GOP Candidates Attack One Another With Half-Truths

VIDEO: Highlights from the Republican showdown in Las Vegas.
ABCNEWS.com

With the GOP primaries less than three months away, the Republican presidential candidates are leaving thier niceties behind as they take to debate stages in key states around the country.

At the CNN/Western Republican debate Tuesday night pretenses were shed, order was disobeyed and composure was cracked as the seven GOP contenders levied attacks at one another over everything from illegal immigration to fruit salad.

But in their eagerness to fire off a shot at their Republican rivals, many of the GOP candidates skewed their facts. Here's a look at some of the half-true attacks sent sparks across the Las Vegas debate stage.


Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum took to the offense multiple times throughout Tuesday's debate, trying to tie his GOP opponents to various unpopular positions. In one heated exchange Santorum accused the top three candidates -- Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain -- of supporting the 2008 Troubled Assets Relief Program.

"The problem is -- in the first place, is that several people up here, the, quote, 'businesspeople,' supported the TARP, supported the bailout," Santorum said.

Both Perry and Cain interrupted Santorum, respectively, saying "wrong" and "not all of it" when the former senator mentioned their names.

"The fact is, Rick just has that wrong," Perry fired back. "We wrote a letter to Congress asking them to act. What we meant by acting was, cut the regulations, cut the taxation burden, not passing TARP."

The letter Perry refers to was signed by both the Texas governor, who was serving as the chairman of the Republican Governors' Association, and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who was the chairman of the Democratic Governor's Association.

In it Perry and Manchin "strongly urge Congress to leave partisanship at the door and pass an economic recovery package."

Although they never mention TARP by name, they sent the letter the same day the Senate was set to vote on the bank bailout. TARP was, at the time, the only recovery bill up for debate in Congress.

Politifact Texas points out that hours after he sent the joint letter, Perry issued a statement in which he seems to oppose TARP.

"In a free market economy government should not be in the business of using taxpayer dollars to bail out corporate America," Perry said in the statement.

While Perry's initial position on the bailout is murky, Cain's and Romney's initial stances are clear.

"I supported the concept of TARP," Cain admitted at the debate, "but then, when this administration used discretion and did a whole lot of things that the American people didn't like, I was then against it. So yes, and I'm owning up to that."

Romney also spoke out in favor of the bank bailout, saying in a 2009 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference that "it was necessary to prevent a cascade of bank collapses."

Thus Santorum got two out of three correct.



The first 30 minutes of the debate were dominated by attacks against Cain's 9-9-9 Plan, which he repeatedly defended by saying his rivals were comparing "apples and oranges."

"The state tax is an apple. We are replacing the current tax code with oranges," Cain said. "So it's not correct to mix apples and oranges."

In one respect, Cain is right. His plan does not touch state taxes, only the federal tax code. But because of its 9 percent national sales tax, the 9-9-9 plan would take the states' apple and up it one orange by implementing a additional 9 percent tax on purchased goods and services on top of the state sales tax.

"I'm going to be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it," Romney said, "because I've got to pay both taxes, and the people in Nevada don't want to pay both taxes."

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann took a different tack in criticizing the 9-9-9 Plan, equating the 9 percent business tax with a value-added tax that levies government revenue from every stage of production.

"We also have to be concerned about the hidden tax of the value-added tax, because at every step and stage of production, you'd be taxing that item 9 percent on the profit," said Bachmann, who was a tax litigation attorney for the IRS before running for Congress.

Cain fervently denied that his plan included at VAT.

"You're absolutely wrong," Cain shot back at Bachmann. " It's not a value-added tax."

Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, said "it is a VAT" because Cain's plan requires businesses to pay taxes on their employees' wages. Under the current tax code businesses can deduct wages.

"She's a tax lawyer, she understands," Williams said of Bachmann. "She got it right."



In one of the most heated moments of the Las Vegas debate, Perry accused Romney of hiring illegal immigrants, saying the former Massachusetts governor was "one of the problems."

"Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year," Perry said." And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you're strong on immigration is on its face the height of hypocrisy."

The issue surfaced during Romney's last bid for the White House in 2008 after the Boston Globe ran a story profiling two undocumented Guatemalan immigrants that did landscaping work at Romney's Massachusetts home.

But Romney did not directly hire the immigrants were instead hired by the lawn care company that he used.

"We went to the company and we said, look, you can't have any illegals working on our property," Romney said at Tuesday's debate. "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals."



Following the heated exchange between Perry and Romney over the latter hiring illegal immigrants, Bachmann aimed to shift the scrutiny away from the GOP field and onto the president.

"I think the person who really has a problem with illegal immigration in the country is President Obama," Bachmann said. "It's his uncle and his aunt who are illegal aliens who've been allowed to stay in this country, despite the fact that they're illegal."

Bachmann's accusation is almost entirely true. The president's uncle, Onyango Obama, immigrated to America illegally in 1963 and has defied two deportation orders, the Boston Globe reports. After being arrested for drunk driving in Massachusetts this past September, the president's father's half-brother was again ordered to be deported, an order he is now fighting in court.

The president's aunt, on the other hand, is now currently in the country legally. After two previous failed attempts, Zeituni Onyango won asylum last year which allows her to begin the process of applying for citizenship. Onyango lived in the country illegally for ten years before being granted asylum.


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