Second presidential debate an intense tug-of-war for the upper hand

Following incumbent President Barack Obama’s nosedive in the polls after the first presidential debate, both candidates arrived at Hofstra University tonight, October 16, prepared for a struggle. Major headlines confirm the fierceness of the debate, such as the New York Times’s “Rivals Bring Bare Fists to Rematch.”

The first debate, held in Denver, Colorado, covered domestic policy; questions were asked by moderator Jim Lehrer. The second was conducted in town-hall style, with questions from an audience of randomly-selected undecided voters from around Hempstead, New York, where the debate was held. Candy Crowley, a CNN news anchor, served as moderator.

Because this debate was open to both domestic and foreign topics, questions ranged broadly, from healthcare, jobs, and taxes to the attack in Libya, immigration reform, and women’s rights. At several points during the debate, the candidates disagreed on basic facts, which caused some gridlock between the two. Below is a compilation of the candidates’ statements along with evaluations of the factuality of those statements by major news media outlets.

Romney said he had a more suitable plan, which came without government bailout, than the Obama administration for the rescue of the auto industry.

Obama responded to this with a claim that even General Motors and Chrysler would have been opposed to Romney’s plan, which advocated the use of privately financed bankruptcy restructuring as opposed to a federal bailout. This is mostly true—there were virtually no private loans available for the unstable auto industry giants, and thus without government interference would probably have gone under. (Associated Press)

Obama said that Romney invested in companies that were “pioneers of outsourcing.”

He is referring to Bain Capital, a private equity firm Gov. Romney at one point ran. But the particular Washington Post article to which Obama is referring does not at any point say that large increases in transfers of jobs overseas by the companies in which Bain Capital invested occurred while Romney ran the firm. Under Romney, Bain Capital invested in companies that would later become leaders in outsourcing. (Washington Post)

Romney said oil and gas production on federal lands went down under the Obama administration; Obama said the opposite.

It is true that drilling permits and licenses have been cut by 37% and 42%, respectively, which is not quite the “half” Romney claimed but is still significant. It is also true that oil and gas production on public lands has dropped by 14% and 9%, respectively. But overall oil production is at the highest it’s been since 1996, and since reaching a low in 2008 has steadily increased over the past four years. Natural gas and coal production is also rising. But the President cannot claim credit for new drilling and mining techniques. (ABC)

Obama said his administration immediately identified the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as an “act of terror.”

This is partially true—soon after the attack in a speech in the Rose Garden, he said, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” But Romney is also correct in saying that many members of the Obama administration repeated the claim for several days following the attack that it had been rooted in demonstrations against an American-made anti-Muslim video, though it was revealed later that those demonstrations never happened. (Associated Press)

Romney said that federal regulation of oil companies under the Obama administration had been extremely detrimental; he cited the prosecution of oil drillers in the Bakken Formation oil fields in North Dakota.

Bakken oil drillers were prosecuted after a number of migratory birds died on the fields. Bakken Formation Continental Resources chief executive Harold Hamm, who also happens to be an adviser for Romney, successfully fought the claims, leading to a decision that the birds’ deaths were an “incidental or unintended effect” of the existence of the oil fields. Bakken’s production was not significantly impacted. (Washington Post)

Obama said he has spent time over the past four years working to provide children of illegal immigrants with a pathway to citizenship.

But in fact, actual legislation simply allows children of illegal immigrants to avoid deportation for up to two years, during which time they can work to obtain a work permit. In addition, prosecution is relaxed in that illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for a long time and have no criminal record are generally not arrested and/or deported. But the Obama administration has not provided any “pathway to citizenship.” (Associated Press)

Romney said Obama has “doubled the deficit” over the past four years.

Obama did promise in 2008 to cut the deficit in half, a claim that has not held true. But the deficit has actually been cut by 8% since 2008. (ABC)

Obama said five million jobs had been created over the past 30 months in the private sector alone. Romney said if people who had dropped out of the workforce in the past four years were counted, the unemployment rate would be above 10%.

A net growth of about .2 million jobs has indeed occurred over Obama’s administration—4.3 jobs were lost in his first couple of years, and 4.5 have been created in his second two. Also, the public sector has taken a significant hit in terms of job loss. Romney’s claim that fewer people are working today than were working when Obama took office is false. However, his claim on unemployment is true. (Though some analysts have attributed more people dropping out of the workforce to the exiting baby boomer era and students in higher education spending more time in school and not in the workforce.)  (ABCAssociated Press)

Romney said Obama would raise taxes by $4000.

However, the study that backs up this claim simply observes that taxes would be much lower were the debt not so large. Taking into account current law, Romney’s additions to taxes would be similar to the numbers reported by the study for the Obama administration. And an increase in the size of the debt does not necessitate that the President will raise taxes. (Washington Post)

Obama said his administration has cut taxes by $3600.

Though it sounds like a lump sum, this is a cumulative number of the total tax cuts over four years, and taxes will have to rise when the Making Work Pay tax credit expires. (Washington Post)

 

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Zoe is a contributing writer and copy editor for RedEye and the Creative Director for duPont Manual’s Crimson Yearbook. She is also Co-President of the Gay/Straight/Transgender Alliance, an Advisory Board member on the Debate Team, editor of The Red Pen, an independent newsmagazine, and is generally talented at making horrifying faces, doing a pretty spot-on Russian accent, and being up very, very late.