Fact Check: Candidates Don't Tell The Whole Stories In First Debate : It's All Politics In the prime-time Republican presidential debate Thursday, the candidates bragged about their records as governors and in the private sector, but the facts didn't always add up.
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Fact Check: Candidates Don't Tell The Whole Stories In First Debate

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Fact Check: Candidates Don't Tell The Whole Stories In First Debate

Fact Check: Candidates Don't Tell The Whole Stories In First Debate

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's check some of the facts from last night's Republican presidential debate. They said so much so quickly, and the job of NPR's Scott Horsley now is to slow it down and ask what's true.

Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Now, let's start with some of the governors and former governors who were up on stage. Of course it's natural that they'd say, I'm a governor. I've been a governor. I've run my state. I've done well.

So how well did they do?

HORSLEY: Well, the governors in particular did some bragging about their economic records. That's not surprising. While our job market has been improving in the U.S., there's still pretty flat wages and tepid economic growth. Jeb Bush says he wants to boost national growth to 4 percent a year - about double what we've been seeing. And his claim is he did that during the time he was governor of Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEB BUSH: Our economy grew at double the rate of the nation. We created 1.3 million jobs. We led the nation seven out of those eight years.

HORSLEY: Bush says he can replicate that growth rate nationally by overhauling the tax code, cutting regulation. A lot of economic observers are skeptical, though. They note that Florida's boom during the Jeb Bush years was largely the result of a housing bubble, which burst in pretty spectacular fashion around the time he left office.

INSKEEP: Ouch. Well, what about some of the other governors?

HORSLEY: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is also billing himself as a turnaround specialist. He's been campaigning as someone who brought conservative discipline to what was traditionally a Democratic state and says he put a lot of unemployed people back to work.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCOTT WALKER: Before I came in, the unemployment rate was over 8 percent. It's now down to 4.6 percent. We more than made up for the jobs that were lost during the recession.

HORSLEY: What Walker did not say, although his Fox questioner did, is that Wisconsin added only about half as many jobs during Walker's first term as governor as he promised. And both jobs and income in Wisconsin have been growing slower than neighboring Midwestern states. Actually, the governor - former governor with the best claim to economic leadership didn't even make it into the primetime debate last night. That's former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. His state did enjoy pretty robust growth, even during the depths of the economic downturn.

INSKEEP: And then there's Donald Trump. I almost don't have a question after that. No, let's go on here. Donald Trump, of course, was talking about his record as a businessman. And, of course, he had to answer questions about the fact that in addition to making a lot of money, he's repeatedly filed for bankruptcy.

HORSLEY: Or, Trump-related companies, at least, filed for bankruptcy.

INSKEEP: Thank you, yes.

HORSLEY: And Trump made no apologies about that last night. He says, look, I took advantage of the bankruptcy laws to walk away from debts in a handful of business deals. He did leave lenders in those cases - folks he described as total killers - with more than a billion dollars in losses.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: The fact is, I built a net worth of more than $10 billion. I have a great, great company. I employ thousands of people, and I'm very proud of the job I did. Again, Chris...

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

TRUMP: ...Hundreds and hundreds of deals. Four times I've taken advantage of the laws and, frankly, so has everybody else in my position.

INSKEEP: I guess that bell was the bell saying, time's up, there at the end.

HORSLEY: Times up, and we might add, Steve, that figure of $10 billion that Trump gives for his net worth includes a lot of intangible value that he assigns for the Trump brand. Media outlets - Bloomberg, Forbes - have given lower assessments of his net worth, more like 3 or $4 billion. But Trump suggests he's got the know-how to deal with the federal government's trillions in debt. Presumably, that would not involve having the U.S. government file for bankruptcy.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about one more statement by a candidate. It's Mike Huckabee talking here, and he's talking about national security, foreign policy and saying that there were dangerous cutbacks to U.S. military strength.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE HUCKABEE: We've decimated our military. We're flying B-52s. The most recent one that was put in service was November of 1962. A lot of the B-52s we're flying, we've only got 44 that are in service, combat ready. And the fact is, most of them are older than me.

HORSLEY: Neurosurgeon Ben Carson also took up that theme, saying the U.S. Navy is smaller now than at any time since World War I. You might remember Mitt Romney made similar claims back in 2012, only to have President Obama say, you know, we're also using a lot fewer horses and bayonets in the military than we used to as well. So B-52s may not be the right yardstick. But it is certainly true that U.S. military might - relative to other countries has been shrinking, in relative terms. That's as a result of budget caps. Both Democrats and Republicans want to boost spending, but that's going to be a fight this fall.

INSKEEP: Some facts and perspective from NPR's Scott Horsley.

Scott, thanks.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you.

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