Written by Tim Mullaney, Susan Davis, Jackie Kucinich, Paul Davidson, and Aamer Madhani for The USA Today
Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan disputed a range of facts during their debate Thursday in Danville, Ky. Here are a few foreign policy claims worth examining:
Claim: Ryan said President Obama took two weeks to acknowledge the Sept. 11 attack on the Benghazi consulate was conducted by terrorists rather than protesters.
The facts: This is mostly false. White House spokesman Jay Carney said at the Sept. 20 White House news briefing that the incident was a terrorist attack. The president himself, speaking on Late Night With David Letterman on Sept. 18, a week after the attack, said "terrorists and extremists" had attacked U.S. diplomatic installations in Libya and elsewhere, using a controversial video that portrayed the prophet Mohammed as a pedophile as a pretext. In fact, Obama called the assault "an act of terror" in remarks on Sept. 12. However, Carney and other top administration officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, continued to describe the incident as part of a protest outside the U.S. diplomatic mission for several days after the incident.
Claim: Biden said Ryan's budget called for a $300 million cut to security of the U.S. Embassy in Libya.
The facts: Ryan's budget plan would have cut non-defense discretionary spending by 19% in 2014, according to The Hill newspaper. The blueprint doesn't specify cuts to embassy security, but the Obama campaign says the figure - if applied across the board - would result in a $300 million decrease in funding for protection, construction and maintenance of all U.S. embassies. The Romney campaign disputed the claim, saying no specific cuts were recommended.
Claim: Biden said that Romney said he wouldn't move heaven and earth to get Osama bin Laden.
The facts: Romney said in an interview with the Associated Press, "It's not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," according to PolitiFact.com. The quote was taken out of context. He said the country would be safer by only "a small percentage" and would see "a very insignificant increase in safety" because another terrorist would take his place. Romney also said the country should not focus on one person but should have a "broader strategy to defeat the Islamic jihad movement," according to FactCheck.org.
In a subsequent interview with CNBC, Romney clarified that he would aggressively pursue bin Laden but that another terrorist leader would rise to power.
Claim: Biden said that Mitt Romney wanted to leave 30,000 servicemembers in Iraq beyond the end of the U.S-Iraq status of forces agreement that expired at the end of 2011.
The facts: Obama administration officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government negotiated for months on a deal that would have allowed a small residual force to remain in Iraq beyond 2011 under a new status of forces agreement. The negotiations, however, fell apart because Maliki believed he would be unable to nudge the Iraqi parliament to agree to immunity for American troops operating in Iraq.
After Obama announced his plan to withdraw the last remaining troops from Iraq in October 2011, Romney said on Fox News in December: "If I were president, I would have carried out the status of forces agreement that was long anticipated that actually (Defense Secretary Leon) Panetta ... indicated he wanted to have as well, which would have allowed to us have somewhere between 10 and 30,000 troops in Iraq."
Claim: Biden said sanctions are damaging Iran's economy as oil exports drop 50% and its currency falls.
The facts: This is mostly true. Iraq's exports fell from 2 million barrels of oil a day in early 2012 to 1 million barrels a day by July, though they recovered to 1.2 million barrels by September, according to the Financial Times of London.
Assad the reformer
Claim: Ryan said the Obama administration has called Syrian dictator Bashar Assad a reformer.
The facts: As some of the earliest protests and violence roiled in Syria in spring 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said of Assad in a CBS interview that "many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer."
The comment stirred outrage from conservative columnists and lawmakers. Days after making the original comment, she told reporters that she was referring to "the opinions" of lawmakers who had met with Assad and that she was not speaking for the administration.
Claim: Biden said Ryan's Medicare plan would force seniors to pay an extra $6,400 per year.
The facts: This figure applies to the first of three Medicare proposals Ryan has made, as he tweaks his core idea of shifting Medicare toward a voucher-based approach for people now younger than 55. It was calculated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank, and confirmed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which analyzes health care policy.
The most recent version of Ryan's plan may require seniors to pay as little as $800 a year more than under current law, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported in August.
Claim: Biden said Romney and Ryan are pushing the continuation of a tax cut that will give an additional $500 billion in tax cuts to 120,000 families.
The facts: Biden made this claim referring to the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 during a speech last month in Green Bay, Wis., Romney would make these cuts permanent. Obama wants to end the cuts for taxpayers with incomes of $250,000 and above.
At that time, PolitiFact.com checked the claim, noting that if the tax credits were permanently extended, those in the upper tax brackets would benefit.
"Overall, the top fifth of earners got 65% of the savings from the Bush cuts as a whole, according to a Tax Policy Center study of the cuts' impact as of 2010.
Tax plan specifics
Claim: Biden said Ryan has not been specific about how Romney could cut taxes without blowing up the deficit or raising taxes on the middle class.
The facts: Romney has said he would cut taxes for everyone by 20%. He has said he would pay for the reduction by closing loopholes and eliminating deductions for upper-income households, but he hasn't been specific about which loopholes he would close and which deductions he would scrap. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center has said tax rates can't be cut broadly without raising taxes on the middle class through the elimination of popular deductions such as the one on mortgage interest. A Tax Foundation study also noted that it would be politically difficult to eliminate many of the deductions that could make such a tax plan revenue-neutral.
Claim: Biden said Romney wanted to let the auto companies fail.
The facts: The often-stated claim that Romney wanted to let the auto companies go out of business stem from a November 2008 New York Times op-ed titled -not by Romney - "Let Detroit go bankrupt," but his position was not that simple. Many Republicans, including Romney, argued that filing for bankruptcy to restructure the auto companies would be a better strategy for the long-term health of the industry than federal assistance. "Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check," Romney wrote.
Romney envisioned a more traditional reorganization in which private investors take the lead. Instead, government investment proved critical. General Motors and Chrysler went into bankruptcy and received $80 billion in federal assistance under the Obama administration. The companies have paid back about $40 billion. Chrysler paid back most of its loan by May 2011. The government still has about a 26% stake in GM. By September 2012, the U.S. auto industry had sold 14.9 million vehicles, the highest since March 2008. Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told Bloomberg News that the auto sales were the "bright, shining star in the economy."
Ryan's stimulus requests
Claim: Biden said Ryan asked for stimulus funds while rallying against the program.
The facts:The Boston Globe reported in August that Ryan wrote at least four letters to the secretary of Energy in 2009 asking for millions of dollars for two Wisconsin conservation groups. One of the groups received $20 million in stimulus funds, according to the Globe. Ryan initially denied he requested funds, according to ABC News, but soon reversed course, saying that the requests were treated as "constituent services" and "should have been handled differently."
Claim: Ryan said "Obamacare" pays for abortions
The facts: The 2010 health care law does not use taxpayer funds for abortions except in the instances of rape, incest or danger to the mother's life - the same restrictions implemented by the Hyde Amendment on other federal health care programs. In March 2010, Obama signed an executive order to maintain "current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges."
FactCheck.org notes that the controversy centers on whether the law ensures that those who are using government subsidies to purchase insurance cannot use them to pay for abortions.
"The law says that those receiving subsidies to buy insurance through state-based exchanges must submit a separate payment to cover abortion services (if they choose a plan that covers abortions), and insurance providers must keep federal money separate from private payments to ensure the federal money does not go toward abortion coverage," FactCheck.org concluded.
Claim: Ryan said a Romney administration would oppose abortion rights except in the cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.
The facts: Ryan's voting record is consistent with his statement that he personally opposes abortion rights, and a Romney-Ryan administration has pledged to do the same, with the exceptions he offered. However, in the House of Representatives, Ryan has supported legislation that would restrict abortion rights without those exceptions.
Romney has a well-documented history on abortion rights. As governor of Massachusetts, he supported them. As a two-time presidential candidate, he has opposed them. Romney has repeatedly stated throughout the course of his campaign that his administration would not make abortion a central focus.
"There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," Romney told the Des Moines Register in an editorial meeting this week. Romney has said he would reinstate a ban that Obama rescinded through executive order restricting non-governmental organizations receiving federal funds from offering abortion services overseas. Romney has also said that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would "hopefully" overturn Roe v. Wade. It is likely the next president will have the opportunity to appoint at least one justice.