GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Newt Gingrich didn't know when he would take office if he wins the presidency. Rick Perry got the voting age and the date of Election Day wrong. Herman Cain didn't realize the president does not sign amendments to the Constitution.
In ways large and small, Republican presidential hopefuls are proving on multiple occasions to be "factually challenged," as Gingrich rather haughtily described a rival, despite getting some things wrong himself.
Campaigns are long and tough, candidates are often tired and flubs happen. But they are adding up and at some point could give Republican voters pause as they look for the candidate best able to take on the highly polished — though hardly factually infallible — President Barack Obama.
In submitting to what is, in effect, America's toughest job interview, there may be only so much leeway in getting matters of current affairs and history plain wrong.
Frequent flubber Michele Bachmann's suggestion many months ago that the Revolutionary battles of Lexington and Concord took place in New Hampshire was an opening shot, of sorts, in a volley of misfires by the candidates. Those battles were fought in Massachusetts in 1775.
And on Wednesday, she offered another: She would support the United States shutting down its embassy in Tehran — but there is no U.S. Embassy in Iran's capital.
Never mind the facts, her top spokeswoman said. "Congresswoman Bachmann is a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and is fully aware that we do not have an embassy in Iran and have not had one since 1980," Alice Stewart said in a statement.
It's the latest but hardly the worst.
Cain promoted Chile's retirement system as one that gives workers the option of having private accounts, when in fact they have no choice. Mitt Romney accused Obama of "peacetime spending binges" as if there were no wars going on. Bachmann accused Obama of canceling a Canadian pipeline project that has only been delayed.
On Wednesday, Gingrich told voters packed into Tommy's Country Ham House in Greenville, S.C., that he would sign legislation repealing health care and Wall Street overhauls when he takes office on Jan. 21, 2013.
"My intent will be to ask the new Congress to stay in session when they are sworn in on Jan. 3 and to pass — and hold at the desk until I'm sworn in on the 21st — to pass the repeal of Obamacare and the repeal of Dodd-Frank and the repeal of Sarbanes-Oxley so that I can sign them on the 21st," Gingrich told the packed restaurant.
One problem: the Constitution that Gingrich constantly cites during his presidential campaign says the transition of power after an election takes place on Jan. 20.
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said Gingrich would assume powers at noon on Jan. 20, 2013, following the 20th Amendment of the Constitution. Because that day is a Sunday, the Inauguration's festivities would be scheduled on Jan. 21 of that year. Ronald Reagan followed a similar schedule for his second inaugural on Monday, Jan. 21, 1985.
Even so, Gingrich was wrong to say "I'm sworn in on the 21st."
A day earlier, Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggested the voting age is 21 and got the date wrong for Election Day.
"Those of you that will be 21 by November the 12th, I ask for your support and your vote," he told students at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire.
The voting age is 18. And New Hampshire is scheduled to be the first state in the nation to host a Republican presidential primary on Jan. 10; the general election is scheduled for Nov. 6, 2012.
And Cain said he would back an amendment to the Constitution to ban abortion.
"If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk, I'll sign it," he told the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Except presidents don't sign amendments. Congress passes them and the states ratify them. The president could champion them, but the Constitution doesn't give him or her any formal role.
Since the campaign's start, each candidate has had a turn explaining errors as either the side effects of an exhausting schedule or simple foot-in-mouth syndrome. Under the intense media scrutiny, each misstep or error draws questions whether each candidate is up for the job.
Romney, too, stepped in it. The former Massachusetts governor said Obama engaged in "one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history." He overlooked the United States' role in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
President Obama has decided to sell a new arms package to Taiwan that will likely include weapons and equipment to upgrade the island’s F-16 jets, according to administration and congressional officials.
Congress will be briefed Friday on the arms package, worth an estimated $4.2 billion, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. A formal announcement is expected soon.
“All we’ve been told is the president has made a decision, and I assume it will be for the F-16 A/B upgrade package,” said a senior congressional aide close to the issue.
The president decided against selling Taiwan 66 advanced F-16 C/D model aircraft, despite several requests from Taipei and Congress, the officials said.
The decision ends nearly two years of debate within the administration and Congress over whether to sell advanced strike aircraft.
Supporters of the sale say new F-16s, produced by Lockheed Martin, are needed to bolster Taiwan’s defenses against China’s growing air power and to produce jobs for the U.S. aerospace industry.
China, which opposes U.S. arms sales, is expected to react harshly to the upgrade package. China's military cut off exchanges with the Pentagon in 2008 and last year after two arms packages were announced.
The Obama administration has made its policy of seeking closer military ties with China a high priority, one reason that the president rejected new F-16s in the latest arms sales package, the officials said.
China’s U.S. debt holdings also likely influenced the decision. In February 2010, Chinese military leaders called for punishing the United States for arms sales to Taiwan by calling in some of the $1.1 trillion in China’s Treasury debt holdings.
A senior administration official said the decision not to sell new F-16s is a setback for officials in the administration who are concerned about Taiwan’s declining defenses. The opposition to selling the new jets came mainly from within the State Department, the official said.
In addition, the Pentagon is expected to release a long-delayed study on the air power balance across the 100-mile Taiwan Strait. The study is said by officials to show that Taiwan's air force urgently needs modernization.
China has been building up its air forces along the coast opposite Taiwan with more advanced warplanes, including Russian-made Su-27s, Su-30s and Chinese J-10 fighters.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration has cautioned the corn industry over its ongoing use of the term "corn sugar" to describe high fructose corn syrup, asking them to stop using the proposed new name before it has received regulatory approval, The Associated Press has learned.
The Corn Refiners Association wants to use "corn sugar" as an alternative name for the widely used liquid sweetener currently labeled as high fructose corn syrup on most sodas and packaged foods. They're attempting an image makeover after some scientists linked the product to obesity, diabetes and other health problems; some food companies now tout products that don't contain the ingredient.
Though it could take another year before the FDA rules on the request made last September to change the name, the Corn Refiners Association has for months been using "corn sugar" on television commercials and at least two websites: cornsugar.com and sweetsurprise.com.
A series of high-profile television, online and print advertisements tell consumers that "sugar is sugar" and that corn sugar is natural and safe, provided it's consumed in moderation.
In a July 12 letter obtained by the AP, Barbara Schneeman, an FDA director, wrote to the Corn Refiners Association to say she was concerned with the trade group using the terms high fructose corn syrup and "corn sugar" interchangeably.
"We request that you re-examine your websites and modify statements that use the term `corn sugar' as a synonym for (high fructose corn syrup)," Schneeman wrote.
As of Thursday, two months after the letter was sent, none of that wording had been changed.
Audrae Erickson, spokeswoman for the Corn Refiners Association, said in an email to the AP that the group is currently reviewing its materials and will make changes if necessary.
"We do not believe that anyone could be confused or believe that the statements regarding `corn sugar' on the websites refer to anything other than high fructose corn syrup," Erickson wrote.
The FDA has no regulatory control over the corn association's advertising because it is not selling a product but promoting an industry. The federal agency can prosecute companies that incorrectly label ingredients and Schneeman wrote that the FDA may launch enforcement action against food companies listing high fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar."
Beet and cane sugar producers have filed a lawsuit over claims that corn sugar is the same, saying they amount to false advertising. A federal judge is reviewing a motion to dismiss the case.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld can be sued personally for damages by a former U.S. military contractor who says he was tortured during a nine-month imprisonment in Iraq.
The lawsuit lays out a dramatic tale of the disappearance of the then-civilian contractor, an Army veteran in his 50s whose identity is being withheld from court filings for fear of retaliation. Attorneys for the man, who speaks five languages and worked as a translator for Marines collecting intelligence in Iraq, say he was preparing to come home to the United States on annual leave when he was abducted by the U.S. military and held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.
The government says he was suspected of helping pass classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces get into Iraq. But he was never charged with a crime, and he says he never broke the law and was risking his life to help his country.
Court papers filed on his behalf say he was repeatedly abused while being held at Camp Cropper, a U.S. military facility near the Baghdad airport dedicated to holding "high-value" detainees, then suddenly released without explanation in August 2006.
Two years later, he filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington arguing that Rumsfeld personally approved torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and controlled his detention without access to courts in violation of his constitutional rights.
Chicago attorney Mike Kanovitz, who is representing the plaintiff, says it appears the military wanted to keep his client behind bars so he couldn't tell anyone about an important contact he made with a leading sheik while helping collect intelligence in Iraq.
"The U.S. government wasn't ready for the rest of the world to know about it, so they basically put him on ice," Kanovitz said in a telephone interview. "If you've got unchecked power over the citizens, why not use it?"
The Obama administration has represented Rumsfeld through the Justice Department and argued that the former defense secretary cannot be sued personally for official conduct. The Justice Department also argued that a judge cannot review wartime decisions that are the constitutional responsibility of Congress and the president. And the department said the case could disclose sensitive information and distract from the war effort and that the threat of liability would impede future military decisions.
But U.S. District Judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said U.S. citizens are protected by the Constitution at home or abroad during wartime.
In response, Mendenhall is -- per CNBC's Darren Rovell -- suing Hanesbrand, the parent company of Champion in North Carolina District Court.
“This case involves the core question of whether an athlete employed as a celebrity endorser loses the right to express opinions simply because the company whose products he endorses might disagree with some (but not all) of those opinions,” the suit reads.
In all likelihood, this won't work like a normal "wrongful termination" case -- Mendenhall had a clause in his Champion contract that, per Rovell, allows them to fire him if Mendenhall "commits or is arrested for any crime or becomes involved in any situation or occurrence tending to bring Mendenhall into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or tending to shock, insult or offend the majority of the consuming public.”
The problem here for Mendenhall is that because he's dealing with an issue like 9/11, he'll have an uphill battle to prove that the majority of the consuming public wasn't offended by his comments, particularly given the storm of media coverage it generated.
Additionally, he's seeking monetary damages for his termination, which probably won't play well in the media, despite what his attorneys claim.
"Although the lawsuit seeks damages, this case is truly not about the money," Mendenhall's lawyer Stephen Thompson told Rovell. "In this age of widespread social media, Rashard believes (whether an athlete can be fired for his or her opinions) is an important question for all athletes who serve as celebrity spokespersons, and he intends to pursue this lawsuit to vindicate his rights and those of other athletes caught in this situation."
MOSCOW, Idaho -- Idaho Republicans are calling on Gov. Butch Otter to detail the state's economic ties with China.
The party's central committee passed a resolution Saturday urging the governor to highlight any involvement by China in his economic development plans.
The Lewiston Tribune reports that the resolution reads: "the stability of our form of government is being undermined by strategies used by the Chinese state-government-controlled entities through investments, corporate takeovers, intelligence operations and rare-Earth monopolization."
Otter led a trade mission to China last year, and a Chinese company has proposed developing a technology zone south of Boise Airport.
The governor has said Chinese investment is producing tax revenues and jobs, while being limited by state and federal laws.
Campaigners against US drone strikes in Pakistan are calling for the CIA's former legal chief to be arrested and charged with murder for approving attacks that killed hundreds of people.
Amid growing concern around the world over the use of drones, lawyers and relatives of some of those killed are seeking an international arrest warrant for John Rizzo, until recently acting general counsel for the American intelligence agency.
Opponents of drones say the unmanned aircraft are responsible for the deaths of up to 2,500 Pakistanis in 260 attacks since 2004. US officials say the vast majority of those killed are "militants". Earlier this week 48 people were killed in two strikes on tribal regions of Pakistan. The American definition of "militant" has been disputed by relatives and campaigners.
The attempt to seek an international arrest warrant for Rizzo is being led by the British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith of the campaign group Reprieve, and lawyers in Pakistan. The lawyers are also building cases against other individuals, including drone operators interviewed or photographed during organised press facilities.
A first information report, the first step in seeking a prosecution of Rizzo in Pakistan, will be formally lodged early next week at a police station in the capital, Islamabad, on behalf of relatives of two people killed in drone strikes in 2009. The report will also allege Rizzo should be charged with conspiracy to murder a large number of Pakistani citizens.
Rizzo, who was by his own admission "up to my eyeballs" in approving CIA use of "enhanced interrogation techniques", said in the interview that the CIA operated "a hit list". He also asked: "How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?"
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq's parliament is chasing about $17 billion of Iraqi oil money it says was stolen after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and has asked the United Nations for help to track it down.
The missing money was shipped to Iraq from the United States to help with reconstruction after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
In a letter to the U.N. office in Baghdad last month, parliament's Integrity Committee asked for help to find and recover the oil money taken from the Development Fund of Iraq (DFI) in 2004 and lost in the chaos that followed the invasion.
"All indications are that the institutions of the United States of America committed financial corruption by stealing the money of the Iraqi people, which was allocated to develop Iraq, (and) that it was about $17 billion," said the letter sent to the U.N. with a 50-page report.
The committee called the disappearance of the money a "financial crime" but said U.N. Security Council resolutions prevent Iraq from making a claim against the United States.
"Our committee decided to send this issue to you ... to look into it and restore the stolen money," said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
U.N. officials were not immediately available for comment.
The DFI was established in 2003 at the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S. body headed by Paul Bremer that governed Iraq after the invasion. The fund was to be used to pay the salaries and pensions of Iraqi government workers and for reconstruction projects.
In 2004, the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush flew billions of dollars in cash into Iraq. The money came from the sale of Iraqi oil, surplus funds from the U.N. oil-for-food program and seized Iraqi assets.
Last July, an audit report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) said the U.S. Department of Defense was unable to account properly for $8.7 billion of Iraqi oil and gas money after the 2003 invasion.