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Fact Checking the 20th GOP Debate Fact Checking the 20th GOP Debate

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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / CAMPAIGN 2012

Fact Checking the 20th GOP Debate

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during a Republican presidential debate Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Mesa, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)(Jae C. Hong/AP)

February 22, 2012

National Journal fact-checks the four GOP presidential hopefuls in the 20th debate held in Mesa, Ariz.

FACT CHECK: Romney Understates Obama Moves Against Iran

Mitt Romney claimed Wednesday night in the CNN debate that President Obama did not install stringent sanctions against Iran in its effort to derail its nuclear program, but top U.S. intelligence and defense officials disagree.

 

Obama “should have placed crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not,” Romney said.

The Obama administration has already put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on the Iranian government, including new measures targeting, for the first time, Iran’s entire financial system. Obama on New Year's Eve also signed into law a raft of tough new sanctions that would penalize any foreign financial institution that does business with the Central Bank of Iran. As part of broader U.S.-led efforts to exert pressure on Iran, the European Union has agreed to ban new contracts to buy, transport or import Iranian crude oil.

Sanctions have been "biting much, much more literally in recent weeks than they have until this time," CIA Director David Petraeus recently told the Senate Intelligence Committee, noting the Iranian rial has lost “considerable value.” The new sanctions, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, will have a deeper impact when they take full effect because the central bank handles the revenue for roughly 70 percent of oil sold by the National Iranian Oil Company.

Romney also said Obama has made it clear he opposes military action and "should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They're not just on the table."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey warned a military conflict with Iran could be destabilizing for the region and have potentially severe economic ramifications for the U.S. "It's premature to be deciding that the economic and diplomatic approach is inadequate," Dempsey told National Journal. Even so, Dempsey stressed he and the military supported the administration's determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon by any means necessary. He said the U.S. was increasing the pressure on Iran while making preparations—if there was no other option—for a possible military intervention into the country.

 

FACT CHECK: Gingrich Claim on Obama Infanticide Vote A Stretch

In answering a CNN debate question about birth control, Newt Gingrich lashed out at the media for giving President Obama a free pass during his 2008 bid.

“Not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich was presumably referencing Obama’s opposition to Illinois’ proposed version of a “born alive” law, intended to require doctors to administer immediate medical care to any infant that survived an intended abortion.

According to Politifact, an independent fact-checking organization that looked into similar claims made by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum on the campaign trail, Obama voiced his opposition to the new legislation as a state senator because it would have given legal status to fetuses and would thus have been struck down by the courts, and because Illinois already had laws to ensure infants who survived abortions would be given medical attention.

FactCheck.org found holes in Obama’s explanations as to why he did not support the “born alive” legislation. However, by opposing the bill, Obama was not voting to legalize infanticide (as Gingrich said) or to prevent doctors from giving infants medical attention.

Furthermore, the media, including CNN, reported on and discussed Obama’s opposition to the legislation during his 2008 presidential campaign.

 

FACT CHECK: Gingrich's $2.50-Per-Gallon Gas Claim Iffy

Presidential contender Newt Gingrich opened the CNN debate by making the bold promise that he could bring the price of gasoline to $2.50 a gallon.

“I've developed a program for American energy so no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again and so every American can have $2.50-a-gallon gasoline,” he said.

It’s a claim that he has made repeatedly on the campaign trail as Americans have been hit by prices inching up at the pump. Gingrich has said he would accomplish the feat by dramatically increasing domestic oil production, but whether the United States could ever produce enough oil to make that much of an impact is very much in doubt.

A 2009 study by the Energy Information Administration found that even unlimited offshore drilling would have a limited effect on prices for American drivers, bringing down the cost by only about 3 cents a gallon, according to The New York Times.

Moreover, at a May House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on gas prices, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., quoted Kenneth Green, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, saying, “The world price is the world price; even if we were producing 100 percent of our oil, we probably couldn't produce enough to affect the world price of oil."

Gingrich’s answer to the criticism has been to say that increasing domestic production would certainly be better than the restrictive policies of the Obama administration.

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