Candidates fan out ahead of New Hampshire vote

The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday, Feb. 9. (Louis Jacobson)
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday, Feb. 9. (Louis Jacobson)

A Saturday night GOP debate and a fresh round of Sunday shows gave PolitiFact plenty to examine ahead of the Tuesday New Hampshire primary.

Candidates tried to create contrasts on foreign policy, though their specific claims sometimes fell short.

Republican businessman Donald Trump, who leads the GOP polls in New Hampshire, made the case Saturday that he has the right temperament to be president and offered his early opposition to the 2003 Iraq War as evidence.

"The War in Iraq — I was the one that said, ‘Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East,’ " Trump said during an ABC News debate. "So I’m not one with a trigger."

Trump’s statement rates Mostly False.

We only found one example of Trump commenting on the Iraq War before the invasion, and he seemed apprehensive but not vehemently opposed to the operation. He only started publicly denouncing the war after it started.

Trump makes it sound like he stood on a railroad to try to stop the Iraq War train in its tracks. In reality, by the time he got around to forcefully criticizing the war, that train had already left the station.

Democrats, meanwhile, also talked about the Iraq War. On Meet the Press Sunday, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders discussed their foreign policy credentials at length.

Clinton stressed that Sanders severely lacks foreign policy experience. "There really isn’t any kind of foreign policy network that is supporting and advising Sen. Sanders," Clinton told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd.

That claim rates Mostly True.

It’s no secret Sanders’ campaign has been much more focused on the economy and domestic issues. His foreign policy credentials have become a bigger issue as his threat to Clinton’s campaign has grown.

And it’s also no secret, that as a former secretary of state, Clinton has many experts to whom she can turn. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, for instance, is supporting Clinton’s campaign. Also in Clinton’s circle are former defense secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta, and former national security adviser Tom Donilon.

Sanders says he has consulted with Lawrence Kolb, a former Reagan administration official who is a senior fellow for the Center for American Progress. He also gave Politico a list of consultation sources that included James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of pro-Israel group J Street.

Politico reported that many of the people on Sanders’ list did not consider themselves advisers, but did say they had spoken with the Vermont senator. Ben-Ami said he briefed Sanders, but noted he met with many members of Congress and presidential candidates. Tamara Coffman Wittes, director of the Brookings Institution Center for Middle East Policy, told Politico she met with Sanders once in August 2015, but couldn’t remember any details of the discussion beyond some points about Islamic State.

Korb told PolitiFact he met with Sanders. The discussion ranged from defense policy to the Middle East to climate change. Korb said they talked for a couple of hours and found Sanders to be "insightful" and "thoughtful."

Korb said he didn’t necessarily consider one meeting a qualification as being a Sanders adviser, but he had advised on subjects for other presidential campaigns, too — including for Obama, who had a much more extensive and sophisticated foreign policy group during his 2008 run.

"I’m not involved with the Sanders campaign or have an official role," Korb said. "As far as being an adviser? I have provided advice to him, so …"

Bernie Sanders vs. Madeleine Albright

Sanders countered on Meet the Press that judgment matters as much as experience. And on that score, he opposed the Iraq War while Clinton supported it. That’s accurate.

But Sanders went too far when he broadened his attacks to include Clinton surrogate Madeleine Albright. Albright has harshly criticized Sanders’ foreign policy experience.

"Tell me what Madeleine Albright’s position was on the War on Iraq. I wouldn’t be surprised if she supported it," Sanders countered to NBC’s Chuck Todd.

Actually, Albright consistently questioned the drumbeat for war leading up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Sanders’ statement rates Mostly False.

Here’s an example of Albright’s comments leading up to the war. This is from PBS Newshour on March 17, 2003, a few days before the war began.

"My sense now is we are doing it in the worst way. Not in fact that there is any reason to defend Saddam Hussein — I agree completely and have for a long time with the why of what President Bush has said," Albright said. "But the timing of it, kind of an elective war, pre-emptive action, a serious attack on the United Nations, generally questions about where the institutional structure of the post World War II world is coming to, are all questions that I think need to be considered — and that are issues that show the inevitable, the avoidable consequences, inevitable consequences that will come from this. …  And let me say that as soon as we go to war, I think all of us that have had arguments against this will make very clear that we support our troops."

We found a half-dozen statements like it. Albright did generally voice support for operations once they launched.

Cruz blames CNN for Carson rumors

The race is on for votes in New Hampshire. But some people are still looking back to the results in Iowa.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign wrongly suggested in the moments before the Iowa caucuses that Ben Carson would suspend his campaign. People believe Carson supporters switched their votes as a result.

Cruz apologized. But he said Saturday that the real culprit was CNN.

"Let me tell you the facts that occurred for those who are interested in knowing," Cruz said. "On Monday night, about 6:30 p.m. CNN reported that Ben was not going from Iowa to New Hampshire or South Carolina. Rather he was ‘taking a break from campaigning.’ They reported that on television. CNN’s political anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer said it was ‘highly unusual’ and ‘highly significant.’ My political team saw CNN’s report, breaking news, and forwarded that news to our volunteers."

Cruz’s campaign did more than forward on what CNN reported. His claim rates False.

Cruz's campaign took a nugget of information from CNN and took it too far. CNN reported that Carson was "to take a break after Iowa," while simultaneously noting that Carson would ultimately continue campaigning.

The Cruz campaign sent messages on its mobile app saying that Carson would "stop" his campaign. A key surrogate said that Carson was doing "the equivalent of suspending." That’s more than simply "forwarding" news.

Trump wrong on tax claim

Trump claimed Saturday that, "Right now we’re the highest taxed country in the world."

That rates False.

Tax experts have told us that there are usually two ways to compare different countries: Tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product, and tax revenue per capita. We checked both through the Organization for Economic Cooperation, a group of 34 industrialized nations we could consider economic peers.

The United States ranks in the middle of the group in both lists.

As a percentage of gross domestic product, the United States had lower taxation than all but three OECD countries (Korea, Chile and Mexico).

By tax revenue per capita, the United States has the 17th-lowest tax burden out of 29 countries. U.S. per capita taxes total $14,994 per person. Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland have a per capita tax burden of between $23,000 and $50,000.