Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Mailbag: The Mitt Romney edition

We take a look at some of the reader mail inspired by Mitt Romney, and our fact-checks of his comments.
We take a look at some of the reader mail inspired by Mitt Romney, and our fact-checks of his comments.

Mitt Romney is the off-again, on-again frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary contest, and for our readers, his comments -- and our rulings -- have been a big topic of discussion. Here’s a sampling.

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Some readers took exception to our analysis of a comment by Romney that "if you take into account all the people who are struggling for work, or have just stopped looking, the real unemployment rate is over 15 percent." We rated the statement True.

"You rated this True, which is a very high rating. It's "Half True" at best. While your article is well researched, I believe you incorrectly conclude that people who are working part-time for economic reasons, but would prefer to work full time, are barely distinguishable from ‘unemployed’ and should be included in a calculation of ‘real unemployment rate.’ My preferred measure includes all those who are unemployed and looking for work plus discouraged workers (that is, those not looking anymore but who would like to have a job). That measure correctly treats all part-timers as ‘employed’ and it is currently 9.8 percent. Mr. Romney would be correct to say, ‘Only 85 percent of those who want a full time job have one.’ That would qualify as True."

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Several readers questioned our analysis of Romney’s claim that "I didn’t inherit money from my parents," which earned the rating Half True.

One wrote, "You only slightly referred to the fact that his father's achievements, wealth and fame gave him an edge. Considering the concept of ‘life chances,’ meaning the amount of access to opportunities one is born with, Mr. Romney had a very wealthy beginning. Whether Mitt would have succeeded as he has, if he'd been born to a struggling blue-collar family will never be known. What is known is that not having to worry about one's next meal, college tuition, rent, transportation, etc., and having access to the movers and shakers in both the corporate world and the political powers in this country via one's dad's accomplishments, certainly points to that fact that Romney did indeed inherit ‘great wealth’ from his dad. I don't begrudge him his success -- he could have squandered it away and he didn't. But I don't agree with your assertion that it's 50 percent true that he earned it."

Another reader took the opposite tack. "I found your Half True rating parsimonious. Even your own writeup contained so many laudable points about Romney's history, it's hard to understand how you would give such a pinched rating to someone who gave away money he could so easily have kept for himself. The rating reflects more on Politifact than it does on Romney, and I'm no particular Romney fan."

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One reader cited our check of Romney’s claim that "President Obama has raised taxes 19 times." We gave that a Half True rating.

"If it is relevant how many times Obama raised taxes, I would argue it is equally relevant how many times he lowered taxes. The net change on government receipts is also relevant. By only looking at one side of the picture, Romney presents a biased view."

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Some readers disagreed with our rating of his claim that "I've never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot," which we rated Half True.

"In 2007 Romney claimed that he was voting for the weakest Democratic candidate against Bush, but comments he made in 1994 contradict that claim, according to the Feb. 3, 1994 edition of the Boston Globe. ‘Romney confirmed he voted for former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas in the state’s 1992 Democratic presidential primary, saying he did so both because Tsongas was from Massachusetts and because he favored his ideas over those of Bill Clinton. This contradiction is important because it weakens Romney's argument that he was voting in the Democratic primary as a loyal Republican."

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Finally, a lot of readers were critical of our Pants on Fire rating for Romney’s claim that the U.S. military is at risk of losing its "military superiority" because "our Navy is smaller than it's been since 1917. Our Air Force is smaller and older than any time since 1947."

"You always do your research very well and this article is no exception. You give Romney credit for having very accurate numbers on military size. The one spot you go off track with is your interpretation of his meaning. When I heard him say it, and in reading it now, I took it as him suggesting that cutting funding was a poor choice if you want to continue military superiority. He never said -- nor would he, being the shrewd politician he is -- that our military isn't currently superior. He simply states that our ships are few and our birds are few and old, and that this is a a dangerous proposition. Obama has cut funding to the F-22, arguably the most advanced fighter ever built. While our Air Force is dominant on the world landscape, without serious investment we cannot hope to maintain a war with another major air power. This is a serious oversight. I often look to your site for help in weeding through the lies, so when you rate a statement that is true as being Pants on Fire false, it concerns me."