Reality Check On The Debate

CBS News Reality Check Team wrote this story for CBSNews.com.

McCain Knew Where the Weapons Were?:

Obama says John McCain said that he knew where weapons of mass destruction were in Iraq. But that appears to be an exaggeration of what McCain said in the lead up to the war. On October 1, 2002 McCain said, "I think we know where there are at least some of these weapons stored and being developed. I think it would -- we have sufficient evidence, if we were allowed to go in, that we could uncover at least some of his capabilities, certainly not all." Six months later McCain was asked about the same issue on NBC on April 9, 2003 and replied, "I think we'll find weapons of mass destruction."

Obama Cut Funding for Troops?:

McCain says Obama cut off funding for the troops. Obama did vote to cut funding for troops-- exactly once. It was the 2007 supplemental funding bill for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama voted against the $94 billion bill because he said it sent additional troops to Iraq without conditions. He proposed instead a de-escalation act to fund troop deployments, reverse the surge and send troops to Afghanistan in phases. But Obama supported all other troop financing bills.

McCain on Reagan Meetings, Not Quite:

McCain distorts the history of Ronald Reagan not meeting Soviet leaders without preconditions. Fact: Reagan tried to reach out to Leonid Brezhnev, Constantine Chernyenko and Yuri Andropov in private letters---some of which suggested total nuclear disarmament, in what historians agree was an attempt to arrange summit meetings, well before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.

How Much Would Obama Spend? McCain Might Be Too Low:

Senator John McCain says that as president, Obama wants new spending adding up to $800 billion over four years. The McCain campaign tells CBS News this is the total you get by adding up Obama's proposal on his website. When we did this we found Obama's spending would indeed go well over $800 billion but some of this depends on the number of years each promise lasts.

But a new non partisan assessment is even tougher than McCain. The non-partisan , anti-deficit spending group National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) says Obama would spend $1.172 trillion over four years. But the McCain campaign doesn't get off lightly either. In the eyes of the NTUF, McCain would spend $369 billion over the same period. The NTU study also takes the candidates' proposed budget cuts into account. For example McCain's plan to cut earmarks or Obama's proposal to cut the budget line by line. Bottom line, NTU says both candidates are big spenders with Obama being worse than McCain.

McCain Saw It Coming?:

John McCain: "A lot of us saw this trainwreck coming." As the CBS Evening News reported on September 17 John McCain told a New Hampshire newspaper editorial board in December of 2007 that neither he nor his advisors saw the mortgage crisis coming. "I'd like to tell you I did anticipate, but I have to give you straight talk, I did not."

Did McCain Call Obama Naive?:

On August 1, 2007, Obama said as president he would be willing to fire on Pakistan if he knew terrorists were there, "Let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again...If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President (Pervez) Musharraf won't act, we will."

The Obama campaign notes in a pre-debate memo that Senator John McCain called that position "naïve". But the campaign neglects to mention, the first Senator to call that position "naïve" was Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). McCain first called Obama's position on this "naïve" on February 20, 2008.

And McCain did not quite call the whole idea naive, he said it shouldn't be announced, here is the full quote in the Washington Post:

"The best idea is not broadcast what you are going to do. That's naive. You make plans and you work with the other country that is your ally and friend, which Pakistan is...You don't broadcast and say you are going bomb the country without their permission or without consulting them. This is the fundamentals of the conduct of national security policy. I believe in working with the other country."

Campaign Spin Starts Before Debate Begins:

The Obama campaign sent a memo today to reporters before 8:00 PM highlighting Obama's sound judgment on foreign policy. The memo notes Obama's speech against the war in 2002 and reads, "Obama was right about Iraq. McCain was wrong." But one fact missing from the document is that while Obama spoke out against the war, his running mate Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

By Laura Strickler
  • Laura Strickler

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