February 23rd, 2012
01:40 AM ET

Truth Squad: Fact checking Wednesday's debate

CNN examines statements made by Republican presidential candidates during Wednesday night's CNN/Republican Party of Arizona debate in Mesa, Arizona.

Newt Gingrich criticized the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for characterizing Iran as a "rational actor" in international affairs and defending the possibility of preventing an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites

 The statement: "The fact is this is a dictator, Ahmadinejad, who has said he doesn't believe the Holocaust existed. This is a dictator who said he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the Earth. This is a dictator who said he wants to drive the United States out of the Middle East. I'm inclined to believe dictators ... If you think a madman is about to have nuclear weapons, and you think that madman is going to use those nuclear weapons, then you have an absolute moral obligation to defend the lives of your people by eliminating the capacity to get nuclear weapons."

 The facts: Gingrich gives a fairly accurate summary of Ahmadinejad's greatest hits. The Iranian president, now in his second term, has indeed questioned the existence of the Holocaust, the genocidal Nazi campaign against European Jews, and talked about seeing the destruction of the state of Israel.

There's one catch, though: According to U.S. intelligence agencies, Ahmadinejad isn't the guy who would be making any decisions about whether to build nuclear weapons. They say that authority belongs to the Islamic republic's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee last week that any Iranian decision to build nuclear weapons "would be made by the supreme leader himself, and he would base that on a cost-benefit analysis."

Meanwhile, since winning a second term in Iran's hotly disputed 2009 presidential election, analysts say Ahmadinejad has been on the losing end of a power struggle with Khamenei's allies. And Iran's economy is being squeezed by international sanctions over its refusal to halt its nuclear fuel production and demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program.

Tehran insists that it is enriching nuclear fuel only for civilian reactors. But in November, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it believed Iran had carried out some weapons-related research, and the agency says it's up to Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear program remains peaceful.

The verdict: Misleading. While Ahmadinejad's colorful public language has led to him being characterized as a "madman" in the West, as Gingrich put it, he's not believed to be the man who would make the critical decision about whether the Islamic republic would pursue the bomb.

Rick Santorum pointed out the growth of government benefits compared to defense spending

The statement: "When I was born, less than 10% of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It's now 60% of the budget. Some people suggest defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60% of the budget. It's now 17%. If you think defense spending is the problem, you need a remedial math class to go back to."

The facts: Santorum was born in 1958. At that time, two of the three major federal entitlement programs - Medicare or Medicaid - didn't exist, and Social Security had cut its first check only 18 years before.  The federal government spent $82 billion that year. Social Security cost $8.2 billion, 10% of that total.

By 2011, federal spending had grown to $3.6 trillion, and $2.1 trillion of it was "mandatory human resource programs," according to the White House budget office. That includes about $480 billion for Medicare, the federal health care program for seniors; $275 billion for Medicaid, which funds health care for the poor; and $725 billion for Social Security. With other programs such as disability payments, federal pensions and food aid included, those programs work out to 58.3 % of federal outlays.

Defense spending, meanwhile, went from about $47 billion in 1958, near the height of the Cold War, to nearly $706 billion in 2011, the 10th year of a "war on terror." But as a percentage of federal government outlays, it shrank from 57% to just under 20%.

The verdict: True, within a couple of percentage points, anyway. Santorum's statement accurately characterizes the changing ratio of U.S. spending over his lifetime, as federal insurance programs grew to take up a much larger percentage of the budget.

soundoff (246 Responses)
  1. Carol Sjoberg

    It scares me that Ron Paul made the most sense of any of the Republican candidates last night even though I disagree with most of his political philosophy. At least we know what he thinks. Santorum's self righteous-ness keeps popping up in nearly everything he says. Even in his self description. COURAGE is the word he used to describe himself. (Oh, please!!!) This man is a whiner who believes he's the only righteous person in the race. His views on the social issues makes me break out in a cold sweat! Go home and take care of your herd of children!

    February 23, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. ILikeRush

    From a libatard point of view the fact checkers are telling their truth.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. phil,left of center

    I like when the GOP creeps try to compare apples to oranges ..great fodder to sway the real issues from being discussed ..big deal ..now lets cut the crap and see a viable plan of action ..I thought so ..alot of wind

    February 23, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Politico

      A lot of wind? You must be talking the current administration. Worthless POS.

      February 24, 2012 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. kevin

    hey de tamble a job is a job you FOOL and i bet it is a good paying job.

    February 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nodack

    We don't spend enough on the military? We spend as much as the rest of the world combined. That puts us firmly in first place in the spending department by a LONG ways.

    I understand that helping Americans isn't nearly as popular among Republicans as killing foreigners.

    February 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christine

      "I understand that helping Americans isn't nearly as popular among Republicans as killing foreigners."

      The most accurate statement I've read all day. Sad, but completely true.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      Christine, I find that Republicans don't need a nanny goverment to force them to help others. They do it on their own.

      When was the last time you did something for someone without being forced.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • L

      Dan; Republicans help others on their own??? What planet have you been on??

      February 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • RN

      When confronted with people in need, even with children in need, the only thing I have heard from Republicans is: "stop taking my money and get a job – or another job – and put those kids to work sweeping floors and cleaning toilets at their schools..."
      I have seldom seen a republican part with money willingly. When they have it has been with a lot of theater so they can show the world how generous they are to the unfortunates...
      Just pathetic.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mimi

      Christine and L: Here are the statistics on Dem vs. Repub giving, according to Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, as stated in his book "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism." The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives!

      Brooks, a registered independent, is a social scientist, and his findings include:

      - Although liberal families' incomes average 6% higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30% more to charity than average liberal-headed households ($1,600/year vs. $1,227).

      - Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

      - Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

      - Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

      - In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60% majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40%, donated just 1.9%.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Politico

      Mimi – You're just going to confuse them with facts. They want emotions, not facts.
      I donate blood. I donate to Good Will. I walk and donate to Cancer Society. I am a little guy. I am proud to not be a liberal.

      Let ME decide where I want to donate. For liberals, I guess you need to have the government direct your donations, since you don't feel a need or obligation to do it.

      February 24, 2012 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  6. 1st

    In regard to Rick Santorum statement on Government benefits compared to Defense spending. Would the rise or coming of age of what's known as BABYBOOMER"s play factor in the rise of government benefits?

    February 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee Sterne

      Santorum also stated that, among the greatest problems facing this country is the huge number of unmarried teenagers giving birth, leading to a generation of uneducated or under educated young adults. He then stated that contraception was not the solution, but that a two parent family was, though he offered not guide as to how to accomplish this. He also said the federal government should stop funding education altogether and that it would be better if the states left it to local governments, or to home schooling. I personally fail to see any possibility of an unmarried young mother, herself a dropout who did not finish school, is going to even adequately support, much less home school her child or children. And how do we improve education by cutting spending? Unbelievable!

      February 23, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Politico

      Lee, we improve education by having better eduction, not by throwing money at the current messed up education system.

      We have a gal that works here, born when her momma was 18. She had a child at 18, and her daughter had a son at 18. The daughter graduated from nursing school. Mom is divorced and has a 2nd job as a bar tender. That all happened without throwing my money at that family's problems. Thank you very much for your liberal viewpoint.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bob1467

    Have any of these guys considered that Medicare and medicaid payments has risen because the cost of Health care is outrageous today. If we don't do something about the escalating costs of Health Care, Education, Transportation (GAS) nothing will matter as not only our governmant will be broke but also the 99% of working people will go bankrupt. The rise in prices for these services far outpaces the modest gains in wages for most people and businuess. Employers costs for Healthcare is whats driving jobs away. At least for the employers who still offer insurance.

    February 23, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • bcm

      Of course they don't consider these things Bob. They don't know about the cost of anything because they don't personally pay for anything. the health care system in the U.S. is shameful. I went for 2 blood tests and it cost $753!!! One vial of blood – 2 routine tests. Can any of these bozos explain how an average person is supposed to cover that
      ??

      February 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lee Sterne

    Romney also repeated his argument that, if Obama were re-elected, Iran would have the bomb, but that if he (Romney) were elected, Iran would not. Besides being both boastful and arrogant, this statement is completely off the wall as well as being impossible to prove. Why was he not challenged as to what facts he had on which to base this, or how he would be able to accomplish this?
    He also made the absurd claim (without offering any evidence whatever) that both Al Qaeda and Hezbollah are currently operating in South America and in Mexico!
    I thought John King was totally ineffective as moderator. Nothing exemplified this more than Romney's refusal to answer the last question of the night, instead saying, "you have the right to ask your question, but I have the right to answer mine". King should have cut him off and gone to the next contestant, but that was only one example of many of his failure to maintain any sort of discipline in this sorry affair.

    February 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dan

    Positions I support that are put forward by liberals.
    1). They kill their own through abortion. The only cure for parasites, death. And they practice it themselves.
    2). Soft on crime. Again, another wonderful way to kill off the parasites. Drive by shootings.
    3). Forced birth control through health care. Less parasites being born means less parasites that need to be aborted or killed through criminal acts of their own.

    Keep up the good work liberals. Soon, there will be none of you left to hate

    February 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee Sterne

      You appear to be a very angry man, Dan. Do you think that anger helps one to think more clearly? Does road rage improve ones driving skills?

      February 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      I am not angry Keith, I hate.
      I was raised in a democratic family and seen first hand the type of parasites you are. I found that no matter what the ethnic background, gender, age, or relgious/lack of beleif the democrat was. They expected to be taken care of. They were parasites.

      I hate everything you stand for and fully promote all policies that you put forward as a political group that will cause less of you to walk the face of this earth.

      Nobody needs to kill off the democrats, their own policies and beleifs will do it all by itself.

      Have a nice day parasite, and please join the great democrat Ted Kennedy in his status as a human being. Dead

      February 23, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sensible

      Dan...take a deep breath. Stay calm. Think of pleasant things. OK, now just accept the fact that the Democrats are going to win the election.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • RN

      Dan, you certainly can go ahead and hate all you want. I do not see that as a way forward.
      I grew up supporting Goldwater and Nixon. I never hated Democrats.
      My father was very conservative and his favorite saying was: "line them all up and shoot them down". He referred to drug addicts and criminals of all sorts. He just wanted to shoot everyone he didn't like or thought was stupid. He never finished high school.
      There are certainly people who cheat the system. Are they are Democrats? I do not know.
      When I went to college I learned a great deal and my politics changed and I am an independent now – leaning liberal. I vote for the person who is intelligent and makes sense. So, I could never vote for Palin or Bachman or... the other GOP candidates.
      I will retire pretty soon and I have never taken any government handouts, never collected unemployment.
      How is it that I am a parasite? What have you done to contribute to the good of this country?
      What have you contributed to the world?
      From your post I would guess that you might have finished high school. If you attended college it did not have much influence on you. You appear to feel under- appreciated, over worked, under-paid and very bitter – maybe because someone else got the job you thought you should have. To wish other people dead shows how angry you are and how insignificant you realize you are. Hitler started out this way – blaming others for problems you are not mature enough to realize are a result of your own failures and shortcomings.
      Stop whining. Turn off the tv and stop drinking. Put yourself to work, learn a new trade, educate yourself, get your GED, go out and meet people. Find a good church and start attending regularly. Volunteer your time to help people. Help out at a soup kitchen, work with the elderly, or with crippled children, at a hospital. Churches are in constant need of volunteers to help with a lot of programs. There are a lot of charities in need of volunteers – find one that you enjoy working with. This could help you a lot to see how much people are suffering and how much your time could mean to them. All of this does not mean you will become a liberal – I have met some conservatives at these things too – but it is a way to broaden your experience and understanding of the world.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaryM

      dan, go ahead and spew your venom and hate all you want. The only person you are hurting is YOURSELF. If will eat you up inside and you will die. The End of dan.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Politico

      On the other hand, dan has some really intelligent observations and suggestions.

      RN – Your comment "I vote for the person who is intelligent and makes sense. So, I could never vote for Palin or Bachman or... the other GOP candidates" just proves that you lie. Obviously you can live with that, but stop giving advice to intelligent people like dan.

      February 24, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. ajk68

    Interesting that nobody posting wants to acknowledge Santorum actually has a grip on the numbers. For a complete "whack-job" doesn't that surprise any of you?

    February 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • brobin

      No. All it means is that a staffer gave him some numbers to spew out. People have already pointed out that these numbers in isolation mean little beyond a shallow comparison.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. James Peters

    Why add social security. It's "supposed" to be self-funded. I paid in my entire working career as did my employers. If that doesn't cover the payments I receive, that's the fault of Congress for not adjusting the withholdings. So the 725 billion for social security should not be part of any deficit.

    February 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mickey2829

    please print the truth about candidates who are running for office in either party.no american citizen is against immigration.what we are against is "ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION" you people always forget to put the word "ILLEGAL BEFORE THE WORD IMMIGRATION.why is that???

    February 23, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Busted

    This call to war in Iran over the claim of WMDs is scary... We just went through this. Where are the people who defend personal accountability?

    February 23, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Marauder1969

    They should get Ron Paul off these debates. He is taking up valuable air time that the REAL candidates need. Anyone who would vote for him would have to be insane. Just look at him. Would you want him going up against Putin, or Ahmadinejad? He would be the laughing stock of the world.

    February 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jaun in El Paso

    These people will do nothing to fact check Obama! They will write stories, but I bet all of the facts they check will be the ones they already have vetted. Anything that would bring Obamas failures to light will be hidden away by the liberal media.

    February 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • brobin

      Your statement is false. Go look at the CNN fact check site which covers all parties, including Obama.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      Quit lying. CNN and other fact check organizations fact check Obama regularly. Will you actually look at the page to see for yourself, and once there will you accept what you read if it doesn't confirm your beliefs?

      I know it is a trait of the authoritarian mindset to be immune to facts that contradicts their world view.

      Read "the Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
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