FACT CHECK: Slips in vice president's debate

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Associated Press

Posted on October 11, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 12 at 1:05 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden has mangled a heaping helping of facts over the years. Despite being newer to presidential-campaign politics, Republican Paul Ryan has already earned something of a reputation for taking flying leaps past reality.

How'd they do Thursday night?

Here's a look at some of their claims:

BIDEN, on whether U.S. should have beefed up security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya before the deadly terrorist attack there: "We weren't told they wanted more security there."

RYAN: "There were requests for more security."

THE FACTS: Ryan is right, judging by testimony from Obama administration officials at a congressional hearing this week.

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?"

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RYAN: "We should have spoken out right away when the green revolution was up and starting, when the mullahs in Iran were attacking their people. We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer when he was turning his Russian-provided guns on his own people.

THE FACTS: Neither President Barack Obama nor anyone else in his administration ever considered the Syrian leader a "reformer." The oft-repeated charge stems from an interview Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave in March 2011 noting that "many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he's a reformer." She did not endorse that view. The comment was widely perceived to be a knock at senators such as John Kerry of Massachusetts who maintained cordial relations with Assad in the months leading up to his crackdown on protesters.

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BIDEN: "We went out and rescued General Motors."

THE FACTS: Actually, the auto bailout of General Motors and Chrysler began under President George W. Bush. The Obama administration continued and expanded it.

___ RYAN: "And then they put this new Obamacare board in charge of cutting Medicare each and every year in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors. This board, by the way, it's 15 people, the president's supposed to appoint them next year. And not one of them even has to have medical training."

THE FACTS: Ryan is referring to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law. It has the power to force cuts in Medicare payments to service providers if costs rise above certain levels and Congress fails to act. But it doesn't look like the board will be cutting Medicare "each and every year," as Ryan asserts. Medicare costs are currently rising modestly and the government's own experts project the board's intervention will not be needed until 2018 and 2019 at the earliest — after Obama leaves office if re-elected to a second term.

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BIDEN, when asked who would pay more taxes in Obama's second term: "People making a million dollars or more."

THE FACTS: Obama's proposed tax increase reaches farther down the income ladder than millionaires. He wants to roll back Bush-era tax cuts for individuals making over $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000.

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RYAN: "We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability. Now, let's take a look at where we've gone — come from. When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material — nuclear material — to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They're racing toward a nuclear weapon. They're four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability."

THE FACTS: Ryan's claim is misleading. Iran isn't believed to have produced any of the highly enriched uranium needed to produce even one nuclear weapon, let alone five. That point isn't even disputed by Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored the world at the United Nations last month to create a "red line" at enrichment above 20 percent. Iran would have to enrich uranium at much higher levels to produce a weapon. There is intelligence suggesting that Iran has worked on weapon designs, but not that it has developed a delivery system for any potential nuclear warhead.

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BIDEN: "What we did is, we saved $716 billion and put it back, applied it to Medicare."

THE FACTS: Contrary to Biden's assertion, not all the money cut from Medicare is going back into the program in some other way. The administration is cutting $716 billion over 10 years in Medicare payments to providers and using some of the money to improve benefits under the program. But most of the money is being used to expand health care coverage outside of Medicare.

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RYAN: "What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they're doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals."

THE FACTS: The requirement under the health care law that most employers cover birth control free of charge to female employees does not apply to churches, houses of worship, or other institutions directly involved in propagating a religious faith. It does apply to church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and charities that serve the general public.

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BIDEN: "Romney said 'No, let Detroit go bankrupt.'"

THE FACTS: GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has gotten endless grief through the campaign for the headline put on his November 2008 opinion essay that he wrote for The New York Times. But his point was never that he wanted the auto industry to go down the tubes.

Romney opposed using government money to bail out Chrysler and General Motors, instead favoring privately financed bankruptcy restructuring. His prescription seemed improbable. Automakers were hemorrhaging cash and the banking system was in crisis, so private money wasn't available. Without the government money, it's likely both companies would have gone out of business. Romney did propose government-guaranteed private loans for both companies after bankruptcy.

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RYAN: "This one tax would actually tax about 53 percent of small-business income."

BIDEN: "Ninety-seven percent of the small businesses in America pay less — make less than $250,000."

THE FACTS: Both are correct, but incomplete, when sizing up the effect on small business of raising taxes for individuals making more than $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000, as Obama wants to do. Republicans say that would hit small-business owners who report business income on their individual income tax; Democrats say the overwhelming majority of small businesses would not be affected.

According to a 2010 report by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress, about 3 percent of people who report business income would face a tax increase under Obama's plan. That support's Biden's point.

The same report says those business owners account for about half of all business income. That supports Ryan.

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Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper, Tom Raum, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher and Tom Krisher contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE _ An occasional look at political claims that take shortcuts with the facts or don't tell the full story

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