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PolitiFact Fl.: Jeb On National Debt; Marco And China Aiming At Our Satellites

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National debt may not be the most fascinating topic for politicians to ponder, but does former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's claim that it's never asked about in the presidential debates ring up true? To find out about that and Sen. Marco Rubio's claim that the Chinese want to blow up American satellites, WUSF's Steve Newborn checks in with Katie Sanders of PolitiFact Florida.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is lamenting on the campaign trail that no one talks about the national debt. The former Florida governor said during an appearance at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge,  New Hampshire, the debt "comes up all the time in town meetings ... but it's never asked in the debates. It's really weird. It hasn't been brought up."

Is that true? Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

Examples of questions about the debt asked during a debate

Milwaukee Republican debate

In the Milwaukee debate Nov. 10, 2015, Fox Business News’ Maria Bartiromo relayed a question from a Facebook user to Ohio Gov. John Kasich: "We are approaching $20 trillion in national debt. Specifically, what plans do you have to cut federal spending?"

North Charleston, S.C., Republican debate

In the GOP debate in North Charleston, S.C., Jan. 15, 2016,  Fox Business News’ Bartiromo again brought up the debt. She cited "the $19 trillion debt" in a question to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about infrastructure spending.

Bartiromo later addressed Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., saying, "One of the biggest fiscal challenges is our entitlement programs, particularly Social Security and Medicare. What policies will you put forward to make sure these programs are more financially secure?"

Examples of candidates bringing up the debt on their own

Las Vegas Republican debate

In the Las Vegas debate Dec. 15, 2015, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., used his closing statement to address the debt.

Back in South Carolina

Marco Rubio: "How about Obamacare, a certified job killer? It needs to be repealed and replaced. And we need to bring our debt under control, make our economy stronger.

Des Moines, Iowa, Republican debate

Paul: "I'm worried about the country and how much debt we're adding. And I am the one true fiscal conservative who will look at all spending. And that's the only way we'll ever balance our budget."

A question about the debt limit

Boulder, Colo., Republican debate

At the Boulder debate, Oct. 28, 2015, CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla asked Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, about the debt limit, which is related to the larger question of the federal debt because Congress must periodically reauthorize issuing more debt if the country is to avoid default.

Our ruling

Bush said that the debt "comes up all the time in town meetings ... but it's never asked in the debates. It's really weird. It hasn't been brought up."

Questions about the size of the debt were most clearly asked in two of the debates, and perhaps that count could be expanded to a third if you include a question about the debt limit. A few candidates also brought up the issue on their own.

We rate the claim False.

Next up, fellow presidential aspirant Sen. Marco Rubio has a more lofty claim - during a Feb. 3 town hall in Manchester, N.H., Rubio blasted China as "practicing how to blow up our satellites."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that:

Experts told PolitiFact that Rubio is basically right. "Regrettably true," Michael Krepon, a space-policy expert and co-founder of the Stimson Center, said of the claim.

Most spectacular was an incident on Jan. 11, 2007, when a six-foot-long Chinese weather satellite flew over China and was blasted to smithereens by an 18,000-mile-per-hour missile launched by China. "And then it was gone, transformed into a cloud of debris hurtling at nearly 16,000 mph along the main thoroughfare used by orbiting spacecraft," as Popular Mechanics magazine  put it.

China’s destruction of its own missile inspired "a great deal of international rebuke," said Laura Grego, a senior scientist with the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In addition to bringing up the touchy notion of the militarization of space, the satellite destruction created a sizable debris field in its heavily trafficked band around the earth, potentially causing secondhand damage to other nations’ satellites for the foreseeable future. There are about 1,300 active satellites, according to  Scientific American.

Our ruling

Rubio said China is "practicing how to blow up our satellites."

For years, China has been pursuing technologies that can be used to destroy satellites (as well as legitimate things). In fact, the Chinese destroyed one of their own satellites in 2007, in a move that was roundly condemned internationally. While the United States and Russia have also been developing similar technologies, and in one case destroyed an actual satellite, that doesn’t undercut Rubio’s statement. We rate it True.


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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.