Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Checking more claims from the DNC ad that says Romney flip-flopped

The Democratic National Committee launched an attack on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, dubbed "Mitt v. Mitt" and focusing on charges that Romney flip-flopped on a range of issues.
The Democratic National Committee launched an attack on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, dubbed "Mitt v. Mitt" and focusing on charges that Romney flip-flopped on a range of issues.

The long and the short of it is: Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper. The Democratic National Committee produced two videos charging the former Massachusetts governor and would-be Republican nominee with changing his positions. The 30-second version addressed abortion and health care.

The longer version gets into other issues, including whether Romney switched positions on supporting President Barack Obama's stimulus package.

We've been checking claims in both versions and posting them here.

In the 30-second ad, we checked whether the DNC was accurate in saying Romney had reversed himself on abortion rights. He had, so we ruled that True.

We also we checked whether the longer ad was correct in saying that Romney had flip-flopped on "the president's Recovery Act." It quotes Romney as saying, "I have never supported the president's Recovery Act."

We found that Romney had said -- before Obama was sworn into office and before the America Recovery ad Reinvestment Act was proposed -- that he thought there was "need for economic stimulus." But he added some caveats about what that stimulus should look like, and it wasn't an endorsement of a specific proposal. So we ruled the DNC's claim that he had flip-flopped Mostly False.

The 30-second video also claimed that Romney had supported Obama's health care plan and then had opposed it. We noted that both the Massachusetts health care plan supported by Romney and the national plan supported by Obama bear strong similarities to each other. Romney had opposed Obama's plan when it still included the "public option," or creating a government-run health insurance plan. That option was dropped as the plan made its way through Congress.

We couldn't find any instances of Romney supporting the federal law, and we did find instances of him criticizing it as "a power grab by the federal government," saying that state solutions were preferable. So we rated the DNC's claim Mostly False.

Next we looked into the DNC's claim that Romney had flip-flopped on an assault weapons ban. The ad contrasted two video clips. One was taken from an Aug. 4, 2004 appearance on the Fox News program Hannity and Colmes and shows Romney saying, "I just signed a piece of legislation extending the ban on certain assault weapons." The snippet was taken from a longer interview in which Romney said that it "very well may be necessary" to extend the federal assault-weapon ban, while adding that he acted on the state ban because it also included expansions of other types of gun ownership rules.

The next clip in the DNC ad shows Romney saying, "I do not support any new legislation of an assault weapon ban nature." That clip came from a Republican presidential debate Jan. 24, 2008. But during that debate Romney also said that he "would have signed the (federal) assault weapon ban," and that he "signed a similar bill in our state."

We found that the DNC ad used some deceptive editing and ignored the fact that Romney  in his longer comments in both cases framed his support for an assault-weapons ban i the context of a compromise that also expanded other types of gun rights. But Romney's position on an assault-weapons ban in the 2008 debate was so muddled that it was hard to pin down whether he actually flip-flopped. On balance, we rated it Half True.

Still another charge contained in the four-minute version of the DNC ad is that Romney flip-flopped on his support for President Ronald Reagan's policies. The ad juxtaposes two clips of Romney talking. In the first, he says, "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush."

Next, he's standing at a podium saying, "The principles that Ronald Reagan espoused are as true today as they were when he spoke them."

We found only the one instance of Romney distancing himself from Reagan, when he was running against a liberal icon in a liberal state. Once he developed presidential ambitions, he spoke warmly of the former Republican president. We rated the claim Mostly True.

Still another charge packed into the four-minute video was the claim that Romney signed a taxpayer protection pledge after saying that he wouldn't sign one.

It contrasts audio of CNN correspondent Candy Crowley saying, "Republican Mitt Romney says he will not sign a no-new-taxes pledge," in 2002 when he was running for governor of Massachusetts with audio from a Romney radio ad in 2007. In that ad, as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, Romney said, "I'm proud to be the only major candidate for president to sign the tax pledge."

One pledge talked about taxes in Massachusetts, while the other was a pledge not to raise federal taxes. But they were equivalent in their underlying requirements, so we rated the DNC's charge True.

Romney was also accused in the video of changing his views on climate change. The DNC spliced together video of Romney first saying, "Well, I believe the world is getting warmer ... I believe that humans contribute to that." And then saying, "My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet."

In both instances Romney said he supported the same energy policies: in favor of more natural gas and nuclear power; against foreign oil; for the continued use of domestic oil; against a cap and trade plan. We found that consistency, in contrast to his statements about the causes of global warming, perplexing. His spokeswoman said that his views on climate change were consistent. But the videos clearly show him saying different things to different audiences, and we believe Romney is savvy enough to know the difference between suggesting a human role in climate change and leaving it out. We rated the DNC's statement Mostly True.

In our final check of the DNC ad, we looked at its claim that Romney had changed his position on supporting TARP, or the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was aimed at averting a financial meltdown by authorizing the Treasury to spend up to $700 billion to stabilize financial markets.

About three minutes into the four-minute version of the ad, the word "TARP" appears on the screen. Then we see Romney in a split-screen with Fox News interviewer Neil Cavuto, saying, "TARP got paid back, and it kept the financial system from collapsing."

"So you feel it was well worth it?" Cavuto asks.

Well, it was the right thing to do," Romney answers.

Cut to another video clip, and we hear Romney say, "TARP ought to be ended."

Rewind, then again. "TARP ought to be ended."

The Romney statement that "TARP ought to be ended," actually comes from an interview before the one that first appears in the ad. And in that interview  Romney said, as he has frequently about the TARP,  that the bailout had served its purpose. But he was critical of its administration by Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who inherited it from the Bush administration.

We found that Romney had been consistent in saying that the TARP had been a necessary measure that prevented disaster but that he had also raised questions about how it was being carried out by the Obama administration. It's a nuanced position but not a flip-flop. We rated the DNC's charge http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/nov/30/democratic-national-committee/mitt-romney-changes-position-tarp-dnc/False.