Fact Check: President Obama's News Conference
The ABC News politics and government teams offer a live fact check of President Obama's first press conference of the year, which takes place, coincidentally, as Republicans in 10 states are voting for which candidate they want to challenge him in November.
Fact Check 1 - Millionaires and billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. Fact Check 2 - It's not a matter of "if" Bashar Assad will fall in Syria, but "when ." Fact Check 3 - Iran is more isolated than ever . Fact Check 4 - Obama Jukes Fluke Question and is there a "war on women?" Fact Check 5 - U.S. Gas Production has risen and imports are down. Fact Check 6 - Obama says he has "had Israel's back." Fact Check 7 - Obama to Mitt Romney: "Good Luck Tonight."
Fact Check 1 - Millionaires and billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.
This is a claim that has been repeated over an over by President Obama and Democrats. The reality is that some millionaires and billionaires likely pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries if they pay taxes at a capital gains rate. But as Jon Karl reported way back in September, it is not that many. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has crunched the numbers and found that Warren Buffett and his secretary are the exception to the rule. For the most part, the wealthy pay a significantly higher percentage of their income in taxes than middle-income workers.
Fact Check 2 - It's not a matter of "if" Assad will fall in Syria, but "when."
Sen. John McCain called Monday for the U.S. to lead a coalition with air support - and potentially bombing - to protect rebel forces in Israel. But as Christiane Amanpour reported, the Obama administration opposes the move. Today, Obama said, "The notion that the way to solve every one of these problems is to deploy our military - hasn't been true in the past." But in the meantime, many feel the rebels in Syria are in a tenuous position and may not succeed without more direct help. Amanpour and McCain compared the situation in Syria to the situation 20 years ago in Bosnia. Read her assessment here.
Fact Check 3 - Iran is more isolated than ever.
Obama said at his first press conference of the year that Iran is more "isolated" than when he took office and that the world is "unified" against the Islamic regime.
The Obama administration has overseen a variety of sanctions on Iran. The White House calls the measures the most severe restrictions on Iran's financial system, but Obama's critics say the president balked at supporting some sanctions on the bank and oil industries.
The Treasury Department has targeted several aspects of Iran's economy and financial institutions, including sanctions on the regime's intelligence agency. Those sanctions prevent Americans from working with the intelligence ministry but have also been seen as symbolic.
At his presser on Tuesday, Obama said his Republican opponents running for president are saying whatever they want because they "don't have a lot of responsibilities" as candidates.
"This is not a game," he said, adding that their "bluster" is "just talk."
Fact Check 4 - Obama Jukes Fluke Question
President Obama ducked a question on whether liberal commentators are just as insulting as Rush Limbaugh has been toward Sandra Fluke.
Obama was asked at his press conference today about sponsors pulling out of Limbaugh's show and liberals in the media who provoke people (Obama super PAC donor Bill Maher comes to mind) with similar statements. Limbaugh called Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified to Congress about contraception, a "slut" and a "prostitute" on his show and has repeatedly insulted her.
Obama said he wouldn't comment on the sponsors jumping ship, and that "I don't know what's in Rush Limbaugh's heart, so I'm not going to comment on the sincerity of his apology." He also ignored the part of the question on liberal commentators.
What he did do was talk about his call to Fluke.
"The reason I called Miss Fluke is because I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is engage in issues," he said. "I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they're being good citizens, and I wanted Sandra to know that - that I thought her parents should be proud of her, and that we want to send a message to all our young people that being part of a democracy involves argument, disagreements and debate, and we want you to be engaged and there's a way to do it that doesn't involve you being demeaned and insulted, particularly when you're a private citizen."
Fact Check 5 - U.S. Gas production has risen and imports are down.
Yes, but thanks to Obama's predecessor.
"We should also be investing in new technologies, so we can replace the internal combustible engine, which has served us well, but it's time for us to move on because we want to get rid of fossil fuels."
That was Sen. Barack Obama in April, 2008, with the country facing a rise in gas prices similar to what we're seeing today. And like four years ago, the president reiterated today that just as there's no one reason prices go up, there's also no single way to get them back down.
Variables include demand, which is a broader function of the economy as a whole; speculation, which, as traders bet on the future price of oil, can affect the current rate; and the potential for conflict with Iran and the subsequent complications that would mean for the entire oil trade. (Iran has already threatened to block the Straits of Hormuz, a key shipping route, in retaliation for sanctions. War would likely make that a reality.)
In response to these mostly timeless obstacles, the president has seen domestic oil production rise during his time in office. But as he's said on numerous occasions, that's partly thanks to policies begun by his predecessor.
Bush, faced himself with rising prices and output levels that had been declining for decades, opened and re-opened drilling sites in the continental U.S. Obama has largely left those working and even said he was open to more off-shore drilling before the BP disaster in April 2010. That decision was shelved, but on the whole domestic output is trending up.
"And whoever succeeds me is going to have to keep it up," Obama said during a March 1 speech in New Hampshire. "This is not going to be solved by one party; it's not going to be solved by one administration; it's not going to be solved by slogans; it's not going to be solved by phony rhetoric. It's going to be solved by a sustained, all-of-the-above energy strategy."
Fact Check 6 - Obama says the U.S. has "had Israel's back."
President Obama today reiterated his belief that "I've had Israel's back over the last three years." He also clarified that that approach is "not a military doctrine."
Indeed, the Obama administration has repeatedly - diplomatically - defended Israel on the international stage.
Obama blocked Palestinian efforts to force a vote on statehood at the U.N. in 2011 and vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have condemned continued construction of Israeli settlements on disputed land.
His administration defended a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a flotilla headed for Gaza, and formally protested when Egyptian rebels stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo last year.
The president's proposed 2013 budget includes $3.1 billion in defense aid to Israel - the largest aid package in history.
Still, "having a country's back" is open to subjective and nuanced debate, as many of Obama's Republican critics have made clear over the past few days.
GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney says Obama's policy towards Iran, including an early policy of engaging with Iranian leadership, implicitly undermines Israeli security.
He has also criticized Obama for not more forcefully defending Iranian dissidents or imposing strict sanctions on Iran earlier in his term.
"A nuclear Iran is not only a problem for Israel; it's a problem for America, and it's a problem for the world," Romney told AIPAC today.
Obama has publicly spoken against U.S. military involvement in a pre-emptive strike against Iran in the short-term, favoring time for a diplomatic resolution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has urged action, calling the present situation a point of no return.
Fact Check 7 - Obama to Romney: "Good Luck Tonight."
President Obama had his game face on today when asked what he would like to say to likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney as Super Tuesday voters head to the polls.
"Good luck tonight," Obama said tersely.
"No, really," shouted another reporter in the room.
"Really," Obama said. Next question.
While Obama plays it cool, his re-election campaign based in Chicago has had its sights focused near-exclusively for months, seeing Romney as the most likely and formidable presidential challenger.
Obama runs most closely with Romney in national horse race polls - leading 51 to 41 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post survey, but the two are neck and neck in many key battleground states, including Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina.
Romney has also amassed the most substantial sum of campaign cash among the GOP field, and has a posse of well-funded GOP super PACs by his side. The former governor had raised $63 million through January compared to Obama's $150 million.