Did Obama's speech play fast and loose with the facts?

WASHINGTON Fri Sep 7, 2012 1:30pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a campaign event at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, September 7, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a campaign event at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, September 7, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama delivered a 40-minute, 4,458-word speech at the Democratic National Convention, and a fact check shows that most of his references were accurate. But there were a few caveats.

Obama in Thursday night's speech took out of context a statement by Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney about the end of the Iraq war.

And while Obama sidestepped discussion of his mother's fight with insurance companies over her cancer coverage - an issue that tripped him up with fact checkers earlier this year - Vice President Joe Biden resurrected the subject.

Here is some fact checking of issues mentioned by Obama in his speech as he heads into the final two months of campaigning ahead of the November 6 election against Romney.

CLAIMS ROMNEY SAYS 'TRAGIC' TO END WAR IN IRAQ

In a section of his speech that noted the foreign policy inexperience of Romney and his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, Obama said: "My opponent said it was 'tragic' to end the war in Iraq, and he won't tell us how he'll end the war in Afghanistan."

Obama took Romney's comments out of context. Romney did not say the end of the war was "tragic" - he was referring to the decision to quickly pull out of Iraq. At a veterans roundtable in South Carolina last November, Romney said Obama's decision to withdraw all troops by the end of 2011 was an enormous mistake. "The precipitous withdrawal is unfortunate - it's more than unfortunate, I think it's tragic. It puts at risk many of the victories that were hard won by the men and women who served there," Romney said.

AUTO INDUSTRY

In discussing improvements in the U.S. economy, Obama implied that American car companies were currently No. 1 in the world. He said, "I've met workers in Detroit and Toledo who feared they'd never build another American car. And today, they can't build them fast enough, because we reinvented a dying auto industry that's back on top of the world."

Actually, Toyota Motor Corp regained the lead in global car sales over General Motors in the first half of 2012, with Volkswagen poised to move past GM and push the U.S. automaker into third place for the full year.

GM was No. 1 globally last year mainly because Toyota - the global sales leader from 2008 to 2010 - got hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

DEFICIT

Obama said that independent analysis showed that his budget plan would "cut our deficits by $4 trillion." Obama has used this line before, and it is similar to comments made by former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday night. Clinton, however, made clear the $4 trillion debt reduction would be over a decade. Obama did not.

Analysts differ on the accuracy of that number. Bipartisan groups have criticized Obama's plan for including about $1 trillion in cuts agreed to a year ago with Congress and nearly $1 trillion in savings over a decade from military drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In February, when Obama released his 2013 budget plan, Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, called the inclusion of war savings a "war gimmick."

"Drawing down spending on wars that were already set to wind down and that were deficit-financed in the first place should not be considered savings," MacGuineas said. "When you finish college, you don't suddenly have thousands of dollars a year to spend elsewhere — in fact, you have to find a way to pay back your loans."

HEALTH INSURANCE

Obama did not return to comments he used in the 2008 campaign, describing how his mother Stanley Ann Dunham not only battled cancer but also had to fight to get health insurance coverage. He stopped using that reference after a biography of Obama's mother said letters between Dunham and her insurance company showed that the real battle was over disability coverage, not health insurance coverage.

Although Obama did not reopen the potential can of worms, Biden did in his speech. Biden said, "Barack, as a young man ... had to sit at the end of his mother's hospital bed and watch her fight with their insurance company at the very same time that she was fighting for her life."

Biden never directly said that Dunham had been fighting to get coverage but it was implied, as it was in a video clip also shown at the convention.

(Here is the link to Obama's speech on Thursday night: here)

(Research by Lucy Shackelford; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Will Dunham)

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Comments (25)
RexMax46 wrote:
So, except for using an out of context Romney quote, no.

I mean, how can you possibly fact check a statement like, “The American auto industry is the best in the world”?! Guess what, when a rock star says, “We love you (insert city name here)!”, he doesn’t actually love that city! So please keep the “fact checking” to making sure people aren’t misquoted or countries actually have weapons of mass destruction, because calling out a politician for pandering is the type of journalism that’s barely fit for a junior high school newspaper.

Sep 07, 2012 1:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MaryFay wrote:
“on top of the world” does not literally mean “#1 in the industry”. It means “feeling like one is doing very well” or “doing very well”. THey need to get a fact checker that is familiar with English idioms.

Sep 07, 2012 2:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
pdelponte wrote:
Political speeches are not without a certain level of “spin”, but Obama’s speech contained more “truth” than the whole RNC! I will vote for the person I can “trust” the most.

Sep 07, 2012 2:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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