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. tawiggie

    I think it is strange that you fact check things from the debate and the only person you say it telling the truth is the person that by your writing and overall reporting on you would like to see get the nomination. I think it is funny that the so called news organizations are basically promoting their political views and calling it news. Is it to much to ask for one news organization to actually not put there political views in what they report.
    What ever happened to impartial reporting? The way things are right now the news programs spin the news to there own political view regardless of what the truth is and present it as the truth. More than likely in the next year someone is going to expose all of the news organizations for what they are an extension of the parties they support. That would be a story worth printing.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Samuel Burnside

      This is why you perform your own fact checking ! And you educate yourself on the issues. Hopefully before you vote !

      January 20, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • maniacmudd

      like Faux Snews?

      January 20, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Brenda

      Yes, there's a conspiracy around every corner. They reported Romney as telling the truth because he IS telling the truth. He may not be a flashy guy, but I like him, trust him, and think he is exactly what the country needs in a President.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • SciGuy

      Yes, you are right. CNN is not a news organization, they are another branch of govt. and I trust their fact-checking as much as I trust the govts fact checking.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • BobNAlabama

      Just another right wingnut who uses a paranoid conspiracy premise to justify the fact that they are WRONG.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Samuel Burnside

    Newt blames Obama and the media for his problems. And my brothers in South Carolina went for it.

    I was born in SC. I joined the military...and did not retire there. Because it is a state that needs a lot of help ! And you saw this last night ! Southern Bapt ! Yes only when it fits them....character is a concern. And for Southern Bapt in SC to give Newt a pass. The just dont like having a President that looks a little different from the majority in SC.

    This is why I refused to live there....catch up ! Please.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob Boland

      You bet the President is different then most of the SC citizens! He want to change our country to a socialist system. He votes again National Security by down grading the military. He will not approve the Keystone pipe line because he has to support his left leaning base. Here are the facts, in 1943 the US built the Big Inch and Little Inch pipe line. This line pumps 100's of thousands of barrels of oil and gas from TX. to NJ. Also, beside every railroad tracks in the US are oil and gas pipe lines. In the last 50 years there have been no major spills. I could go on and on but there is no space..All this President cares for is his reelection. We cannot stand another 4 years of Nasty Nancy and do noting Reid.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. cnnstinks

    biased article..

    January 20, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. Publico

    The Truth Squad should investigate why Doctor Paul was overlooked regarding the abortion question. After all Doctor Paul is a Doctor who's delivered 4,000 babies so why not give Doctor Paul the opportunity to ask the question proposed to the other 3 candidates on stage. It's not like there were 8 candidates debating and Doctor Paul got lost in the mix. It's only after the audience demanded that Doctor Paul be given the equal opportunity to reply the abortion question did political propagandist, excuse me – I mean moderator John King give Doctor Paul an equal chance to answer the abortion question propose to the other three candidates.

    Then the post debate coverage by CNN should be looked into by the Truth squad. How long was it before Doctor Paul was mentioned by CNN? I've read it was 50 plus minutes into the post-debate coverage before Doctor Paul was mentioned.

    Now, I'm not picking on CNN. I could detail the same type of political propagandist behavior by Fox News, ABC News, CBS "89 seconds" News and many, many others.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  5. Renforal

    The truth squad is misleading and mis-characterizing the so called "facts". Paul did not protray "demobilization" as smooth. Also, your facts do not clearly state that the Gov't did nearly nothing to help veterans. My father was one of them and he had no assistance at all. He went out and started a business. Furthermore, the GI bill was of little use until Korea (another unnecessary war). This bill also caused the cost of education to rise sharply for non-veterans.

    As for taxes, few people paid the top tax rate. Most found ways to avoid it. CNN is disingenuous in their assessment.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  6. HR

    Where is the truth squad for OBAMA – he has told more lies in three years than any other politician in history.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      The Truth Squad checks all facts equally, were you only willing to review the lies. Your bias is obvious. Open your mind and check everything, learn the truth for yourself.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. RoyBatty

    tawiggie: Just like Fox News right? Spinning the news is not a new thing at all. Its been an unfortunate by product of a very partisan political system. I read multiple news sources to get a clearer picture. Since the politics and media industry are both driven by money and profits alone, you should follow the money to find the answers. Political agendas are controlled in part, if not completely, by money. Money is the religion of the United States. You dont like political spin? Take the money out of the equation and perhaps we would all get stories closer to what is really going on. Like thats going to hnappen here in the U$A. Good luck.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. BVN

    100% agree with tawiggie.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. Lydia

    Does anybody wonder why a state that prides itself on social conservatism, gives a standing ovation to a man that won't even try to defend his own moral behavior? He says he is going to let his daughters do it for him! His daughters! It seems that the king-maker state is off balance.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • jchapman

      We are a jesus-lovin' state, where jesus forgives and loves you..as long as you're in the right party. They loved the liberal press when it went after Clinton, and moral character mattered then. But it's different here when it's one of your own, and the rest of us just wouldn't understand.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Yes, it's difficult to understand the hypocrisy. Newt was a hypocrite when he went after President Clinton for doing the same thing he was guilty of himself.

      The Bible says forgive and forget, but it doesn't say anything about denying it ever happened or lying about it, does it? Newt is denying everything. What does that make him, an honest man or a liar who shouldn't be President?

      President Clinton admitted his transgressions. Democrats make no pretense to be 'the party of family values' as does the GOP. Why are you blind to your hypocrisy here? Denial is sickening and a psychological disease of the mind.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. DandyStryker

    Another Republicon debate, another endless stream of lies, distortions, and half truths. The Republicon hypocrites say they are on god's side, yet they break the ninth commandment with regularity, oppress the poor, hoard wealth, and show, through their works and actions, that they are the anti-Christ.

    What a bunch of immoral losers.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. jchapman

    Truth Squad is CNNs way of making the public think they have their best interests at heart, and that the press is on their side. The pick and choose which 'facts' they want to check. Every single candidate, in either party, is a liar to varying degrees. Every. Single. One.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • WatchDawg

      Seems you have enough time to complain about the job CNN is doing.
      There is thing called Google...do the checks yourself...
      BTW...wikipedia is back up so you can go on pretending you are smarter than the rest of us...
      Move along

      January 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jason the Saj

    CNN should be forced to file as a PAC for President Obama & Mitt Romney. Seriously, Ron Paul is a doctor and yet he was the last to be addressed on medical related issues.

    In fact, Ron Paul was barely addressed on most topics. And not a single good lead in question for him. As Ron Paul put it, not a single question about debt.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  13. ll

    cnn ought to have someone check it's facts once in a while. You guys are worse than fox. The public hates you and it won't be long before we turn on the media. i hope your staff is prepared for what's coming. Lol

    January 20, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bradley

    @RickeyVee, I think most of us would love for President Obama to debate Gingrich. I think Gingrich is the one who shouldn't show up and I can't wait for President Obama to mop the floor with him. He souldve corrected himself when he said President Obama was the most dangerous president in history... Maybe he should think back to the President that single handedly destroyed our economy, and it wasn't President Obama.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. Brenda

    Romney may not be bold and exciting and full of smart alec comments during the debates and on the trail, but I appreciate his calm and well thought out demeanor. We don't need hot heads. We don't need one uppers. We need someone realistic who can get some things done. Newt and Paul and Santorum get kudos and a jump in poll numbers with misleading debate statements. I prefer the way Romney is careful to be forthright in his comments. Some say he is stumbling, but I see it as being careful to tell the truth and not be misleading.

    January 20, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
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