Live fact-checking the Foreign Policy Debate!

  • Published on October 22nd, 2012

foreign policy debate apology tour romney lies fact check

Tonight’s the night… the final debate, with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney neck and neck in the polls.

Whose pants will catch on fire live on national television? Last week it was Mitt Romney, who was called out by moderator Candy Crowley for a blatant falsehood about Barack Obama’s declarations about Libya. (And the GOP were such sore losers that they continue to not only claim it’s actually TRUE that Obama didn’t call it “Terror” the next day, but actually had the nerve to claim that Crowley walked back her fact-check – when in fact she didn’t do anything of the kind).

One thing to watch for tonight: Will Romney make this about actual policy differences and actions on the ground? Or about tiny “gotcha” moments, non-existent “apology” tours, and whether Obama’s rhetoric is manly enough, even as he handily slaughters our enemies?

And will either candidate even mention the biggest foreign policy crisis facing the planet: Climate change and global warming?

Stop by at 9 pm EST, 6 pm Pacific, as I fact-check the debate LIVE! (You can also watch it live, here.)

Follow-up: The polls and pundits have spoken, and they call it an Obama win! Read about it here!

10:30: Romney wants to promote peace. And get the economy going. He makes up a number for Obama’s government debt at the end of four years – $20 trillion – that NOBODY says is the case.  And he brings up the ludicrous lie that he “learned to get along and work together” with Democrats in Massachusetts… the truth is he vetoed HUNDREDS of bills passed by those very same Democrats… and they over-rode them. Some “bi-partisan cooperation”.

10:30: Obama’s closing statement. Nothing much new, but he makes it about a choice between the current policies that are digging us out of the hole, and Romney’s policies that created the hole in the first place. Why does he not mention Bush? Ever? They must have focus-grouped the hell out of this one, and found that bringing up Bush doesn’t play well.

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10:29: Romney continues to recycle the same economic talking points. If only he had an actual plan to grow the economy… but he fundamentally doesn’t believe in government. He wants to get our private sector going again… with tax cuts!

10:25: Romney triples down on the lie that he would have done the auto bailout the same way Obama did. Hint: BAILOUT. It required an infusing of capital, which Romney now says they could have gotten from the private sector.

It is totally agreed that in the teeth of the economic meltdown there WAS NO PRIVATE MONEY available. The government was the lender of last resort. It was only later that the auto companies were put through bankruptcy reorganization.

Here’s Ezra Klein: “You can read [Romney’s “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” Editorial]  here. Note that Romney calls for post-bankruptcy guarantees, not pre-bankruptcy guarantees. That’s the rub: The credit markets were frozen, and most experts thought Detroit couldn’t find the private financing to survive a managed bankruptcy. That’s where federal money came in. Glenn Kessler fact-checked the exchange and gave the edge to Obama.”

10:21: Obama points out that US exports have doubled to China since he came into office, and China’s currency is at its most advantageous (for us) level since 1993. So maybe something he’s doing is already working?

10:21: Romney says we’re already in a trade war with China and we can’t just keep surrendering. This may get him into trouble.

10:19: Romney once again implies that the sequester’s defense cuts – which Leon Panetta did indeed call “devastating” – are Obama policy. That’s bullshit. The sequester is CONGRESSIONAL policy, passed by Paul Ryan and the House GOP. The way to end the sequester? CONGRESS can change the law.

10:11 pm EST: Schaeffer asks if it’s time to divorce Pakistan. Romney says no. He’s sounding pretty presidential in this segment. He studied his scripts well. He doesn’t blame the administration for the current state, either.

10:06 pm EST: Romney says we’ve been successful in Afghanistan. Nice! Then he lights into Pakistan… Wants a more stable government and rebuilt relationship, not a walk-away. The President isn’t talking about walking away from Pakistan (even if a few in Congress have said that it’s an option).

10:04 pm EST: Romney tries to roll over Moderator Bob Schieffer. Schieffer is not letting it happen.

10:00 pm EST: Romney says “rising tide of chaos again”. Still.

He sees our influence receding – he must be delusional. Our influence was at a total nadir under Bush, and Obama restored America’s popularity abroad – that’s why Libyans were rallying in support of the US after the consulate attack.

And Romney brings up an AIPAC letter to Obama – which was signed by SOME Democratic Senators, but not as many as Romney said.

9:58 pm EST: Romney says “The reason I called it an apology tour is that you went to the middle east and you said that America had dictated to other nations.”

Obama hits back at Romney’s trip abroad – a foreign-policy debacle. And reminds Romney that when he, Obama went to Israel, as a candidate, he didn’t go to fund-raisers, instead he went to Yad VaShem, the Holocaust memorial, and visited with Israeli families who had had missiles rained down on them.

9:56 pm EST: And Obama calls him on the Apology tour lie. Says it’s the biggest whopper of the campaign, that it’s been debunked by every fact checker and reporter who looks at it. And he calls him on Bain’s dealing with Iran, too!

9:54 pm EST: Romney went there. He quadruples down on the “Apology tour” lie. And he doubles down on Iran’s Green uprising (the Iranians didn’t WANT Obama to speak up – that would have given the regime ammunition to arrest the protesters as “American agents”) and “Daylight between US and Israel”. All wingnut talking points, all false.

9:50 pm EST: great tweet: @DaneCook Fact: Iran has been stockpiling horses & bayonets. #debate

9:48 pm EST: Obama says the only disagreement between Obama and Romney is over whether there should be premature military action. Obama says it will be the last option, but it’s on the table. Romney says he’s good with crippling sanctions, but he wants them even more crippling (perhaps he should tell his advisers, who have been hollering the sanctions aren’t working?).

Romney now wants to have sanctions against those who trade with Iran… like his own blind trust? Like Bain Capital’s Italian subsidiary? Like Tommy Thompson?

9:44 pm EST: Romney goes back to the bullshit talking point about the size our navy (rated “Pants on fire” by Politifact), and even gets the number of ships wrong. Obama hits him hard: “We also have fewer horses and bayonets than in 1916, too …it’s not a game of battleship.” (And Navy production is actually UP under Obama after a Bush-era tail-off.)

9:40 pm EST: Romney’s free tuition sounds great… except it’s bullshit, too. We talked about this last time – in order to avoid tax increases, Romney raised FEES on everything from college students to blind people. So the student fees are four times higher than the tuition, but Romney’s scholarships only cover the tuition portion. Students are stuck with the rest.

9:32 pm EST: Romney has totally hijacked this debate back into domestic policy – with the same talking points as the last two. This is a total waste.

9:30 pm EST: Romney triples down on the lie that the President said we would be at 5.4 percent unemployment. Never happened. Romney pulled one projection from one paper by one Obama adviser from before we even had an idea of how bad the economic downturn would be. He took that and magically transformed it into an Obama promise – that’s bullshit.

9:28 pm EST: Romney has so little on foreign policy that he has to keep hammering on the economy, pushing the same debunked talking points he used in the last debate.

9:27 pm EST: Romney goes for it – siding with Iran in attacking the US economy (the one Bush destroyed). And he says we have to stand by our allies – where was he during the “Freedom Fries” debate?

9:22 pm EST: Obama hits Romney for accusing him of “mission creep” over taking out Qaddafi  Romney blinks. A lot. He also keeps saying we should take a “leadership roll” in Syria… which, as Obama points out, he has done. Romney hits him for not pushing the opposition to form a unified group – maybe he can get his advisers (most of whom are straight from Bush’s Iraq team) to hire Achmed Chalabi to put one together?

9:17 pm EST: Romney just called Syria “Iran’s rout to the sea”. That will come as a surprise to Iran, and the other countries on the Persian Gulf. Iran has 1500 miles of sea coast, but does NOT share a border with Syria (There’s 500 miles of Iraq in between them).

9:14 pm EST: Romney keeps repeating “rising tide of tumult and chaos”.  And he denies he said there should still be troops in Iraq. At the time of the withdrawal, Romney issued a statement saying that was a mistake. And on October 8 he once again condemned Obama for pulling out all our troops.

9:11 pm EST: Obama hits Romney for wanting the foreign policy of the 80s, the social policy of the 50s and the economic policy of the 30s. Romney quibbled over whether he called Russia our “number one geopolitical foe.” (Does it really matter whether he called Russia a “foe” or a “threat”? What on earth is the difference?)

9:09 pm EST: “My strategy is to go after the bad guys… but we have to get the Moslem world to reject extremism on their own.” How do we do that? He talks about foreign aid and economic development – which his party has categorically opposed.

9:06 pm EST: Romney is sounding moderate… until he says “We can’t kill our way out of this mess”. What on Earth does he have that’s different? He wants a comprehensive strategy, but hasn’t said what it would be.


Update: This next section was prepared prior to the debate, in anticipatino of Romney continuing his Libya attacks of the past few weeks. Surprisingly, he didn’t even bring them up tonight. Why? THEY WERE LIES AND THEY FAILED.

Pre-fact-check: Just to get things straight, here’s a timeline of how things actually went down in Libya:

  • Egyptians rioted in protest against an anti-Islamic film. The US embassy in Cairo issued a statement condemning the film, but defending free speech rights.
  • The Benghazi consulate was attacked; the US ambassador and three others were killed.
  • The Romney campaign rushed a statement and press conference, accusing the administration of apologizing for American values. This fit in with the campaign’s earlier theme condemning President Obama’s (non-existent) “Apology Tour”.
  • Romney was trashed in the media for attempting to politicize a foreign-policy crisis while it was ongoing, and using the death of an American ambassador for political ends.
  • So Romney doubled down on the attacks, now accusing Obama (the man who killed Osama bin Laden and dozens of other terrorists) of being soft on terror because he didn’t use the word “terror” to describe the attacks until 14 days later… which was, again, not true.
  • Romney attempted to use that “gotcha” point in the last debate, but was fact-checked by debate moderator Candy Crowley.
  • The Romney campaign not only continues to use the debunked point, but actually claims that Crowley backed down from her fact-check (which she didn’t).

The entire thing appears to be a bullshit attempt to take advantage of the usual “fog of war”. Yes, there was a riot going on at the time, based on the anti-Islamic film. It now appears that the attackers (who were al-Qaeda sympathizers, but not directly affiliated with al-Qaeda) used the Cairo riot as cover for their own assault on the embassy in Benghazi. All of which is completely consistent with the administration’s statements.


About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.