- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: An occasional look at statements by political candidates and how well they adhere to the facts.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Few would quarrel with President Obama’s point that the Republican Party has drifted to the right in recent years, disavowing ideas it once embraced — even created. But making that case in a major campaign speech, Obama ignored realities in his own Democratic ranks.

For one, it was opposition from coal-state Democrats that sank cap-and-trade legislation to control greenhouse gas emissions, not just from those arch-conservative Republicans.

For another, if Republicans have moved to the right on health care, it’s also true that Obama has moved to the left. He strenuously opposed a mandate forcing people to obtain health insurance until he won office and changed his mind.

Obama’s speech to news executives Tuesday at the annual meeting of The Associated Press was perhaps his most aggressive dressing down of the Republicans yet this campaign season. Mitt Romney, his likely GOP rival for the presidency, speaks to news leaders Wednesday.

Several points in Obama’s address gave an incomplete accounting to his audience. Here are some of his statements and how they compare with the facts:

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OBAMA: “You’d think they’d say: ‘You know what? Maybe some rules and regulations are necessary to protect the economy and prevent people from being taken advantage of by insurance companies or credit card companies or mortgage lenders.’”

THE FACTS: As zealous as they sound on the subject, Republicans aren’t proposing to throw out all regulations. Romney, for one, proposes changing, but not repealing, the Sarbanes-Oxley law that tightened accounting regulations in response to corporate scandals. He does want to repeal the Dodd-Frank law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector, and he wants environmental rules loosened to spur energy production.

Even in the heat of GOP primaries, however, Romney wasn’t talking about throwing out the federal rulebook. “We don’t want to tell the world that Republicans are against all regulation,” he said. “No, regulation is necessary to make a free market work. But it has to be updated and modern.”

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OBAMA: “Cap and trade was originally proposed by conservatives and Republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems. The first president to talk about cap and trade was George H.W. Bush. Now you’ve got the other party essentially saying we shouldn’t even be thinking about environmental protection; let’s gut the EPA.”

THE FACTS: Obama is right that cap and trade was a Republican idea — first put in place to control sulfur dioxide emissions, or acid rain, under the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments that passed overwhelmingly. The idea is to cap overall emissions of a certain pollutant while letting companies trade pollution allowances, essentially using a combination of the government and private market to make the environment cleaner.

But in recent years, cap and trade failed when Democrats controlled the Senate and the House. Moreover, Republicans argued the legislation was not a truly market-driven mechanism. It would have auctioned off pollution allowances to companies, raising money for the government to help offset higher energy bills and invest in cleaner energy technologies.

They wanted a system that would distribute the allowances for free, letting the private market determine their value. That’s how it worked with acid rain.

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