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August 29, 2012

Zombie Fact-Check, John McCain Edition
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Pity the poor fact-checkers. They work in good faith. And in the post-truth era it no longer seems to matter. This year’s national security debate has featured a number of egregious falsehoods and misreprentations. And it has featured their debunking by nonpartisan security experts and professional journalists. And it has featured them reappearing again, more times than on of Dan Drezner’s zombies.

 John McCain hits the highlights in yesterday’s Foreign Policy piece, and I boldly predict most of them will also appear in tonight’s convention speeches. Here’s your follow-along at home scorecard.


McCain: “We are now engaged in a great debate over whether America's core challenge is how to manage our own decline as a great power -- or how to renew our capacity to carry on our proud tradition of world leadership. “

Show me where, anywhere, Barack Obama or Joe Biden has ever said the U.S. is declining, or that our task is to manage it.

Waning U.S. influence.

McCain: “President Barack Obama has unfortunately pursued policies that are diminishing America's global prestige and influence.”

Pew Research Center:  Public opinion of the U.S. is up from the late Bush era in 12 of 16 countries surveyed. The four outliers are all Muslim countries.  

Pentagon spending/sequester.

McCain: “proceeding with nearly half a trillion dollars in cuts to our defense budget, while nearly $500 billion in additional defense cuts are looming under sequestration… the President is proceeding with vast cuts on defense.”

The Pentagon budget submitted to Congress this year actually forecasts a small net growth over ten years; the “half a trillion dollars in cuts” represent cuts to the previously-planned rate of increase. This is a cut like I promise you a 10% raise and then give you 5%. You can read factchecker agonizing over it here.

Half a trillion dollars certainly sounds “vast.” That sum over ten years represents about 10% of Pentagon spending. Compared to builddowns of 12-25% after World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War, however, it’s pretty tame.

And then there’s sequester, which McCain implicitly and Romney explicitly have laid at the President’s door. However, both this year’s installment of the “half a trillion in cuts” and the possibility of an across-the-board, automatic cut to Pentagon spending were devised and enacted by bipartisan majorities in Congress, including… Paul Ryan and John McCain. The logic of how this is Obama’s fault still escapes me.

Selling out to Russia.

McCain: “across Central and Eastern Europe, where Vladimir Putin's Russia still casts a long shadow, but where many of our allies believe their national interests are being sacrificed by the administration's repeated, and largely unrequited, attempts to reset relations with Moscow. “

Requited:  Russia has allowed vital supply flights into Afghanistan, stopped sales of defense equipment to Iran and allowed unprecedented UN sanctions on Iran to proceed.

Supported: Meanwhile, Russia’s small Baltic neighbors got unprecedented security guarantees from NATO. Tonight, we will likely hear again the claim that the Administration “cancelled” a missile defense scheme with Poland and the Czech Republic. This is only true if you define “cancelled” as meaning “substituted a system that might actually work” (Poland) or “agreed not to deploy a system the Czech Parliament had made it clear it was not going to approve.”    


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