POLITICS

Here's Some Much-Needed Context For A Few Of The Things Said At The GOP Debate

Vaccines don't cause autism, and the 6th Fleet is actually doing OK.

Given the slew of drama, insults and Snapchats that came out of Wednesday's Republican presidential debate, it's easy to forget that the 10 men and one woman onstage also discussed actual policy issues. But indeed they did.

Lots was said during Wednesday's broadcast. Not all of it stands up to closer inspection. Here's some useful context for what a few of the candidates said:  

1. Planned Parenthood

The candidates were asked to comment on whether they supported federal funding for Planned Parenthood, even if it meant a government shutdown. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina spoke about the sting videos recently released by the conservative Center for Medical Progress. 

"As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape -- I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes," she said. "Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'"

However, there's no evidence that a video like this actually exists. Vox senior editor Sarah Kliff wrote Thursday that in the 12 hours of footage CMP has released, there are no images that match Fiorina's description. On Thursday, Fiorina told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she had indeed seen the footage she'd described. It's possible that Fiorina was thinking of some other video besides the sting tapes that CMP has put out -- but as of yet, no one has been able to find a clip that looks like what Fiorina was talking about.

During Wednesday's debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said that it makes no sense to federally fund Planned Parenthood when "there are 13,000 community-based organizations [in the U.S.] that provide health services to women." But many of those organizations already struggle to accommodate patients, and there's basically no way they could provide the millions of women who visit Planned Parenthood every year with the same level of affordable care they currently receive.

2. Vaccines 

Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who is a doctor, and WWE Hall of Fame member Donald Trump both implied a causal relationship between autism and vaccines on Wednesday. Trump told a story of a 2-year-old who developed autism after getting vaccinated. Paul said that while he is in favor of vaccines, he also supports people's "freedom" to spread out the doses instead of concentrating them within a certain window of time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is made up of medical experts and health professionals, vaccines do not cause autism. The 1998 study that suggested they did was retracted over five years ago. As for stretching out a child's vaccination schedule, Bloomberg News notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study earlier this year saying that "delaying or spacing out vaccines puts children and other vulnerable people in the population at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases with potentially severe outcomes.” So that seems both unnecessary and inadvisable.

3. National security

Bush insisted Wednesday that his brother, former President George W. Bush, "kept us safe" during his eight years in office. Those years included two military campaigns, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, that together have caused more than twice the number of American casualties that occurred on 9/11.

Fiorina also weighed in on American foreign policy, pledging to address the ever-looming threat of Russia by "rebuild[ing] the 6th Fleet," a part of the U.S. Navy that conducts operations in Europe and Asia. But as Vox's Ezra Klein points out, the 6th Fleet doesn't actually need rebuilding. In fact, most of the things Fiorina suggested, including military exercises in the Baltic States and putting more troops in Germany, are things the Obama administration is doing or has already done.

4. Drugs

The use and legalization of marijuana were hot topics on Wednesday. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called marijuana "a gateway drug," while Fiorina argued that it's misleading to tell people that "marijuana is just like having a beer."

But according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "most people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, 'harder' substances."

Technically, Fiorina was right -- marijuana is not just like having a beer. It's probably better for you. Recent studies have shown that using marijuana is over 100 times safer than using alcohol.

5. The Iran deal

Several candidates on Wednesday warned of the imminent threat of a nuclear Iran and made sure to vehemently criticize the Iran deal. Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) said that "most astonishingly, this agreement trusts Iranians to inspect themselves." And yes, Iran would be involved in the inspection of its own facilities. But it would not be the sole inspector. According to the State Department, the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. organization, would be overseeing all inspections.  

6. Immigration

When candidates were asked Wednesday what they would do about undocumented immigrants in the U.S., Trump said that illegal immigration is "costing us more than $200 billion a year." Trump and Paul also both claimed that the 14th Amendment technically does not apply to the children of immigrants.

According to NBC News, though, it's actually Trump's immigration plan that would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. And while Trump and Paul may both have questions about how the 14th Amendment applies to children of undocumented immigrants, as things stand now, such children are 100 percent citizens of this country if they were born here.

 

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