(EDITOR’S NOTE — An occasional look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don’t tell the full story.)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters didn’t always get the straight goods when President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney made their case for foreign policy and national security leadership Monday night before their last audience of the campaign. A few of their detours into domestic issues were problematic, too.
At the same time, they injected a little more accuracy into two leading misstatements of the campaign: Romney’s claim for months that Obama went around apologizing for America, and the president’s assertion, going back to his State of the Union address in January, that the U.S. military’s exit from Afghanistan will yield money to rebuild America.
A look at some of their statements and how they compare with the facts:
ROMNEY: “Mr. President, the reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations. And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations.”
OBAMA: “Nothing Gov. Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign. And every fact checker and every reporter who’s looked at it, governor, has said this is not true.”
THE FACTS:Romney has indeed repeatedly and wrongly accused the president of traveling the world early in his presidency and apologizing for U.S. behavior. Obama didn’t say “sorry” in those travels. But in this debate, Romney at last explained the context of his accusation: not that Obama apologized literally, but that he had been too deferential in his visits to Europe, Latin America and the Muslim world.
Obama said while abroad that the U.S. acted “contrary to our traditions and ideals” in its treatment of terrorist suspects, that “America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy,” that the U.S. “certainly shares blame” for international economic turmoil and has sometimes “shown arrogance and been dismissive, even divisive” toward Europe. Yet he also praised America and its ideals.
OBAMA: “What I think the American people recognize is, after a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. And what we can now do is free up some resources to, for example, put Americans back to work, especially our veterans, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools.”
THE FACTS: If Romney’s “apology tour” was a campaign whopper, so has been Obama’s repeated claim that ending expensive wars meant the U.S. now has money to spend at home. There is no such peace dividend because the wars were financed largely by borrowing.
Yet Obama, too, watched his words a little more carefully Monday night, with his milder suggestion that “some resources” are freed up. That’s a more plausible point, if only because U.S. “resources” include the ability to continue to go deeper in debt, but for the purpose of fixing roads, bridges and the like, instead of for making war.
ROMNEY: “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.”