News Story Hits G.O.P.'s 'Untrue...Misleading' Claims About Drilling, Social Security

Three liberal reporters teamed up to fact-check the Republican debate (and defend President Obama): "The candidates' arguments run into factual hurdles."

Three liberal New York Times reporters teamed up Thursday morning to fact-check the Republican debate (and defend Obama) at the Reagan library.

John Broder, Nicholas Confessore, and Jackie Calmes cowrote 'Attacking the Democrats, but Not Always Getting It Right,' which was not labeled or presented as "news analysis" (something the Times is doing less of lately anyway) but as a factual news story. The text box read: 'The candidates' arguments run into factual hurdles.'

During more than an hour and 45 minutes of intense debate on Wednesday night, the Republican presidential candidates did not shy away from exchanging blows with each other. But some of the toughest criticism - and some of the most factually problematic - was reserved for the policies, programs, and principles traditionally associated with Democrats, from tackling climate change to broadening access to health care to providing retirement insurance for the elderly.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, assailed the federal government and President Obama in particular for what he said were overbearing regulations on oil drilling, coal mining and nuclear energy.

'We are an energy-rich nation and we're living like an energy-poor nation,' he said, asserting that Mr. Obama had halted offshore drilling, blocked construction of new coal plants, slowed development of nuclear plants and failed to develop natural gas trapped in shale formations.

But those claims are largely untrue. While Mr. Obama declared a moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP spill in 2010, the government began granting permits again earlier this year and activity is approaching pre-spill levels. The administration recently announced a major lease sale in the western Gulf of Mexico and gave provisional approval to a Shell project in the Arctic off the coast of Alaska. And while a number of utilities have canceled plans to build new coal plants, that is largely because demand for electricity has slowed, not because of new federal regulations.

The Heritage Foundation disagreed in a memo this morning, faulting a slow permit process that has stalled both onshore and offshore drilling, as well as environmental litigation.

Responding to G.O.P. opposition to the idea that global warming poses a threat that needs to be combated with economy-crippling regulation, the paper assured readers:

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming is occurring and that human activity - chiefly the burning of fossil fuels and cutting down of tropical forests - is likely to blame.

The reporters even rushed to the defense of Social Security's viability.

Some of the sharpest language of the night came when Mr. Perry laid into Social Security, saying, 'You cannot keep the status quo in place and call it anything other than a Ponzi scheme.' But that metaphor is misleading. Government projections have Social Security exhausting its reserves by 2037, absent any changes, but show that the payroll tax revenues coming in would cover more than three-quarters of benefits to recipients then.

Only deep into the story did the Times evaluate attacks by candidates against their fellow Republicans.