Page last updated at 06:11 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 07:11 UK
Biden and Palin debate

Facts and figures were flying around in the debate between US vice-presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

The BBC News website took a look to see which claims were accurate.


Claim: Joe Biden said that the US "commanding general in Afghanistan said the surge principle in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan". Sarah Palin responded by saying that "McClellan did not say definitively the surge principles would not work in Afghanistan".

Fact: On 2 October, the Washington Post quoted the head of the Nato-led coalition in Afghanistan, Gen David McKiernan, as saying: "The word I don't use for Afghanistan is 'surge'."

Verdict: Mrs Palin not only got the name of the US commander in Afghanistan wrong, but it would seem she also distorted his position.


Claim: Joe Biden said that "Iraqis have an $80bn surplus".

Fact: According to, this is "an out-of-date projection. The Iraqis currently have $29bn in the bank, and could have $47bn to $59bn by the end of the year."

Verdict: Joe Biden is guilty of using out-of-date figures, but his substantive point - that the Iraqis have resources to "spend their own money... to take their own responsibility" - still holds.


Claim: Sarah Palin reminded Joe Biden of his statement during the Democratic primaries that Barack Obama "was not ready to be commander in chief".

Fact: Joe Biden did indeed say this, on 19 August, 2007, in a TV debate between the various Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Verdict: Mrs Palin's quote was perfectly accurate. (However, Mr Biden did rethink his position. By May 2008 - before Mr Obama had sewn up the nomination, and before he had picked Mr Biden to be his running-mate - he was claiming that Mr Obama had "learned a hell of a lot".)


Claim: Joe Biden pointed out that "John McCain said as early as last December, quote - I'm paraphrasing - 'I'm surprised about this subprime mortgage crisis'".

Fact: In a 4 November interview with a New Hampshire newspaper, the Keene Sentinel, John McCain said "I'd like to tell you I did anticipate [the mortgage crisis], but I have to give you straight talk, I did not".

Verdict: Mr Biden's paraphrase is a fair reflection of Mr McCain's words, although he got the date wrong by a month.


Claim: Sarah Palin said that Joe Biden "had supported John McCain's military strategies [in Iraq] pretty adamantly until this race".

Fact: Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post characterises Mr Biden as "an outspoken opponent of... troop increases in Iraq as soon as Bush announced them after the 2006 elections". As Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, he led the most heated hearings before the troops were actually deployed.

Verdict: Mrs Palin's claim is untrue. Mr Biden opposed the surge - of which Mr McCain was a prominent proponent - long before the beginning of the presidential campaign, and maintained this position throughout the race.


Claim: Joe Biden asserted that "John McCain said as recently as a couple of weeks ago he wouldn't even sit down with the government of Spain".

Fact: John McCain, in an interview with a Spanish-language radio station, refused to commit to a meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister, saying only that he "would be willing to meet with those leaders who are our friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion".

Many observers said at the time that Mr McCain's answer was based on a mishearing of the question he had been asked (which had followed a series of questions about America's relationship with diplomatic foes in Latin America).

But a McCain campaign aide later confirmed that "the questioner asked several times about Senator McCain's willingness to meet [Spanish PM] Zapatero - and ID'd him in the question so there is no doubt Senator McCain knew exactly to whom the question referred. Senator McCain refused to commit to a White House meeting with President Zapatero in this interview."

Verdict: While it would have been true for Mr Biden to say that Mr McCain had signalled (whether intentionally or not) a cooling in relations with Spain, Mr McCain did not rule out a meeting with the Spanish prime minister.

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