The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 12, 2012

Fact check: Slips in vice president’s debate

WASHINGTON — EDITOR’S NOTE – An occasional look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don’t tell the full story

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.”

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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 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.

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