TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.
MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
--Principles of PolitiFact and the Truth-O-Meter
|(clipped from PolitiFact.com)|
The fact checkers:
Robert Farley: writer, researcher
Martha Hamilton: editor
For PolitiFact and its Truth-O-Meter, the difference between "True" and "Mostly True" rests on whether an accurate statement needs additional clarification or information.
In a televised address to the nation on July 25, 2011, to discuss the pending deadline on the debt ceiling, President Barack Obama made his pitch for a "balanced" approach to reducing the deficit -- one that includes spending cuts as well as revenue increases from tax increases for wealthier Americans.There's the rub. President Obama speaks in the context of a battle over deficit reduction. The United States faces a two-pronged threat to its credit rating. One from the failure to address profligate spending (debt) and the other from a government default (to one degree or another) in the wake of a failure to raise the debt ceiling. What does the president say?
With the debt ceiling issue caught in a political deadlock over how to reduce the deficit, Obama noted that raising the debt ceiling has been a relatively routine exercise for decades.
"Understand –- raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money," Obama said. "It simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up. In the past, raising the debt ceiling was routine. Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every President has signed it. President Reagan did it 18 times. George W. Bush did it seven times. And we have to do it by next Tuesday, August 2nd, or else we won’t be able to pay all of our bills."Did the U.S. face a drop in its credit rating from overspending under Reagan or George W. Bush? If not, aren't we missing a crucial piece of context? Is it proper, in other words, for a raise in the debt limit to occur routinely when the nation is under the threat of a drop in its credit rating if it doesn't stem the growth of its debt?
Mr. Obama, in his address, only gave the subtlest of hints of any threat to the U.S. credit rating (correction: from the first of the two aforementioned prongs). Indeed, I am probably generous to credit him with giving any hint at all. I challenge any reader to detect it.
Here, we are looking at Obama's claim that, "President Reagan did it 18 times. George W. Bush did it seven times."A strict focus on the numerical claim might serve to excuse the lack of critical context in the president's remarks. On the other hand, PolitiFact's editor Bill Adair tells us "the biggest factor is the underlying message" for a numbers claim. And PolitiFact appeared to identify Obama's underlying message early in the story ("Obama noted that raising the debt ceiling has been a relatively routine exercise for decades"). Obama sends the message that nothing should stop Republicans from reaching a quick agreement on this routine issue.
With its fact check, PolitiFact confirms that debt ceiling increases occurred routinely in the past as Obama said. So does Obama get a "True" for leaving out nothing important?
We would be remiss if we failed to note that Obama opposed one of those increases to the debt ceiling under George W. Bush and criticized Bush for a lack of leadership.Fortunately for Obama, he is not remiss in PolitiFact's eyes for omitting that fact from his remarks. Whew! Close one!
Having cleared that minuscule hurdle we can join PolitiFact in leaping to the conclusion:
Typically, the party that controls the White House has had to take the difficult vote to raise the limit, while the other party was free to criticize. An analysis of the past 10 years of votes on the debt limit from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center shows the vote usually splits along partisan lines, with the president's party voting in support."True." That means that Obama leaves out nothing significant. It is not significant that he opposed raising the debt limit while he was in the Senate. It is not significant that the nation faces the threat of a credit downgrade in the absence of a change in course regarding the increasing debt.
Nonetheless, Obama is correct that raising the debt ceiling has been an issue repeatedly tackled by Republicans and Democrats alike. President Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times and George W. Bush did it seven times. We rate his claim True.
They're kidding, right?
Robert Farley: F
Martha Hamilton: F