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The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - GLENN KESSLER [email protected]­post.com

Iraq War, health care bring out the can­di­dates’ ques­tion­able claims.

The sev­enth Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial de­bate of the 2020 cam­paign, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Reg­is­ter, had six can­di­dates, lasted a lit­tle over two hours — and did not have many state­ments that mer­ited fact-check­ing. Here are six claims that caught our at­ten­tion, mainly about the Iraq War and health care. Our prac­tice is not to award Pinoc­chios in de­bate roundups. This piece was co-writ­ten with my col­leagues Sal­vador Rizzo and Meg Kelly.

“It was a mis­take to trust that they weren’t go­ing to go to war. They said they were not go­ing to go to war.”

— for­mer vice pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den

This ver­sion of his­tory is dis­puted by for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

“I’m sure it’s just an in­no­cent mis­take of mem­ory, but that rec­ol­lec­tion is flat wrong,” Bush spokesman Freddy Ford told the Fact Checker. He in­cluded a link to a pod­cast ti­tled “A Po­lite Word for Liar.”

Here’s what hap­pened. Bi­den, dur­ing the Se­nate de­bate on a res­o­lu­tion au­tho­riz­ing force against Iraq on Oct. 10, 2002, ar­gued that the res­o­lu­tion was de­signed to en­sure diplo­macy. But he also fought against al­ter­na­tives of­fered by more lib­eral Democrats that would have re­quired Bush to first win U.N. author­ity for an in­va­sion or else seek a new war res­o­lu­tion from Congress.

The United Na­tions or­dered weapons in­spec­tors back into Iraq, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion got im­pa­tient with the re­sults, call­ing for the in­spec­tions to end al­most as soon as they started. Ir­ri­tat­ing al­lies, the ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gued that the in­spec­tions could not be al­lowed to drag on be­cause the U.S. mil­i­tary buildup in the Per­sian Gulf re­gion had pro­ceeded too far to turn back from war.

Nev­er­the­less, Bi­den con­tin­ued to ex­press sup­port for his vote. “I sup­ported the res­o­lu­tion to go to war. I am not op­posed to war to re­move weapons of mass de­struc­tion from Iraq,” he said in a Fe­bru­ary 2003 speech. “I am not op­posed to war to re­move Sad­dam [Hus­sein] from those weapons if it comes to that.”

In a Wash­ing­ton Post opin­ion ar­ti­cle just be­fore the con­flict be­gan, Bi­den un­suc­cess­fully ar­gued that an in­va­sion should be de­layed un­til the ad­min­is­tra­tion ob­tained a U.N. res­o­lu­tion au­tho­riz­ing an at­tack. That was the po­si­tion taken by Se­nate lib­er­als that Bi­den had pre­vi­ously dis­missed dur­ing the de­bate about the war res­o­lu­tion.

Bush, in his book “De­ci­sion Points,” wrote: “Some mem­bers of Congress would later claim they were not vot­ing to au­tho­rize war but only to con­tinue diplo­macy. They must not have read the res­o­lu­tion. Its lan­guage was un­mis­tak­able:

‘ The Pres­i­dent is au­tho­rized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he de­ter­mines to be nec­es­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate in or­der to de­fend the na­tional se­cu­rity of the United States against the con­tin­u­ing threat posed by Iraq; and en­force all rel­e­vant United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions re­gard­ing Iraq.’ ”

“I was asked to bring 156,000 troops home from that war [in Iraq], which I did. I led that ef­fort.” — Bi­den

Bi­den voted for the Iraq War when he was a sen­a­tor, and many Democrats won’t let him for­get it.

On the cam­paign trail th­ese days, Bi­den of­ten says Amer­i­cans can trust his judg­ment on ques­tions of war be­cause he was later in charge of a U.S. troop with­drawal from Iraq dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s first term.

In 2009, Obama asked Bi­den to man­age the with­drawal of U.S. forces. Obama wanted “sus­tained, high-level fo­cus” from the White House on that is­sue, “and then he turned to the vice pres­i­dent and said, ‘Joe, you know more about Iraq than any­one and I want you to take care of that,’ ” said Antony Blinken, who was Bi­den’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser in the White House and then deputy sec­re­tary of state from 2013 to 2015. Bi­den chaired a com­mit­tee that made sen­si­tive de­ci­sions about the pace and scope of the troop with­drawal, while also keep­ing an eye on eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal is­sues in Iraq. The Bi­den com­mit­tee in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the De­fense Depart­ment, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Trea­sury Depart­ment and other agen­cies.

But Bi­den of­ten leaves out what hap­pened af­ter that. Obama sent U.S. troops back into Iraq dur­ing his sec­ond term. Bi­den was still the vice pres­i­dent.

The Bi­den camp ar­gues that th­ese are two dif­fer­ent con­flicts and that the troop lev­els were much higher pre-2011 and much lower post-2014. How­ever, as top Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have said in pub­lic, the two con­flicts are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked. The Is­lamic State gained a foothold in Iraq in large part be­cause U.S. forces had with­drawn.

We pre­vi­ously gave Two Pinoc­chios to Bi­den for telling half the story.

“The very pres­i­dent who said he was go­ing to end end­less war, who pre­tended to have been against the war in Iraq all along.” — Pete But­tigieg, for­mer mayor of South Bend, Ind.

But­tigieg is cor­rect here. De­spite fre­quent claims, Pres­i­dent Trump did not ex­press op­po­si­tion to in­va­sion of Iraq be­fore it oc­curred. He even praised the in­va­sion im­me­di­ately after­ward. Trump only be­came out­spo­ken in his op­po­si­tion in 2004. Trump earned Four Pinoc­chios for his claim.

“You know, I was a sin­gle par­ent, too. When my wife and daugh­ter were killed, my two boys I had to raise. . . . I was making $42,000 a year. I com­muted ev­ery sin­gle soli­tary day to Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware — over 500 miles a day, ex­cuse me, 250 miles a day — be­cause I could not af­ford . . . child care. It was be­yond my reach.” — Bi­den

Ad­justed for in­fla­tion, Bi­den’s $42,500 salary as a sen­a­tor in 1972 would be al­most $260,000 in to­day’s dol­lars. Mean­while, the aver­age cost of child care in Delaware to­day runs $9,000 to $11,000 per year, ac­cord­ing to the Eco­nomic Pol­icy In­sti­tute.

That sug­gests Bi­den would have had the means to af­ford child care in his home state in the early 1970s, though we can’t be cer­tain be­cause other fi­nan­cial fac­tors could have been at play.

It’s worth not­ing that in an emo­tional speech at Yale Univer­sity in 2015, Bi­den said “the real rea­son I went home ev­ery night was that I needed my chil­dren more than they needed me.”

“Medi­care-for-all, which will guar­an­tee com­pre­hen­sive health care for ev­ery man, woman and child, will cost sub­stan­tially less than the sta­tus quo.”

— Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-VT.)

In this de­bate, San­ders did not de­fine what he meant by “the sta­tus quo,” but in the third de­bate he said the cost of the sta­tus quo would be $50 tril­lion over 10 years, com­pared with more than $30 tril­lion for Medi­care-for-all. When we queried the San­ders cam­paign dur­ing the de­bate for the source of the $50 tril­lion fig­ure, we were di­rected to posts that were writ­ten by Paul Wald­man for The Post’s “The Plum Line,” an opin­ion col­umn.

Wald­man com­pared a govern­ment pro­jec­tion that na­tional health spend­ing would be about $50 tril­lion over the next decade to an es­ti­mate that pro­jected the fed­eral cost of Medi­care-for-all as $32.6 tril­lion. In one col­umn cited by the cam­paign, Wald­man wrote: “So if Medi­care-for-all ac­tu­ally costs $40 tril­lion, we would save $10 tril­lion. Hooray!”

Wald­man told the Fact Checker he has not read aca­demic stud­ies that looked closely at the im­pact of a Medi­care-for-all plan on na­tional health ex­pen­di­tures. It turned out that all but one of five ma­jor stud­ies, from the left to the right, pre­dict that the San­ders plan would in­crease health spend­ing, not re­duce it. The au­thor of the fifth pre­dicts a de­cline but said San­ders’s state­ment is ex­ag­ger­ated.

We ended up giv­ing San­ders Three Pinoc­chios for his com­ment.

San­ders said this twice in the de­bate, but both times he did not quite get it right. He ap­par­ently meant to say that the United States spends twice as much as other de­vel­oped coun­tries — de­fined as mem­bers of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment. In­stead, he said twice as much as any other coun­try.

The United States pays far more per capita on health care than any other ma­jor coun­try in the world ($9,892 in 2016) — twice as much as Canada ($4,753). The OECD me­dian was $4,033. But Switzer­land is a ma­jor de­vel­oped coun­try, and U.S. costs are 25 per­cent higher than Switzer­land ($7,919). Th­ese fig­ures come from a study by a team led by a Johns Hop­kins Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health re­searcher.

More re­cent OECD es­ti­mates show the United States spent $10,586 per per­son, com­pared with Switzer­land ($7,317 per per­son), Nor­way ($6,187 per per­son) and Ger­many ($5,986 per per­son). All of those are more than half of U.S. spend­ing, though the OECD aver­age was just un­der $4,000. So San­ders would have been cor­rect if he spoke about the aver­age or me­dian of other de­vel­oped coun­tries.


Au­di­ence mem­bers watch the lat­est Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial de­bate from the bal­cony at Drake Univer­sity in Des Moines. “We are now spend­ing twice as much per per­son on health care as the peo­ple of any other coun­try. That is in­sane.” — San­ders

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