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Originally published August 31, 2012 at 7:16 PM | Page modified August 31, 2012 at 11:07 PM

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Romney rhetoric reveals fuzzy foundation for facts

There were moments in Mitt Romney's acceptance speech that his facts went awry or were missing important context.

The Washington Post

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Editor's note: An occasional look at the rhetoric and claims made by political campaigns and whether they adhere to the facts.

In his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney focused more on his biography than his policy positions. But there were moments his facts went awry or were missing important context.

A tour through the rhetoric.

"And unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs."

This sounds like a pretty bold statement, especially considering that only two presidents — Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — saw more than 12 million jobs created on their watch. Romney says he can reach this same goal in four years, though the policy paper issued by his campaign contains few details. The paper is mostly a collection of policy assertions, such as reducing debt, overhauling the tax code, fostering free trade and so forth.

But the number is even less impressive than it sounds. This pledge amounts to an average of 250,000 jobs a month, a far cry from the 500,000 jobs a month that Romney once claimed would be created in a "normal recovery." In recent months, the economy has averaged about 150,000 jobs a month.

The Congressional Budget Office is required to consider the effects of the "fiscal cliff" if a year-end budget deal is not reached, which many experts believe would push the country into a recession. But even with that caveat, the nonpartisan agency assumes 9.6 million jobs will be created between 2013 and 2017. (This is a revision downward; the agency had estimated 11 million in January.)

Moody's Analytics, in an August forecast, predicts 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, no matter who is president. And Macroeconomic Advisors in April also predicted a gain of 12.3 million jobs.

In other words, this is a fairly safe bet by Romney, even if he has a somewhat fuzzy plan for action.

"I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour."

This is one of Romney's signature lines, and the "apology tour" has been a recurring GOP criticism since Obama's first months in office, after visits to Europe, Latin America and the Muslim world. But he never apologized or said he was sorry to anyone on those trips.

Obama has said in some world travels that the U.S. acted "contrary to our traditions and ideals" in its treatment of terrorist suspects, that "America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy," that the U.S. "certainly shares blame" for international economic turmoil and has sometimes shown arrogance toward allies.

Obama's statements that America is not beyond reproach in its history usually come balanced with praise, and he is hardly alone among presidents in acknowledging the nation's past imperfections. But these were not apologies, formal or informal.

Obama's comments overseas were not much different from those of his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

Indeed, on several occasions Bush apologized to foreign governments for actions taken by U.S. soldiers, such as for the shooting of a Quran or prisoner abuse in Iraq. "I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," Bush said at a news conference with Jordan's King Abdullah.

In February, Obama did apologize to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the burning of copies of the Muslim holy book at a U.S. military base.

"Does it (the economy) fail to find the jobs that are needed for 23 million people and for half the kids graduating from college? No."

Romney is referring to an Associated Press survey this year that concluded that about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders younger than 25 last year were jobless or underemployed. This was the highest level in 11 years, since the dot-com bust in 2000.

"A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don't fully use their skills and knowledge," the news agency said.

Romney often cites this fact but is generally careful to include the phrase "underemployed." His phrasing in his speech might have led viewers to believe that 50 percent of college graduates cannot find jobs at all, which is incorrect.

"His trillion-dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk."

Romney here attributes planned cuts to the military entirely to Obama, but they are the result of a 2011 budget deal between Obama and congressional Republicans that avoided a default on the national debt.

Leaders agreed to include additional automatic cuts to the military as an incentive to reach a broader budget deal, but a congressional supercommittee failed to reach an agreement. Obama has proposed raising taxes on the wealthy to end the impasse, but congressional Republicans have rejected that proposal.

"Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class."

Romney appears to be referring to mandates in the health-care law, but overall Obama has cut taxes broadly for the middle class. He has extended Bush tax cuts, included a "Making Work Pay" credit in the stimulus bill, and reduced payroll taxes by 2 percentage points in the past two years.

Obama has called for raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year.

"His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today's seniors, and depress innovation — and jobs — in medicine."

Republicans have repeatedly used variations of this line, but it is not correct.

This $700 billion figure comes from the difference over 10 years between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as "the baseline") and the changes that the law makes to reduce spending. The savings mostly are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries, who, as a result of the health-care law, ended up with new benefits for preventive care and prescription drugs.

While it is correct that anticipated savings from Medicare were used to help offset some of the anticipated costs of expanding health care for all Americans, it does not affect the Medicare trust fund. In fact, the Obama health-care law also raised Medicare payroll taxes by $318 billion over the new 10-year time frame, further strengthening the program's financial condition.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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