WASHINGTON — From the economy and Medicare to foreign policy and the genesis of his own fortune, Mitt Romney’s assertions in Tampa are coming under close scrutiny, with some of the Republican presidential nominee’s statements just as empty as the chair in Clint Eastwood’s shtick.
Romney won applause from GOP convention delegates with this zinger: “I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.”
That’s not how others see it, as Democrats were quick to point out. Indeed, independent fact-checking groups have proclaimed Romney’s assertion to be false.
PolitiFact, the Pulitzer-winning project of the Tampa Bay Times, has taken up the issue at least three times — as it did again on Friday, the day after Romney used the line in his nomination acceptance speech.
PolitiFact called Romney’s assertion “ridiculous” and gave his statement a “Pants on Fire” rating, the worst possible.
The New York Times and the Washington Post agreed.
“Despite earning Four Pinocchios for this claim for months, Romney keeps saying this,” the Post wrote Friday.
In his convention speech, Romney also chided the president for what he considered a host of foreign policy missteps.
“President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus,” Romney said.
Certainly, there have been disagreements between the the United States and Israel, particularly over the Palestinians and settlements in the West Bank, said Daniel Byman, a Middle East analyst in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
“But there is still a tremendous amount of cooperation, and you could even say that in the day-to-day level of military operations the cooperation is often stronger,” Byman said.
“It is certainly a significant mischaracterization of Obama’s policies,” he said, to accuse the White House of turning its back on Israel.
On Thursday, Romney hammered Obama on Medicare, repeating one of his most frequent criticisms.
“His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation — and jobs — in medicine.”
That line rings hollow, however, primarily because Republicans, including Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, have proposed making similar cuts. Obama uses the savings to help fund his signature health care program.
Potentially the most effective attack plan for the Romney campaign is the president’s handling of the economy.
“The president can ask us to be patient,” Romney said Thursday. “This president can tell us that the next four years he’ll get it right. But this president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office.”
Certainly, the unemployment rate is higher today than it was in January 2009, when Obama took office, rising from 7.8 percent to 8.3 percent. But the rate of joblessness crested at 10 percent in October 2009. As the Obama campaign reminds voters, Obama inherited a declining economy that kept spiraling downward even in the months after he took office.
But at what point should Obama begin to shoulder blame, and at what point should he be given credit for the economic recovery, regardless of how slow the recovery?
According to FactCheck.org, the president’s $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law a month after Obama took office, did in fact create jobs.
Citing figures from the Congressional Budget Office, it said the stimulus package held down the jobless rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points, translating to anywhere from 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.
Romney has touted his experience in business, particularly while helming Bain Capital, as his leading qualification to be president.
Romney mentioned the genesis of the company Thursday speech, but his version is at odds with other accounts.
The way he put it, he was 37 when he and his partners, who had been employed by a consulting firm “had this idea that if we really believed our advice was helping companies, we should invest in companies. We should bet on ourselves and on our advice.” That, he said, was the beginning of Bain Capital.
In fact, it was not his idea to start the company; it was part of an offer from his mentor, the founder of Bain & Co.
According to “The Real Romney,” a book written by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman earlier this year, Romney was far more cautious in considering the offer back then.
As the book noted, it was a risk-free opportunity for Romney. He was granted his request that he be allowed to return to his old job, with all raises and benefits he would have received in the interim, should the Bain Capital idea not pan out. In addition, his bosses assured him they would protect his reputation with a cover story.