January 20th, 2012
12:59 AM ET

Truth Squad: 4 checks on Thursday's GOP debate

CNN examines statements by Republican presidential candidates during Monday night's CNN Southern Republican Debate in Charleston, South Carolina.

Rick Santorum on President Obama's budget cuts

The statement: "We have the president of the United States who said he is going to cut veterans benefits, cut our military, at a time when these folks are four, five, six, seven tours, coming back, in and out of jobs, sacrificing everything for this country.  And the president of the United States can't cut one penny out of the social welfare system and he wants to cut a trillion dollars out of our military and hit our veterans, and that's disgusting."

The facts: The Obama administration has struggled to bring down a staggering - and growing - budget deficit since taking office in 2009. Depressed tax revenues due to the 2007-2009 recession, spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, increased aid to the unemployed and the last of Obama's 2009 economic stimulus bill helped the deficit swell to a projected $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year 2011.

The 2010 election put added pressure on the administration as anti-tax, anti-spending Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, resulting in three budgetary standoffs between Congress and the White House in 2011.

Obama has in fact proposed a series of budget cuts, to the dismay of many of his own supporters. In September, he proposed wringing more than $300 billion from Medicare and Medicaid - the federal health-care programs for the poor and elderly - as part of an effort to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade. In August, his budget chief warned government agencies to brace for cuts of 5% to 10% for 2013. And in January 2010, the administration proposed savings of $250 billion by freezing all nonsecurity discretionary spending for three years.

The departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs were exempted from that proposal. But the administration projects it will save $1.1 trillion on defense in the coming 10 years - largely because the war in Iraq is over, and U.S. troops are being pulled back from Afghanistan.

And Obama has proposed increases in federal spending on veterans. Its 2012 budget request was up 10.6% "to meet increased need" by Americans who have served in the military over the past decade, and a 3.5% increase is projected for 2013.

One cloud on the horizon is the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts now hanging over the heads of Congress. Half of that will fall on the Pentagon unless negotiators come up with a different plan.

But that won't happen until 2013 and can be averted if lawmakers can cut projected deficits by an equal amount.

The verdict: False. Santorum is wrong on two counts. Obama has proposed cuts to significant portions of the U.S. safety net, while adding spending on veterans benefits to accommodate the large number of returning American veterans. And a big portion of the planned defense cuts come from the end of two long-running wars.

Newt Gingrich on distrust of government and possible health care repeal

Newt Gingrich said the country's distrust of Washington and fear of centralized medicine would create pressure to repeal the health care act.

The statement: "The American people are frightened of bureaucratic, centralized medicine. They deeply distrust Washington. The pressure will be to repeal it."

The facts: Americans generally "distrust Washington," according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted in September. Only 2% of Americans said they could "just about always" trust the federal government, while 77% said they could only trust it some of the time.  Another poll earlier this month found President Barack Obama's approval rating at 49%, while approval of Congress had plunged to 11%.

By comparison, in 1958 - before the war in Vietnam, Watergate and the revelations that spilled out of Washington in their aftermath - 73% of Americans said they could trust the federal government all or most of the time.
But Gingrich is off when he characterizes public opinion as building up pressure behind a promised repeal of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law Republicans call "Obamacare."  A CNN/ORC poll in November found that while the bill remains unpopular, some of the opposition comes from people who don't think it went far enough toward establishing universal health insurance.

Asked whether they approved or disapproved of the health-care law, much of which has yet to take effect, only 38% said they favored it; 56% said they were opposed. But only 37% said they opposed it because it went too far; an additional 14% said they opposed it because it wasn't liberal enough.
And while the public remains divided over the idea of requiring all Americans to buy health insurance - the cornerstone of the law - opposition has softened over the past year. Another November poll by CNN found 52% favored mandatory health insurance, up from 44% in June; opposition dropped from 54% in June to 47% in November.

The verdict: Misleading. Gingrich is right that there is a widespread distrust of Washington, but that doesn't appear to be translating into more support for repealing one of the most controversial acts of the Obama administration to date.

Mitt Romney defends his record on abortion

The statement: "What came to my desk was a piece of legislation that said, 'We're going to redefine when life begins.' In our state, we said life began at conception. The Legislature wanted to change that to say, 'no, we're going to do that at implantation.' I vetoed that. The Legislature also said, 'We want to allow cloning for purposes of creating new embryos of testing.' I vetoed that. They didn't want abstinence education; I pursued abstinence education. There was an effort to have a morning-after pill provided to young women in their teens; I vetoed that. I stood as a pro-life governor."

The facts: Romney ran two statewide campaigns in Massachusetts - an unsuccessful bid for Senate in 1994 and a winning one for governor in 2002 - as a supporter of abortion rights. But in 2005, he vetoed an emergency contraception bill and declared in the pages of the Boston Globe that he was an opponent of abortion, though he "respected the state's democratically held view" in favor of abortion rights.

Romney went on to veto the other bills he mentioned as well, though state lawmakers overrode his veto of a bill that would have allowed the creation of embryos for stem-cell research.
In April 2006, he announced $800,000 in grants for abstinence education programs, which are supported by many religious conservatives as an alternative to sex education.

The verdict: True. Romney's opposition to abortion is still viewed suspiciously by many conservatives, but his record supports the claims he made Thursday night.

Does Ron Paul's WWII anecdote ring true?

The statement: "After World War II, we had 10 million come home all at once.  But what did we do then? There were some of the liberals back then that said, 'Oh, we have to have more work programs and do this and that.' And they thought they would have to do everything conceivable for those 10 million. They never got around to it because they came home so quickly. And you know what the government did?  They cut the budget by 60%. They cut taxes by 30%.  By that time, the debt had been liquidated. And everybody went back to work again, you didn't need any special programs."

The facts: The end of World War II did see a sharp decrease in federal spending as the United States demobilized. The U.S. budget grew nearly tenfold between 1940 and 1945, peaking at about $93 billion - $1.2 trillion in today's dollars. By 1948, it had fallen to $30 billion, or about a third of 1945 outlays, according to federal records.

Taxes went down as well during that period, though rates stayed high. The top tax rate in 1945 was 94%. The rate was cut to 91% by 1948, and the threshold for paying that rate went up from about $200,000 to more than 1.8 million in current dollars, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan Washington research group.

But demobilization was not as smooth as Paul portrays. The U.S. economy saw two recessions between 1945 and 1950 as veterans returned home and factories retooled for civilian work. The war bonds sold to finance the conflict weren't retired until the early 1980s, according to the Treasury Department, though revenue from the eventual postwar boom kept the debt manageable. The top tax rate stayed at 91% until the Kennedy administration.

Most significantly, the libertarian congressman underplays the role of the federal government in helping veterans coming home. The Employment Act of 1946 "committed the federal government to take all practical measures to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power," according to a 2003 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Then there is the law many historians consider one of the most significant pieces of legislation of the 20th century: the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill. It sent millions of veterans to college, provided government backing for home loans and is credited with laying the foundations of the modern middle class.

The verdict: Misleading. Paul is correct that spending and taxes came down after 1945, as would be expected at the end of a conflict that saw the entire might of the United States thrown into the war effort. But he leaves out both the long-term debt and high tax rates left behind as Washington paid off the war and gives short shrift to the efforts made to resettle veterans who came home.

soundoff (585 Responses)
  1. Joe

    how about you do a piece and just present facts, like if you take one and one it will always equal two. You know the truth and nothing but the truth. What happened to just reporting facts not sympathies not leaning not I agree with her I disagree with just the facts.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeffrey Lyon

      If you are going to question the facts in a report, you have to provide the correct facts. An opinion without facts is just a worthless rant.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • thinksome1

      The over riding "FACTS" that I get from this report are that CNN would like Romney to win. I think this is because of their belief that Romney can't beat Obama. Seems they have something negative or disparaging to say about each candidate except Romney. From a recent CNN article they said, "Ron Paul is holding his own in South Carolina, for whatever that's worth." How is CNN minimizing the fact that they report he is holding his own by tacking on "for what ever that's worth" in any way appropriate? Clearly shows CNN is dismissive of Ron Paul. The bias for Romney, against most things Republician, and for all liberal sentiments shines out in all the CNN articles.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BPD

    What I saw last night was a circus full of clowns. In this ring The sweater wearing, religious fanatic Santorum! Watch him as he swing through the crowd holding his bible and spitting lies out his folk tongu mouth. Next we have the plastic floppy bouncy man Romney who says whatever he can to get your votes. See him with his million kids and his cult beliefs. Wow its and bird no it’s a plane no it’s the flying lying elderly Bob Big Boy looking man Gingrich and his plastic wife. Watch him as he lies about wanting to juggle 2 women at a time. And for our finale act here’s Ron, can someone please wake him up and give him some hot milk and a bedtime story. WOW PRESIDENT OBAMA IS TRULY THE MAN THE 2012!

    January 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • SkekLach

      Yeah, you really need to open your eyes if you think Obama has any chance of being elected again. Paul is the only candidate that even understand what he's talking about and the people are still eager to vote for ANYONE who simply meets the requirement of not being Barack Obama. When people are seriously considering Newt Gingrich for the presidency, they're desperate.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Since when is being religious a bad thing! This country needs someone like Santorum that can restore family values to this desperate nation. When are people going to learn that getting a stable job, getting married at age 30, not having kids before you are married is the best way to live a prosperous, fulfilling life. And if you think Obama is gonna win you are crazy: he can't run on his poor record, he can't run on his ideals as he flip-flops on all issues, gas prices will be at 5+ dollars, and any of these candidates could easily beat obama. SANTORUM in 2012

      January 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • SkekLach

      Mike... you just displayed EVERYTHING that is wrong with being super religious. Getting people to work, medical care, etc, is important. But telling them what their morals should be or how to live their lives is simply insulting. What's right for your life or most fulfilling for you isn't so for everyone else, so please keep it to yourself.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ahhh

      Time and Time again, I see people saying comments on DR. PAUL that it show that these people don't listen to the debates or understand the issues at stake...if they understood, they would be much more scared about the future than they are now.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    I apologize for being disrespectful, but you have to understand the American people are so hired of the lies and manipulations you guys have no idea how much we are longing for just the facts just information so we can make our decisions based on what we feel are the most important issues in our lives, we don't need assistance from commentators manipulation of information or massaging information to give a biased in one direction or another.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shawn

      That is exactly what this story is doing. Taking the claims made by the candidates and paring it down to just the facts. Just because the results end up going against your beliefs you claim they are lies. That's the problem with this country. Stop just repeating the spin the candidates throw at you, look at the facts, and come to your own conclusions.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • thinksome1

      You can see, feel and taste the liberal bias in media, and the glamorization of the news in general. Back when CNN was new, it was news on demand 24 hours a day. My channel was always on CNN. Now, after a few minutes, I am disgusted with it. So tired of superlatives like massive, shocking, unbelievable. I think the one word that sets me off the most these days is "obviously". I don't want opinions, I want news. I will form my own opinions.

      January 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. saywhat

    President Obama did not land us in the debacles of Iraq or Afghanistan. And a year of the beginning of his presidency was enough time for him to get this nation on track?
    The Obstructionist Party of NO aka Republican Party had & has only one obsession – to make his presidency fail. The interests of America and Americans be damned. Stooping as low as to drag his origin, faith and color into their muddied campaign.
    Even now when you listen to these pitiful hopefuls they do not desist from this theme.

    January 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • SkekLach

      Nobody in the GOP could make Obama look worse than he's already done. You're right – he didn't get us into Iraq or Afghanistan. He did promise to get us out in 16 months though and people elected him on that promise (among others). We hired him to do the job he said that he would do, he didn't do it, it's time to hire somebody else. Plain and simple.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • jorgath

      Okay, 16 months you say. Well, let's see...He was inaugurated in January 2009. We were out of Iraq 8 months late.

      Of course, Bush said we'd done Iraq after 2 months, and we were there for 7 years and 9 months.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • skekLach

      Actually, us finally pulling out of Iraq was thanks to Bush. It was the time table he set up that stated we HAD to get out then. Obama couldn't have stayed any longer, he literally stayed until we absolutely had to get out. Educate yourself.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Doc

    Joe – et al.

    The first year of President Obama in the Whitehouse did indeed have a full democratic super majority. The fact that you completely ignore is that the first year of any President comes after the budget for the fiscal year has already been established. In addition the interest on the national debt (which didn't matter according to the previous V.P.) would continue to accrue until a substantial amount of the capital has been paid off. This might have occurred under the former President but he decided to buy everyone's votes with their own money instead of paying down the national debt. With continuing the Bush tax breaks, two wars which nobody wanted to actually pay for, and a huge loss of tax revenues due to the economic recession I don't see how any reasonable person could possibly think that the national debt could be brought into balance by anyone short of shutting down everything governmental, including the military, but the IRS.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. harvey johnson

    Just remember to all of you who vote republican in 2012, don't complain when the republicans cut your SSN, Medicare and Medicad, Veterans benefits. I am retired military and I don't care if the repulicans get us into another war, my kids and me are not going to fight your battlles, it will be your kids that die for no reason so the rich can keep getting richer.Republicans always screw this country up and the it takes more than 4 years for a Democrat to fix it, but you seem to think it can be done by waving of his hand. We need more mental health facilities for you people because it is obvious you are retarded for voting for rich right wing nut jobs.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • SkekLach

      The sad thing is that you honestly believe this without realizing how Obama has extended the wars and gotten us involved in further conflicts. You actually complain about how all Republicans are war mongers without realizing the Ron Paul is the ONLY candidate through either party forcefully advocating the end of the wars and our interventionalist tactics. You want an end to the wars? You want veterans to be treated fairly? Why don't you do some fact searching and see who the men and women fighting these wars put their support behind? Ron Paul gets more support from our troops than Obama and the other GOP candidates COMBINED. And there's a reason – do your homework before you go spouting nonsense.

      January 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BPD

    Excuse me are you guys the same fools who said Obama wasn't going to win in 2008? Obama came into to the office cleaning up the crap Bush and his people made. Anyone with half of a brain should know that. Oops I am sorry you Obama haters don't even have half of a brain.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • SkekLach

      Wait.. you support Obama and think others don't have half of a brain? The president who broke nearly every promise he made, assassinated Americans without due process (including a minor), and authorized the detention of US civilians indefinitely without due process? Who didn't pull us out of the wars when he said he would, got us into more conflicts we didn't need, pushed a failed socialized medical care program, insulted the Supreme court in front of their faces on live television, and has blamed all things that have gone wrong on the guy before him for the past 3 years? Another 4 years in office with Obama and we'll miss G.W. enough to add him onto Mount Rushmore..

      January 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jasmith4

    Gingrich wishes the media would focus on issues, not his affairs? He's "appalled"?? What about MonicaGate, when for YEARS then-Speaker Gingrich was doing EXACTLY the OPPOSITE - that's the definiton of hypocrisy, folks! - by focusing on Monica Lewinsky rather than the issues? AND he was cheating? AND he had a love child? AND he had that child ABORTED? All worse than Clinton, and all FACTS??

    January 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nell

    Delirium has set in! Obama is running some of these folks crazy. If you don't believe CNN, turn the channel back to Faux.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. elgatoblanco

    Wow! A 91% top tax rate. The U.S. must have looked like Somalia back then. Oh wait. We were still the greatest country in the world. But.. That doesn't make sense. It contradicts everything the GOP has been telling me about economics. Maybe Obama changed the historical records.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. demogoat

    Fact checking is going on constantly during the debate. Romney said Rick lied, Newt said Rick lied, Rick said Newt lied. I busted out laughing with all the finger pointing saying that is not true. But no one ever defends Obama when they all lie.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. rakaman

    Funny how the "Truth Squad" never looks at anything on the Obama side. Like, say, that fancy new commercial they put out to showcase Obama's energy policy (hint: not building pipelines and wasting billions on solar panels is not an energy policy). The Truth only applies to republicans, apparently. Democrats can twist the facts as much as they want.

    January 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cheri

    Mike had it right "Since when is being religious a bad thing! This country needs someone like Santorum that can restore family values to this desperate nation. When are people going to learn that getting a stable job, getting married at age 30, not having kids before you are married is the best way to live a prosperous, fulfilling life."

    The problem with America is the poor ethics and morals people have today. If you believe that broken homes are a good thing, lying and cheating, not respecting your parents, stealing or even taking the life of another person is a good thing...than you are a FOOL!

    Just imagine a world where the marriage vows are taken seriously, where you can confidently put money away for when you retire knowing that some scam artist (aka corporation) isn't going to steal your hard earned money and leave you in the poor house despite your best efforts. Where you don't put your life in danger by wearing the wrong color as you walk from point A to point B. Where teenagers don't get pregnant and children don't grow up in fatherless homes because honoring others come second nature. Where we can trust our leaders BECAUSE they have faith in the citizens ability to do a job well done, rather than distrusting its citizens and create so much debt my grandchildren's grandchildren will still be paying it down IF America is even around for much longer!

    January 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • SkekLach

      Really? You think the problem is the lack of morality? See, I have one problem with that statement. When my grandfather was a child, the economy was good enough that he once quit a job one morning and started his next one that very evening. The country was doing grand... As long as you weren't black, of course. Oh, and they were just learning that overseas 6 million people had been systematically exterminated because of their race. So pardon me if I'm not quick to buy your "morals are needed for things to be good" ideas.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Greg Haus

    So Romney tells the truth, Santorum flat out lies and Paul and Gingrich mislead. Pretty much what I expected, except Ron Paul is usually more truthful and Gingrich usually lies more blatantly.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Deb Taylor

    Talk about CNN being bias/ you should check out Shawn Hannity/ if someone in the dem's party pardon 5 convicted murderers Shawn would have been all over this not one word was mentioned. Every news anchor should only report the news not have opinion atleast not on the air.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeah Right

      Give it rest.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
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