied on borrowing, drawing down state reserves and accounting gimmicks to reach an advertised $1 billion sticker price,” the Star Tribune reported. “In the end, he got just a fraction of that after Indiana’s Republican-controlled Legislature balked. And much of the money set aside for local governments came from local taxes held in state reserves that were already supposed to be returned.”
Indiana has, indeed, added just fewer than 150,000 new jobs since 2013.
But we have repeatedly warned our readers to be skeptical when a state executive highlights employment trends during his or her tenure. There’s a lot happening within a state’s economy that affects state employment trends, which are not necessarily tied to the policy decisions of the governor — especially a governor who’s been in office for a year and half. Moreover, Indiana’s unemployment rate from January 2013 to May 2016 have mirrored national trends.
Are there more Hoosiers going to work under Pence than ever before?
There were about 3 million jobs in Indiana in May 2016, the largest number of people working in the state in at least the past three decades. But Indiana’s population has grown during that time as well. Our friends at PolitiFact rated this claim Half True. As a share of the state’s population, the percentage of Hoosiers going to work was higher in 2000 than in 2016, PolitiFact found.
“As governor of Indiana [Mike Pence] made the largest income tax cut in state history.”
— House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.)
Pence did make the largest income tax cut in Indiana’s history since becoming governor in January 2013, but he didn’t have a very high bar to overcome. There was only one time the income tax was cut without an offsetting increase since it was established nearly 50 years ago, said Lawrence DeBoer, state budget expert at Purdue University.
The individual income tax rate was 2 percent when it was established in 1964, then it was cut by 0.1 percent in 1979. It rose to 3 percent in 1984, in response to revenue losses from the 1979-82 recession, DeBoer said. Then it increased to 3.4 percent in 1988, and remained that way until Pence cut it to 3.2 percent.
“The reality is, it’s too hard to put on a bumper sticker, and it’s too complicated to say it’s the biggest [income tax cut],” DeBoer said.
Still, Pence has established a record of cutting taxes. He cut individual income taxes, corporate taxes and property taxes. He repealed the state’s inheritance tax earlier than it was scheduled to phase out.
Indiana’s individual income-tax rate was already the second-lowest in the nation, according to the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center. Pence pushed to exempt business-to-business sales from taxes, but the state legislature was concerned about revenue and passed a more modest version.
“Back in 1986, the city of New York tried to refurbish a simple ice skating rink in Central Park. The project ran up over six years and ballooned to over $13 million — $5 million over an already inflated budget. That’s when my father overlooked this disastrous construction site from his office window each and every day, deciding he had to step in. Disgusted by government incompetence and ineptitude, he invested $2 million of his own money in order to complete the project. What had taken the city over half a decade to botch, my father completed in less than six months — two months ahead of schedule and over $1 million under budget.”
— Eric Trump
Actually, New York City ended up paying for this project, which ended up being a nice publicity boost for Trump.
The Wollman Rink was shuttered in 1980 for repairs and was supposed to be restored for $4.7 million, according to Bloomberg Politics. By 1985, the rink was $12 million over budget and still had not reopened. The project was delayed due to several reasons, including technology problems, errors in design and planning, and leaks in the rink’s refrigeration system, the New York Times reported.
Trump could see the project from his office window. It irritated him, and he offered to build it himself. He offered to finish it in four months, and he did — ahead of his own six-month schedule and supposedly $750,000 below his own projected $3 million budget.
City officials realized Trump could build it much faster than the city could. As a private businessman, Trump would not be subject to government bidding procedures that slow down the process to find contractors. So they let him do it.
And in the final deal, the city paid for the renovation and donated all profits to charity, according to news reports.
When the Times asked Trump in 1986 why he decided to take on the rink reconstruction, he told the Times it was the ”last thing I wanted to do, actually.” The “project was complex, he added, and he wanted to see the people have an ice rink,” the Times reported. ”I don’t want to be a wise guy and say I want to see my son skate there before he grows up,” he told the Times.
Once the rink opened, Trump held news conferences, photo opportunities, a gala and several grand opening events.
Artie Nusbaum, from a construction firm that worked on the Trump Tower, told Politico that Trump pitched the Wollman Rink project in Central Park as a “publicity ploy”:
“He said to me, ‘Artie, you’re going to get so much publicity out of this,’ ” Nusbaum told Politico. “It’ll be the best thing that ever happened to you.” The rink rehab, which Nusbaum agreed to do at cost, generated headlines — for Trump. He didn’t talk about his partners, Nusbaum says. “There was no room on the hill for the two of us. He wanted to be king of the hill.”
“If conservative reforms can work in a blue state like mine, they can work anywhere in the country.”
— Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
This was one of Walker’s favorite lines when he was running for president. But we’ve awarded him Two Pinocchios, as it stretches the truth.
While Walker says he fought and won in a blue state, it’s difficult to definitively call Wisconsin a blue state. Color-coding states as such often relies on the state’s record electing presidents. Using that measure, Walker was elected in a state that voted for a Democratic president in both 2008 and 2012, before and after he became governor. But the state leans bluer in presidential years and was not as reliably blue in the elections that Walker won.
By other measures — state legislature, the governor, congressional delegates and U.S. senators — Wisconsin’s hue is a mix of blue and red. In definitively calling Wisconsin a blue state (apparently based on its choice for president), touting his victories in said blue state (even though he didn’t face the presidential voters in those three elections) and then extrapolating his electability on the national level — Walker makes a leap in boasting of his record.
“Donald always paid his bills promptly, with no discounts.”
— business executive Phil Ruffin
Ruffin helped develop the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, and in his testimony on behalf of Trump, he made this interesting statement.
News reports have documented numerous instances where small business owners have claimed that Trump reneged on deals and shortchanged them.
USA TODAY found that Trump “has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans … who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them. … At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work.”
The Wall Street Journal even highlighted a case involving Ruffin:
A review of court filings from jurisdictions in 33 states, along with interviews with business people, real-estate executives and others, shows a pattern over Mr. Trump’s 40-year career of his sometimes refusing to pay what some business owners said Trump companies owed them.
A chandelier shop, a curtain maker, a lawyer and others have said Mr. Trump’s companies agreed to buy goods and services, then reneged when some or all were delivered.
Larry Walters, whose Las Vegas drapery factory supplied Mr. Trump’s hotel there eight years ago, said the developer, Trump Ruffin, wouldn’t pay for additional work it demanded beyond the original contract. When Mr. Walters then refused to turn over some fabric, sheriff’s deputies burst into his factory after Trump Ruffin sued him. Trucks took the fabric away.
Mr. Walters said he never had payment problems with other casino or hotel clients. A review of Las Vegas court records showed no other legal disputes over payments involving him. Mr. Walters agreed to a settlement with Trump Ruffin that was about $380,000 short of what he said he was owed, court records show. He settled, he said, because “they were going to drag it on for many, many years.”
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