TRUTH TEST: At vice presidential debate, foreign policy foul balls


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist DOUG NAUGLE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on October 12, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 12 at 6:27 PM

AUSTIN -- One of the most contentious claims during the vice presidential debate focused on Libya, and statements regarding security concerns prior to the deadly attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that claimed the lives of several Americans including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

"We weren't told they wanted more security again," Vice President Joe Biden emphatically stated during Thursday night's debate in Danville, Kentucky. "We did not know they wanted more security again."

"There were requests for more security," argued Republican runningmate Paul Ryan. "Those requests were not honored."

At a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill, former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya Eric Nordstrom testified such requests were made to a regional director within the U.S. Department of State.

"I asked for 12 agents," said Nordstrom, who told congressional investigators his view that the State Department bureaucracy was the number one enemy to security issues in Libya. "His response to that was, 'You're asking for the sun, moon and stars.'"

"The other day no one who testified about this matter suggested that requests for additional security were made to the president or the White House," administration spokesperson Jay Carney told media on Friday in an effort to explain Biden's statement. "So these are issues appropriately that are handled by security professionals at the State Department, and that's what he was talking about."

Regarding the president's relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ryan made the oft-repeated claim that America's enemies in the Middle East "see President Obama in New York City the same day Bibi Netanyahu is, and instead of meeting with him goes on a daily talk show."

The president did tape an episode of ABC daily talk show "The View" while in New York on September 24 which aired the next day. Netanyahu arrived on September 26, two days after the taping, and spoke before the United Nations General Assembly on September 27.

While the two were in New York during the same week, the appearance on "The View" was not a factor in their inability to connect. The White House has said separate scheduling conflicts prevented the two leaders from meeting before Netanyahu's return.

Ryan also chastised the administration's handling of Syria and the popular uprising against President Bashar Assad.

"We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer when he was turning his Russian provided guns on his own people," chided Ryan, prompting Biden to question who made the statement.

The reference dates back to a March 27, 2011 interview on CBS' Face the Nation, in which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about the Syrian situation and the appropriate American response.

"There is a different leader in Syria now," Clinton said. "Many of the members of congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he is a reformer. What's been happening there the last few weeks is deeply concerning."

Clinton would later change her appraisal of Assad, telling a U.S. Senate panel on February 29, 2012, "Based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category."

The vice president levied criticism over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's comments regarding the drawdown of American troops from the war in Iraq.

"Governor Romney said that was a 'tragic mistake,'" claimed Biden. "We should have left 30,000 troops there."

Speaking at a Veteran's Day roundtable in 2011, Romney called the method of withdrawal "tragic." He later told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, "We should've left 10, 20, 30,000 personnel there to help transition to the Iraqis' own military capabilities. I'm very concerned in this setting. I hope it works out."

The two candidates also launched already debunked statements regarding health care and taxation.

On the president's Affordable Care Act, Ryan exaggerated the power of the 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board primarily tasked with developing recommendations for Medicare savings measures, adding "not one of them even has to have medical training."

According to the text of the law, the board includes the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration as "ex officio" members.

The law specifically says any such proposals, "shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums under section 1818, 1818A, or 1839, increase Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria."

On the issue of the Romney-Ryan tax plan and the wealthiest percentile of income earners, Biden claims the plan "will in fact give another $250 million a year to those 120,000 families and raise taxes for people who are middle income with a child by $2,000 a year."

According to a study by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, the Romney-Ryan budget could result in a savings of $246,652 for the top one percent of income earners if the plan is executed in a revenue-neutral manner. The same study predicts an increase of $1,349 to $1,880 per year for the top 80 to 95 percent of earners.

The study however is only a hypothetical experiment that does not include closing the unspecified loopholes and tax breaks the Romney campaign argues would offset decreased revenue from the top percentile of taxpayers, and therefore does not serve as an accurate or realistic representation of the Republicans' actual tax plan.