WASHINGTON (AP) — Anyone who paid attention to a hearing in Congress this week knew that the administration had been implored to beef up security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya before the deadly terrorist attack there. But in the vice presidential debate Thursday night, Joe Biden seemed unaware.
“We weren’t told they wanted more security there,” the vice president asserted flatly. During a night in which Biden and Republican rival Paul Ryan both drifted from the facts on a range of domestic and foreign issues, that was a standout.
A look at some of their claims:
BIDEN: “Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.”
RYAN: “There were requests for more security.”
THE FACTS: Ryan is right, judging by testimony from Obama administration officials at the hearing a day earlier.
Charlene R. Lamb, a deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told lawmakers she refused requests for more security in Benghazi, saying the department wanted to train Libyans to protect the consulate. “Yes, sir, I said personally I would not support it,” she said.
Eric Nordstrom, who was the top security official in Libya earlier this year, testified he was criticized for seeking more security. He said conversations he had with people in Washington led him to believe that it was “abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. How thin does the ice have to get before someone falls through?”
He said his exasperation reached a point where he told a colleague that “for me the Taliban is on the inside of the building.”
RYAN: “Look at just the $90 billion in stimulus the vice president was in charge of overseeing — this $90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors and special interest groups.”
THE FACTS: Dismissing an entire package of energy stimulus grants and loans as “green pork” ignores the help that was given to people to make their homes more energy efficient, grants to public entities constructing high speed rail lines and tax credits to manufacturers to install equipment fostering cleaner energy.
To be sure, there were notable failed investments, such as $528 million to the politically connected and now-bankrupt solar power company Solyndra. But Ryan’s claim made it sound like every penny went down the drain.
More broadly, economists are nearly universal in saying President Barack Obama’s $800 billion-plus stimulus passed in early 2009 helped create both public-sector and private-sector jobs, even if they fell short of what sponsors had hoped. Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, estimated the stimulus saved or created more than 3 million jobs.
BIDEN: “We went out and rescued General Motors.”
THE FACTS: Actually, the auto bailout of General Motors and Chrysler began under President George W. Bush. The Obama administration continued and expanded it.
RYAN: “And then they put this new Obamacare board in charge of cutting Medicare each and every year in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors. This board, by the way, it’s 15 people, the president’s supposed to appoint them next year. And not one of them even has to have medical training.”
THE FACTS: Ryan is referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created under Obama’s health care overhaul law. It has the power to force cuts in Medicare payments to service providers if costs rise above certain levels and Congress fails to act. But it doesn’t look like the board will be cutting Medicare “each and every year,” as Ryan asserts. Medicare costs are currently rising modestly and the government’s own experts project the board’s intervention will not be needed until 2018 or 2019 at the earliest — after Obama leaves office if re-elected to a second term.
BIDEN, when asked who would pay more taxes in Obama’s second term: “People making a million dollars or more.”
THE FACTS: Obama’s proposed tax increase reaches farther down the income ladder than millionaires. He wants to roll back Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000.
RYAN: “We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability. Now, let’s take a look at where we’ve gone — come from. When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material — nuclear material — to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They’re racing toward a nuclear weapon. They’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.”
THE FACTS: Ryan’s claim is misleading. Iran isn’t believed to have produced any of the highly enriched uranium needed to produce even one nuclear weapon, let alone five. That point isn’t even disputed by Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored the world at the United Nations last month to create a “red line” at enrichment above 20 percent. Iran would have to enrich uranium at much higher levels to produce a weapon. There is intelligence suggesting that Iran has worked on weapon designs, but not that it has developed a delivery system for any potential nuclear warhead.
BIDEN: “What we did is, we saved $716 billion and put it back, applied it to Medicare.”
THE FACTS: Contrary to Biden’s assertion, not all the money cut from Medicare is going back into the program in some other way. The administration is cutting $716 billion over 10 years in Medicare payments to providers and using some of the money to improve benefits under the program. But most of the money is being used to expand health care coverage outside of Medicare.