Showdown in Simi Valley

SUMMARY: At the Republican debate at the Reagan Library, John McCain repeated his allegation that Mitt Romney supported a timetable to withdraw from Iraq. But we again find McCain doesn't have the goods to back it up.

The Republican debate at the Reagan Library on Jan. 30, 2008, was marked by sharp disagreements between John McCain and Mitt Romney over Romney's record in Massachusetts and the former governor's comments about a possible U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

We're checking a claim about Massachusetts and taxes and will post that here soon. In the meantime, we looked at McCain's claim that the health care program Romney created is going into debt and found it to be Barely True.

And we have revisited McCain's allegation about the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

The Arizona senator repeated a charge he made over the weekend, that Romney "said he wanted a timetable" for an Iraq withdrawal. McCain likened Romney's position to Democrats who were eager to withdraw, while McCain described himself as "out there on the front lines" opposing a U.S. withdrawal.

We examined this claim on Sunday and found McCain didn't have enough evidence to back up his allegation. We noted in that item that McCain and Romney do seem to have genuine policy differences when it comes to withdrawal. But McCain paraphrases Romney's statements in a way that leaves voters with the impression that Romney advocates a specific date for withdrawal from Iraq, which he does not. We rated McCain's statement Barely True.

At the debate, the candidates had an extended argument about the dispute, with McCain insisting that Romney's past comments indicated he supported such a timetable. Romney replied, "I have never, ever supported a specific timetable for exit from Iraq."

We saw nothing new in the debate to indicate McCain had any additional evidence beyond the comments we examined Sunday, so our Barely True ruling still stands.

We also checked a couple of statements from Mike Huckabee. We found him to be Half True when he said Congress, not President Bush, was largely responsible for a $9-trillion debt. Congress was delivering on some high-priority items from Bush, so the two share the blame.

And Huckabee was citing old statistics and unrealistic numbers when he said, "Every billion dollars we spend on highway construction results in 47,500 jobs" and "the average American is sitting in traffic 38 hours a year." We rule those statements to be Barely True.



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