The highlight of the second day of the Democratic National Convention was a sentimental and anecdotal speech by former president Bill Clinton. In contrast to many of his speeches, such as his address to the DNC in 2012, there were not many facts to check. Here’s a roundup of some of the most noteworthy claims that were made. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios for a roundup of claims made in convention events.
“We moved 100 times as many people out of poverty as moved out when President Reagan was in office, with 40 percent more jobs.”
— Bill Clinton, quoted in a DNC video
This is a cherry-picked number. Bill Clinton’s staff had cited U.S. Census poverty statistics from 1993 to 2000 under Clinton, compared to the same statistics from 1981 to 1988 under Reagan. During those two periods, the number of people in poverty decreased by 77,000 under Reagan and 7.7 million under Clinton — nearly 100 times more than under Reagan. The data does not precisely match to presidential tenures, so the numbers can change if you use slightly different time frames.
But raw numbers are less informative than using the actual poverty rate.
The Wall Street Journal looked at the poverty rate instead of the sheer number of people, to take into account the population increase. It noted that the poverty rate has tended to rise around recessions — and Reagan’s record on poverty and jobs “appears diminished because a deep recession occurred shortly after he took office, and that recession also caused an uptick in poverty during the beginning of his presidency.”
“So Mr. Clinton had 100 times more people leave poverty by one very particular metric under his presidency than did so under Mr. Reagan. But overall, both saw robust levels of job growth and saw declines against poverty (that proved to not last in subsequent years),” the Journal noted. “As with their record on jobs, much of the gap between Mr. Reagan and Mr. Clinton’s tenures is driven by the recession that began just a few months after Mr. Reagan took office.”
Clinton cites the net job creation under his presidency compared to the net job creation under Reagan. But again, this measure does not take into account the state of the economy when they took office.
“The approval of the United States was 20 points higher when she left the secretary of state’s office than when she took it.”
— Bill Clinton
A campaign official said Clinton was citing a Meridian International Center and Gallup U.S.-Global Leadership Project poll that showed the median U.S. approval rating in Europe grew from 18 percent in 2008 to 41 percent in 2013. That’s a gain of 23 percentage points. But it’s just Europe; the gain in Asia was 14 percentage points.
Moreover, other major polls on international net favorability rating of the United States show mixed results.
Bloomberg Politics analyzed an aggregate of the three major polls from 2008 to 2014 to see if the data support the claim that Hillary Clinton improved America’s image as secretary of state. It used polling from Gallup, Pew Research Center and GlobeScan, a Toronto-based firm that conducts annual global surveys.
Pew and GlobeScan found that the U.S. net favorability rating improved after January 2008, but declined in the second half of her term. Weighted data for the Gallup poll begins in August 2009, so Bloomberg could not compare how much the favorability rating changed since she became secretary of the state. But from August 2009 until summer 2011, the favorability rating for U.S. leadership declined and remained flat after 2011.
“None of this is meant to be a grading of Clinton’s overall performance as secretary of state. The job requires much more than just maintaining a positive reputation for the country. Clinton’s role in gathering consensus for sanctions on Iran in order to bring them to the negotiating table on a nuclear agreement is often cited as a major achievement, as is her advocacy for women’s and girls’ rights in the developing world. Yet the broader claim that she restored America’s global reputation may be a harder sell. If these three polls are any indication, by the time Clinton left Foggy Bottom, global opinion about the U.S. had fallen to, or below, where it was when she got there.”
“She compiled a really solid record, totally progressive on economic and social issues. She voted for and against some proposed trade deals.”
— Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton suggests that Hillary Clinton was somewhat split on trade deals — she was “totally progressive” — but her overall record as senator was to broadly support such agreements. As a senator, Clinton had a chance to vote on 10 trade deals, and she voted for or supported all but two: the Trade Act of 2002, essentially a trade deal involving Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, and the 2005 Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement. Moreover, as secretary of state, she also championed the negotiations that led to the Trans-Pacific Partnership; only as a presidential candidate, when challenged by Sen. Bernie Sanders, she suddenly said she opposed the final negotiated text.
Of course, Bill Clinton as president was a supporter of two trade actions that Donald Trump and liberal Democrats have heavily criticized: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the decision to grant China permanent normal trade relations, which led to a flood of Chinese imports.
“So the second time I tried a different tack. I said I really want you to marry me, but you shouldn’t do it. And she smiled and looked at me, like, what is this boy up to? She said that is not a very good sales pitch. I said I know, but it’s true. And I meant it, it was true. I said I know most of the young Democrats our age who want to go into politics, they mean well and they speak well, but none of them is as good as you are at actually doing things to make positive changes in people’s lives. So I suggested she go home to Illinois or move to New York and look for a chance to run for office. She just laughed and said, are you out of you mind, nobody would ever vote for me.”
— Bill Clinton
This is a sweet story, but apparently it is of relatively recent vintage. It also does not sound like Hillary Clinton remembers it quite this way either. Here’s her version, from an article that appeared in New York magazine in May:
Bill Clinton famously had to propose to Hillary Rodham several times before she agreed to marry him and move to Arkansas. In recent years, he’s started telling a version of the story in which he was urging her not to marry him, and instead run for office in New York or Chicago, and in which she replied that that was a ridiculous idea: She was too aggressive; no one would vote for her.
“I don’t think he said that when he actually proposed,” she told me with a smile when I brought up this version of the story. “But it was kind of a theme that he would go back to.” He wasn’t the only one. The conviction of many of her friends that she should go into politics stemmed, she said, from the fact that “I was really interested in politics and I was really interested in policy and there weren’t that many young women who were. So the fact that I was kind of catalyzed people’s imagining … ‘Oh my gosh, you could run for office!’ ” But, Clinton said, in those days she saw herself as “an advocate, using my legal training, using whatever other skills I had to investigate, research, speak out.” In other words, Clinton pictured herself, as generations of other ambitious women had, as being of service, not as a headliner.
“We saw Hillary’s heart when, as first lady, she worked across party lines to bring health care to millions of children.”
— Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.)
Boxer utters a variation of a line that previously earned the Clinton campaign Two Pinocchios. But the language is adjusted to not suggest Clinton was so central to the effort.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was signed into law in 1997 by her husband, then-President Bill Clinton. But the evidence is slim that Clinton worked with members of both parties on passing the legislation; she at best played a behind-the-scenes role at the White House.
By all accounts, the prime mover behind CHIP was the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). He was inspired by a similar Massachusetts program and then enlisted Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) as his partner in the effort. Kennedy had to overcome opposition at the Clinton White House in order to get the measure passed, though Hillary Clinton was considered an ally at the White House.
In 1998, the Clintons were urging states to sign up for the program, and Hillary Clinton took a more overt public role in promoting it. As Boxer’s statement is phrased, she also could be referring to that effort, which was essential to getting children signed up, thus softening the campaign statements that suggest Clinton had a key role in passing the legislation.
“[After the Clinton health-care bill failed] Hillary immediately went to work on solving the problems the bill sought to address one by one. The most important goal was to get more children with health insurance. In 1997, Congress passed the Children’s Health Insurance Program, still an important part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. It insures more than 8 million kids.”
— Bill Clinton
This is a variation of the same theme, but even more artfully phrased by the former president. He suggests she played a role — “immediately went to work” — but when he mentions the bill he does not say Hillary Clinton played much of a role. He simply notes that Congress passed it.
“We need a president who knows it’s just plain wrong that women make 79 cents for every dollar paid to a man.”
Few experts dispute that there is a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women — such as women tending to leave the workforce when they have children — make it difficult to make simple comparisons. But “79 cents” is a bit facile.
Boxer is relying on a simple calculation from the Census Bureau: a ratio of the difference between women’s median earnings and men’s median earnings. (The median is the middle value, with an equal number of full-time workers earning more and earning less.) That leaves a pay gap of 21 cents.
But the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the gap is 17 cents when looking at weekly wages. The gap is even smaller when you look at hourly wages — 15 cents — but then not every wage earner is paid on an hourly basis, so that statistic excludes salaried workers.
Annual wage figures do not take into account the fact that teachers — many of whom are women — have a primary job that fills nine months out of the year. The weekly wage is more of an apples-to-apples comparison, but it does not include as many income categories.
Critics of the Census statistic have noted that the wage gap is affected by a number of factors, including that the average woman has less work experience than the average man and that more of the weeks worked by women are part-time rather than full-time.
Women also tend to leave the workforce for periods to raise children, seek jobs that may have more flexible hours but lower pay, and choose careers that tend to have lower pay. (BLS data show that women who have never married have virtually no wage gap; they earn nearly 94 cents for every dollar a man makes.)
In 2016, a comprehensive review conducted by Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn of Cornell University found that about 50 percent of the wage gap could be explained by a variety of factors largely in a woman’s control, such as choice of occupation and industry. The level of experience helped explain another 14 percent of the wage gap.
But Blau and Kahn said that 38 percent is “unexplained” and could be the result of discrimination. That adds up to almost an eight-cent differential between men and women, much less than the 21 cents suggested by the raw Census data.
“Hillary’s opponent says he thinks ‘wages are too high.'”
Donald Trump did say this during a November 2015 Republican primary debate, but he has clarified his claim since then.
During the debate, Trump was asked whether he was “sympathetic to the protesters’ cause since a $15 wage works out to about $31,000 a year.” His full answer, with the part Boxer is quoting in bold:
“I can’t be, Neil. And the reason I can’t be is that we are a country that is being beaten on every front economically, militarily. There is nothing that we do now to win. We don’t win anymore. Our taxes are too high. I’ve come up with a tax plan that many, many people like very much. It’s going to be a tremendous plan. I think it’ll make our country and our economy very dynamic.
But, taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum. But we cannot do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it.”
Days later, Trump clarified he was referring to whether he would increase the minimum wage. He would not raise it, because then it would be “too high,” he said.
Trump’s stance on the federal minimum wage has continued to shift. On Tuesday, a Trump campaign official clarified that the Republican presidential nominee supports a federal minimum wage as an entry training wage, and opposes increasing it to $15 “since it becomes a barrier to entry-level employment.” Also on Tuesday, Trump said in an interview on Fox News that he supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10, and that states can raise it higher.
Donald Trump “wants to punish women for having abortions.”
— Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Yes, Trump made this comment, but he quickly recanted it.
In a response to a question about his stance on abortion rights, Trump said during a March 2016 town hall with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that there “has to be some form of punishment” for abortion.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?
TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman.
TRUMP: Yeah, there has to be some form.
MATTHEWS: Ten cents? Ten years? What?
TRUMP: I don’t know. That I don’t know. That I don’t know.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
TRUMP: I don’t know.
Trump walked back his comment within hours. He released a statement clarifying he meant that the doctor should be punished, not the woman:
“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”
In 1999, he publicly said he supported abortion rights — but he is now a vocal opponent of women’s right to abortion. Still, Trump has expressed various opinions on antiabortion policies, and his comments have been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats.
“Donald Trump also has a strange admiration for dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Un, and Vladimir Putin.”
— Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright
Here’s some context for this statement:
Trump on North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un:
“If you look at North Korea — this guy, he’s like a maniac, okay? And you have to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden — you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that? Even though it is a culture and it’s a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games.”
— rally in Iowa on Jan. 9
Trump on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein:
“We shouldn’t have destabilized — Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. Right? He was a bad guy. Really bad guy. But you know what, he did well. He killed terrorists. He did that so good.”
— speech in North Carolina, July 5, 2016
“Saddam Hussein, who’s a bad guy and all of that, but he made a living off killing terrorists.”
— interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Feb. 14, 2016
“Whether you like Saddam Hussein or not, he used to kill terrorists. Now if you go to Iraq, it’s like the Harvard for terrorists.”
— quoted by BuzzFeedNews, Feb. 13, 2014
Trump on Russian President Vladimir Putin:
“I will tell you in terms of leadership he is getting an ‘A,’ and our president is not doing so well. They did not look good together.”
— interview on Fox News, Sept. 29, 2015
“Today, millions of people in the world are held in forced labor or sexual servitude.”
— Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
In her remarks, Klobuchar referenced broad estimates that there are millions — nearly 21 million, according to the International Labor Organization — in the world who are the victims of forced labor. The majority are forced into private or state economic enterprises, but 22 percent are estimated to be forced into sexual exploitation.
But then she focused on a specific case in her home state — the abduction of a 12-year-old girl who was forced into sex acts. She mentioned the case to highlight the fact that trafficking also takes place in the United States.
The juxtaposition might give the impression that sex trafficking of minors is widespread in the United States. Data is sparse, but a recent study funded by the Justice Department concluded that the number of juveniles in the sex trade in the United States is about 9,000 to 10,000, far below previous estimates.
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