Third Time 'Round for GOP Hopefuls
June 8, 2007
Debating once again, Republican candidates miscast some facts and get others flat wrong.
Pollsters will inform us whether the third time was the charm for any of these candidates
in the eyes of potential voters. All we can do is remind you not to believe everything you hear.
Gov. Mitt Romney committed the biggest factual fouls of the night, misleadingly asserting:
- That we went to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein refused to allow weapons inspectors to come in
- That there's an ocean of difference between his Massachusetts health plan and those "government takeover"
plans of "every Democrat" running for president and
- That Russia's income from oil exports is vastly larger than it actually is.
Other candidates committed factual trespass, too. Sen. John McCain of Arizona ignored the waste disposal
issue when he praised nuclear power for being green, for instance, and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback exaggerated the number of
illegal immigrants living in the United States.
The June 5 debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., brought the 10
Republican presidential aspirants together once again, two days after a Democratic debate at the same site. Both were sponsored
by CNN, WMUR-TV and Manchester's Union Leader.
Health Plan Hoodoo
Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney tried to distance his state’s universal
health insurance plan from the proposals of the Democratic presidential candidates.
Romney: Every Democrat up there’s talking about a form of socialized
medicine, government takeover, massive tax increase…. I’m the guy who actually tackled this issue. We get all
of our citizens insured. We get people that were uninsured with private health insurance. We have to stand up and say the
market works. Personal responsibility works.
There are two problems with Romney’s characterization: One, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is the
only Democratic candidate to propose a single-payer, wholly government-funded health care plan. And two, Romney’s Massachusetts
universal insurance system bears a striking resemblance to the health care proposals of the Democratic front-runners.We first took a look at the Romney-backed health insurance plan after the May 3 Republican presidential debate, when the candidate said it was
not a government takeover and juxtaposed his plan with "HillaryCare." We pointed out that while the plan is not government-administered
health insurance, it includes government mandates and subsidies, minimum coverage requirements and fines for noncompliance.
The Massachusetts plan is clearly not a complete government takeover; it builds on the private insurance industry –
as do the proposals of Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, and the health care initiative spearheaded by Hillary
Clinton in the early ’90s.Kenneth
E. Thorpe, a professor of health policy at Emory University, has analyzed the costs of the Edwards and Obama plans. In reading those and the Massachusetts plans, the similarities are clear, and Thorpe
says the Obama and Romney plans are “virtually identical.” Both call for an insurance exchange (an entity that
would offer various private insurance plans to the public), and they offer financial assistance to low-income people. Edwards’
proposal differs in that he uses health care plans in the federal employee program, rather than a national exchange. “That’s
an implementation difference,” says Thorpe. “The real important part of it, they’re both building on the
private insurance industry.”Sen.
Clinton has not released a formal proposal, but when she does, it's highly unlikely to be a wholly government funded proposal.
Politicians will debate how
much government involvement in health insurance regulation is acceptable and how much is stepping on the toes of private insurance
companies. But in our view, the term “government takeover” could only be applied to Rep. Kucinich’s
proposal. Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel calls for a federal voucher program, but Kucinich, in fact, brags on his Web site
that he’s the only candidate advocating a universal not-for-profit health care system.
| STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images|
Is Nuclear Waste Good for the Environment?
Sen. John McCain would have us believe that nuclear power is good for the environment because
nuclear power plants do not emit greenhouse gases.
McCain is correct to say
that nuclear power does not emit greenhouse gases; in that respect, it is far more environmentally friendly than fossil fuel
power plants. McCain neglects to mention, however, that nuclear power poses a different set of environmental worries. According
to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, high-level nuclear waste – the sort produced as a byproduct of nuclear power generation
– is potentially quite harmful.
McCain: Nuclear power is safe, nuclear power is green — does
not green — emit greenhouse gases.
While some of the isotopes in spent nuclear
fuel decay within days, others have half-lives (or the time that it takes for half of the radiation to cease) of as long as
24,000 years. At present, high-level nuclear waste is mostly stored in pools at nuclear power plants, a temporary solution.
Fights have raged for years about the location of a permanent nuclear waste repository, but the NRC plans to open one in 2017 under Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
NRC: Standing near unshielded spent fuel could be fatal due to the
high radiation levels. Ten years after removal of spent fuel from a reactor, the radiation dose 1 meter away from a typical
spent fuel assembly exceeds 20,000 rems per hour. A dose of 5,000 rems would be expected to cause immediate incapacitation
and death within one week.
Russia's Oil Riches
claimed that Russia earned $500 billion dollars in oil revenue, but the U.S. Energy Information Administration findings differ.
Aron of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in the May 15 Wall Street Journal, "Every day more than 19,000 barrels of
oil flow through the pipeline for sale abroad, bringing $500 billion a year” to Russia. But a correction to his piece
was issued four days later:
Romney: But let’s not forget, where the money is being made
this year is not just throughout these years is not just in Exxon and Shell and the major oil companies, it’s in the
countries that own this oil. Russia last year took in $500 billion by selling oil.
That's oil and gas (not just oil) and extracted (not just exported). According to the EIA, Russia
took in $141 billion in net energy exports for 2006. Russia is second only to Saudi Arabia as the largest net exporter of oil in the world.
WSJ: The estimated annual fair market value of all oil and gas extracted
in Russia is $500 billion. This figure was mistakenly identified as the annual value of oil exports.
As a point of reference, the Organization
of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which includes 12 of the world's largest oil exporting nations (Russia is not a member),
made a net $522 billion in 2006, according to the EIA.
Romney Rewrites History
Romney tried to pin the
blame for the Iraq war on Saddam Hussein’s refusal to allow weapons inspections.
Romney is not alone in playing loose with the facts about weapons
inspections. On at least three occasions, President Bush has made the same claim. The first, on July 14, 2003:
Romney: [I]f you’re saying let’s turn back the clock,
and Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there
were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein, therefore, not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn’t
be in the conflict we’re in. But he didn’t do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the
decision to get in.
A few months later, Bush reiterated the claim. And on the third anniversary of the war, he said:
Bush: The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam
Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he
wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations,
so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region.
the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency was not permitted to make inspections
might come as a bit of a surprise to Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, who reported
on March 17, 2003, that "late last night...I was advised by the United States government to pull out our inspectors from Baghdad."
Inspectors had been in Iraq since November 2002. They remained until U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered their evacuation
on March 17, 2003, just three days before U.S. and British troops invaded Iraq.
Bush: [W]e worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam
Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the
difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
Rep. Tom Tancredo claimed John McCain wasn’t being straightforward regarding his support for making English the official
language of the U.S.:
And even in the bill that Senator McCain is pushing, he says that he supports English-only – or official English. Doesn’t
go on to tell you, that of course he says that we’re going to codify President Clinton’s original plan, original
executive order signed that said all papers produced by the government have to be in various languages.
Tancredo isn’t telling the whole story. It is true that in 2000, President
Clinton issued Executive Order 13166, which required that government agencies issue certain documents in multiple languages. But that order didn’t require
“all papers” produced by the government to be in languages other than English, as Tancredo says; it only
applied to documents that outline federal assistance services:
13166: To this end, each Federal agency shall examine the services it provides and develop and implement a system
by which [limited English proficiency] persons can meaningfully access those services consistent with, and without unduly
burdening, the fundamental mission of the agency.
The service would aid U.S.
citizens who, under Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act, cannot be denied federal assistance services based on their level of English proficiency. The McCain-Kennedy
Immigration bill (S. 1033) would not have rescinded Clinton’s order, and it would
have require some other documents to be issued in different languages. Specifically, it would require labor contractors to
provide information such as compensation, period of employment and labor organizing opportunities to employees in a language
they can clearly understand.
S. 1033 Sec. 304(i)(3):
The information required to be disclosed…shall be provided in writing in English or, as necessary and reasonable,
in the language of the worker being recruited. The Department of Labor shall make forms available in English, Spanish, and
other languages, as necessary, which may be used in providing workers with information required under this section.
An Illegal Overestimate
Sen. Sam Brownback exaggerated the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in the past and present.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated that in 1996 there were 5.6 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. The 7 million figure Brownback referenced
was the estimate for 2000.
Brownback: We did the first immigration bill I
was involved in then, in 1996. You know what, that was [an] enforcement-only bill in 1996, and we had 7 million undocumented
in the country then. We’re at 12 [million] to 20 million now.
His range for the current number of unauthorized immigrants is off as well. The Pew Hispanic
Center put the figure at 11.5 million to 12 million in 2006, and the Department of Homeland Security estimated the total to
be 10.5 million in 2005. DHS recognizes that there is no definitive figure, because “there are no national surveys,
administrative data, or other sources of information that directly provide accurate estimates of this population. As a consequence,
the unauthorized immigrant population must be estimated by making certain assumptions and by combining data that measure events
with those that measure populations.” However, that doesn’t mean 20 million is a legitimate estimate. That figure
can be traced to a 2005 report by Bear Stearns, an investment firm, which said the number “may be as high as 20 million people” but bases that on anecdotal evidence and extrapolating “micro
trends at the community level.”
While we're on the subject, Romney made an overly broad statement about the
Senate's recently stalled immigration plan, saying, “it allows people who’ve come here illegally to stay here
for the rest of their lives.” That's misleading. Romney ignores some significant hurdles illegal aliens must clear to
The Senate plan, which was endorsed by the Bush Administration, would have created a new legal status, the
so-called “Z” visa, for which illegal aliens could apply. However, only a certain number of these visas would
be available every year. Also, applicants would have to prove they're employed and verify that they have been in the country
since January 1, 2007. They then would have to pay fines and fees up to $5,000 and an additional $4,000 when they applied
for full U.S. citizenship — assuming they met the requisite language and civics requirements. And any formerly illegal aliens trying to become
full citizens would still have to wait for the current backlog of applicants to clear.
Finally, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee doesn't get off scot-free — he wrongly stated that the night
of the debate was President Ronald Reagan's birthday, when actually it was the anniversary of his death in 2004.
next debate, between the Democratic candidates, is scheduled for June 28 at Washington, D.C.'s Howard University.
- by Viveca Novak, with Justin Bank, Jessica Henig,
Emi Kolawole, Joe Miller, Lori Robertson, Stephen Simas, Carolyn
Auwaerter and Allie Berkson
Correction, June 8: In the Analysis portion of our story we stated that Russia was second only to Saudi
Arabia as the largest oil importer in the world. In fact it is the second largest exporter.
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