Iowa fact check

  • December 17, 2011 - 7:35 PM
The Washington Post looked into some recent statements from the leading candidates in the Republican presidential campaign. Here's a look at how their claims compare with the facts:


The claim: "[President Obama] went around the world and apologized for America."

The facts: Romney likes to say that President Obama apologized overseas for the United States. He even titled his campaign book "No Apology." Even more, Romney suggests, Obama does not believe in U.S. strength and greatness.

Most of the criticism stems from a series of speeches Obama made shortly after entering the White House, when he was trying to introduce himself to the world and also signify a distancing from the Bush administration through new policies, such as pledging to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This is typical of many new presidents.

The Washington Post tracked down every statement Obama uttered that partisans claim was an apology, and concluded that each one had been misquoted or taken out of context.

Romney often cites a statement Obama made in April 2009. Asked by a British reporter whether he thought the United States was uniquely qualified to lead the world, Obama answered: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism." As Romney put it in his book, this "is another way of saying he doesn't believe it all."

But Obama added: "I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional."


The claim: "The country is bankrupt, and nobody wanted to admit it. And when you're bankrupt, you can't keep spending."

The facts: "Bankrupt" is a distinct term, generally meaning that a person, company or state is unable to pay its debts. Under no definition is the United States bankrupt. The nation has a large debt as a percentage of its economy, and that is a concern. According to the Treasury Department's debt calculator, the debt held by the public is about $10.4 trillion, which is about 68 percent of the gross domestic product, the market value of the nation's output of goods and services. And the United States owes $4.6 trillion to itself. That consists mostly of securities held in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. But in any case, the United States is able to pay its debts, and its bonds are still regarded as the gold standard in the financial markets.


The claim: Gingrich likes to say that when he was speaker, he balanced the federal budget "for four consecutive years. We paid off $405 billion in debt."

The facts: Gingrich is correct that he and the GOP-led Congress prodded President Bill Clinton to move to the right and embrace such conservative notions as a balanced budget. But the budget was balanced in part because of Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction package, which raised taxes on the wealthy and which Gingrich opposed.

He also is wrong to say there were four years of balanced budgets when he was speaker. He resigned in January 1999; the budget ran a surplus in fiscal 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. So he can claim two years at best.


The claim: "I didn't make that claim, nor did I make that statement. Immediately after the debate, a mother came up to me, and she was visibly shaken and heartbroken because of what her daughter had gone through, and so I only related what her story was."

The facts: This quote is an example of how Bachmann avoids acknowledging her gaffes. In a previous debate, she had hit Texas Gov. Rick Perry hard for his support for giving the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) to girls. But controversy ensued when Bachmann said after the debate that the HPV vaccine is "potentially a very dangerous drug" and related the story of a mother who claimed that her daughter had become mentally retarded because of the aftereffects of the vaccine.

In a subsequent debate, Bachmann was asked: "Do you stand by your statement that the HPV vaccine is potentially dangerous?" She immediately denied that she had made that claim.


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