Fact-Checking Obama and Romney
To listen to Mitt Romney tell it, President Obama is a job-killing, free-spending, big-government liberal who made the recession worse with his policies and endangered free-market capitalism. The president has spent tax dollars “at a pace without precedent in recent history,” Mr. Romney says, and “added almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined.”
As Mr. Obama travels the country, he offers the opposite self-portrait, that of a job-creating, tightfisted, government-shrinking pragmatist who saved the country from another Great Depression. On his watch, “government employment has gone down,” he says, and federal spending has increased “at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years.”
With the presidential race largely focused on the economy and the budget, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney are filling speeches with facts and figures designed to enhance their case and diminish the other guy’s, in the process often making assertions fundamentally at odds with one another. Along the way, both candidates are at times stretching the truth, using statistics without context, exaggerating their own records and misrepresenting their opponent’s.
Each side regularly accuses the other of lying, and in any campaign there is a temptation to write both sides off, as if every misleading statement were equivalent. In reality, some are more fundamental than others, more egregious, more central to the larger argument. Mr. Romney, for example, called his 2010 book laying out the rationale for his candidacy “No Apology” — charging, falsely in the eyes of many independent fact-checkers, that Mr. Obama had traveled the world apologizing for America.