We heard a lot of bombastic saber-rattling from the Republicans last night, but the only thing they actually waged war on were facts. See what the fact-checkers are saying:
ASSOCIATED PRESS // TAMI ABDOLLAH AND VIVIAN SALAMA
The vast complexities of a dangerous world were cast in too-simple terms in the latest Republican presidential debate.
In addition, Chris Christie pledged to make common cause with a Jordanian king who’s actually dead and Rand Paul wrongly stated that all terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 2001 have come from the hands of legal immigrants.
Here’s a look at some of the claims Tuesday night and how they compare with the facts:
TED CRUZ: “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city.”
THE FACTS: The Texas senator’s conviction that the Islamic State group can be routed with an air campaign of overwhelming force is hard to square with the reality on the ground. IS fighters are holed up in a variety of cities, amid civilians, raising questions about how he could direct a carpet bombing that only singles out the enemy.
He was asked in the debate if he’d be willing to cause civilian casualties in Raqqa, a major Syrian city that has become de facto capital of the Islamic State group’s so-called caliphate. The Islamic State group is also in control of the Iraqi cities of Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah.
DONALD TRUMP: “Our country is out of control. People are pouring through the southern border.”
THE FACTS: Arrest statistics are widely regarded as the best measure, if an imperfect one, of the flow of people crossing illegally into the U.S. And Trump’s suggestion that illegal immigration is increasing at the border is not supported by arrest statistics discussed in recent months by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Johnson has said that during the 2015 budget year that ended in September, about 330,000 people were caught crossing the Mexican border illegally, a near 40-year low in border arrests. During the 2014 budget year, roughly 486,000 people were arrested.
In recent months there has been a spike in the arrests at the border, but primarily of children traveling alone and families, mostly from Central America.
JEB BUSH: “We need to embed our forces, our troops, inside the Iraqi military.”
THE FACTS: The U.S. is already doing that.
U.S. special forces are working side by side with Iraqi forces in the fight against Islamic State militants and American military advisers and trainers are working with Iraqi troops in various locations. To be sure, Bush has called for an intensification of the military effort in a variety of ways, but debate viewers would not know from his comment that U.S. troops are already operating with Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
His comment fits a pattern in the Republican race as a number of candidates criticize President Barack Obama’s course against IS while proposing largely the same steps that are already underway.
PAUL: “Every terrorist attack we’ve had since 9/11 has been legal immigration.”
THE FACTS: Not so.
One of the San Bernardino, California, attackers was 28-year-old Syed Farook, who was born in Illinois. Nidal Hasan, who perpetrated the 2009 Fort Hood shootings that killed 13 people, was not only an American but an Army major.
CHRISTIE: “When I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan and I say to him, ‘You have a friend again sir, who will stand with you to fight this fight,’ he’ll change his mind.”
THE FACTS: He won’t, because he died in 1999. Jordan’s king now is Abdullah II.
CRUZ: “And even worse, President Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing bringing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to this country when the head of the FBI has told Congress they cannot vet those refugees.”
THE FACTS: Cruz repeated inflated estimates of how many Syrian refugees the Obama administration plans to admit to the United States. Obama has announced plans to resettle about 10,000 refugees in the next year.
The vetting process for refugees takes, on average, about two years and is routinely longer for refugees from Syria and Iraq. The administration has said refugees being considered for resettlement in the United States are subject to additional scrutiny. The administration has declined to describe what the scrutiny involves, saying it is classified.
CRUZ: “We didn’t monitor the Facebook page of the San Bernardino terrorist because DHS thought it would be inappropriate.”
THE FACTS: The Department of Homeland Security has authority to look at social media such as Facebook when evaluating visa applications, and the agency says it does so in some cases. But some experts say that scrutinizing social media accounts of every visa applicant would dramatically slow the approval process, including for tourist visas.
It’s also unclear whether looking at the Facebook pages of the shooters in the California attacks would have prevented the attacks.
The male attacker, Syed Farook, was a U.S. citizen, born in Illinois, and never needed a visa. His wife, attacker Tashfeen Malik, 29, did enter the country on a fiancee visa and had used social media to speak of martyrdom and jihad. But Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has said such posts weren’t public. After the attacks, Facebook did find a profile under an alias linked to Malik with a post pledging her allegiance to the Islamic State.
CRUZ: “Moderate rebels end up being jihadists.”
THE FACTS: Cruz did not acknowledge in his blanket warning that moderate rebel groups in Syria have been fighting against the Islamic State group, the al-Qaida-aligned Nusra Front and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad since the start of that country’s civil war.
While there has been concern over U.S.-trained Syrian rebels handing over some of their equipment to the Nusra Front in exchange for safe passage, they are considered key in the fight against both radical groups and Assad — a leader who a number of GOP candidates said in the debate should be removed because of his close alliance with Iraq.
The Republican presidential candidates negotiated a minefield of national security and foreign policy concerns and dilemmas in their latest debate Tuesday night. But it was rocky terrain for several as they slipped, slid and suffered stubbed toes in their encounters with the facts. Foreign policy and national security issues dominated the two-hour CNN debate. Throughout, the nine Republicans presidential candidates made claims and statements worthy of re-examination.
CRUZ AND SYRIAN REFUGEES: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas asserted that President Barack Obama wants to bring in “tens of thousands” of Syrian refugees. His administration only began moving toward mass resettlement after increased pressure from the European and Middle Eastern nations bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis. The administration has pledged to admit at least 10,000 Syrians in the fiscal year that began in October. Advocacy groups called the figure a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of displaced Syrians seeking refuge. And these are not new cases — they’ll come from 18,000 cases already referred by the United Nations and that are at varying stages of the screening process, which typically takes around two years to complete.
RUBIO AND DEFENSE CUTS: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio lamented the declining strength in both force and funding of the Navy and the Air Force. That looked past the fact that he and two other candidates on the stage — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — were in office when Republicans signed off in recent years on the so-called budget sequester that slashed government spending across the board to reduce debt and deficits.
“If you listen to folks up here you’d think they weren’t even there,” complained New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, touting his executive branch experience.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 called for automatic across-the-board spending cuts, beginning in 2013, as a disincentive. They would occur only if lawmakers couldn’t find their own compromise on cuts. They didn’t.
In Feb. 26, 2015, testimony before Congress, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus warned that three years of sequestration have meant a “continued decline of our relative warfighting advantages in many areas.” Rubio and Paul were in the Senate when the Budget Control Act passed. Cruz was elected in 2012, but has been in office for three “sequester” budgets.
FIORINA AND OBAMA’S GENERALS: Former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina said that she would bring back a series of knowledgeable retired generals, including David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, who retired early because they told Obama things he didn’t want to hear.
Obama accepted McChrystal’s resignation in 2010 after he and his aides mocked civilian government officials, including Vice President Joe Biden in an article in Rolling Stone magazine. McChrystal was not directly critical of the president or the president’s policies.
Petraeus retired from the military to become CIA director after he was passed up for the job as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or Chief of Staff of the Army, as many had expected. (He later resigned from his position at the CIA after his extramarital affair became public).