The biggest whoppers in last night’s U.S. presidential debate

I suspect that most of today’s foreign policy post-mortems about last night’s town hall debate will focus on the Libya question, in which, according to Taegan Goddard, "Obama acted like a president in the exchange while Romney was much less. It was Romney’s Gerald Ford moment."  He’s not the only one to make this assessment.  ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

I suspect that most of today's foreign policy post-mortems about last night's town hall debate will focus on the Libya question, in which, according to Taegan Goddard, "Obama acted like a president in the exchange while Romney was much less. It was Romney's Gerald Ford moment."  He's not the only one to make this assessment.  I'm not sure I would go that far, but Romney did manage to convert a pretty strong initial response to the question into a bad, bad moment for him. 

But let's be honest:  regardless of whether you think Romney exaggerated in his description of Obama's Libya response or Obama exaggerated in his rejoinder, those were not the biggest foreign policy whoppers told during this debate.  Not by a long shot. 

If we're going to engage in real-keeping, then let's acknowledge that both candidates fudged, exaggerated, or flat-out lied on just about everything pertaining to foreign economic policy during last night's debate.  It was a truly bipartisan fib-fest.  I could go through the debate transcript line by line, but let's just hit the highlights.  At varous points, one or both of the candidates tried to convince undecided voters of the following: 

I suspect that most of today’s foreign policy post-mortems about last night’s town hall debate will focus on the Libya question, in which, according to Taegan Goddard, "Obama acted like a president in the exchange while Romney was much less. It was Romney’s Gerald Ford moment."  He’s not the only one to make this assessment.  I’m not sure I would go that far, but Romney did manage to convert a pretty strong initial response to the question into a bad, bad moment for him. 

But let’s be honest:  regardless of whether you think Romney exaggerated in his description of Obama’s Libya response or Obama exaggerated in his rejoinder, those were not the biggest foreign policy whoppers told during this debate.  Not by a long shot. 

If we’re going to engage in real-keeping, then let’s acknowledge that both candidates fudged, exaggerated, or flat-out lied on just about everything pertaining to foreign economic policy during last night’s debate.  It was a truly bipartisan fib-fest.  I could go through the debate transcript line by line, but let’s just hit the highlights.  At varous points, one or both of the candidates tried to convince undecided voters of the following: 

1)  Energy independence is the cure for what ails the U.S. economy;

2)  The U.S. loses from trade with China, and tougher trade enforcement will fix that;

3)  Free trade with Latin America will create millions and millions of jobs;

4)  The only reason China is doing well comparatively is that it’s keeping its currency undervalued; and finally

5)  Illegal immigration is threatening the American economy. 

Let’s inject a little reality here, shall we?  Repeat after me: 

1)  Because most energy sources are traded in global markets, energy independence has zero effect on the economy (though there might be a few security dividends).

2)  The United States benefits a great deal from trade with China and the rest of the world.

3)  Perfect trade enforcement would have only a marginal impact on employment;

4)  China’s currency interventions have been slowing down for much of 2012.  Literally.

5)  Illegal immigration into the United States "has been in reverse for several years."

If the foreign policy debate next week has as much mendacity as this one on the global economy, your humble blogger will be passed out in a drunken stupor by 9:30 PM. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

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