When A “Lie” Is Not Lie
Something had to be done.
When it was announced that Mitt Romney had chosen Paul Ryan to be his Vice Presidential running mate, many people were surprised, myself included. Most people expected Romney to go with Ohio Senator Rob Portman or former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. The choice of Ryan was a welcome surprise amongst conservatives and a big curveball to Democrats.
Democrats made it obvious they did not expect this choice and more obvious it was a pick they were nervous about when they went into overdrive to tell any media person within earshot how “thrilled” they were with the choice of Ryan. Rachel Maddow said she had spoken with Democratic strategists (off the record of course) who were supposedly “popping champagne” at the Ryan pick. It as amusing watching David Axelrod hyperventilate on the news circuit attempt to make Paul Ryan out to be this fiendish ghoul who feasts on the blood of babies and has a gaggle of elderly people doing his bidding whom he disposes of when they are no longer needed by rolling them off a cliff in their wheelchairs.
The Democrats goal going into the GOP convention was to paint Ryan in that light and to hammer Ryan over the issue of Medicare. But they couldn’t. Ryan, who looks younger than his 42 years is handsome and affable. When he speaks, he doesn’t come across as a partisan ideologue the way, for example, Newt Gingrich often does. He has a beautiful wife and beautiful young children. He’s a mid-western son of working class parents. Ryan is the total opposite of how Republicans are often portrayed by Democrats and many in the media. Instead of backing down from the Medicare debate, Romney and Ryan took it head on, going after Obama for taking $716B from the program and putting it into Obamacare. By doing so, we were treated to a headline I am sure we would never see in our lifetime:
In addition to dampening the Medicare attacks, the larger gap Obama had over Romney at the beginning of August due to a relentless campaign of negative advertising, had disappeared. The current RCP average is +.3 for Obama.
So they had to think of another plan. Going after Ryan as a “liar” after his speech was the best bet. Unfortunately, the “lies” pointed out in his speech are anything but and it says more about the ineptitude of the supposed fact checkers, than it does it about Ryan. Particularly when the fact checkers take their cue from proven “pants on fire” liar Stefanie Cutter.
I want to address the two “lies” getting the most attention. They have to do with the GM plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin and his criticism of Obama’s debt commission.
During the speech, Stefanie Cutter tweeted the following about those two issues:
Ryan blaming the President for a GM auto plant that closed under Pres Bush — thought he was smarter than that.
— Stephanie Cutter (@stefcutter) August 30, 2012
It’s rich that Ryan is attacking President on Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan — Ryan voted no on that plan.
— Stephanie Cutter (@stefcutter) August 30, 2012
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post and Politifact both addressed this and did so it seems, by taking a cue from Cutter. First, here is the text of what Ryan said:
President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two. Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account. My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.
A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.
Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.
First here is what Kessler writes:
In his acceptance speech, GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan appeared to suggest that President Obama was responsible for the closing of a GM plant in Ryan’s home town of Janesville, Wis.
Emphasis is mine and immediately destroys the credibility of what Kessler writes. “Appeared to suggest” is a subjective term. Know why? Because it didn’t appear to me as though Ryan was suggesting Obama was responsible.
To me, Joe Biden “appeared to suggest” to a majority black audience at a campaign stop, the GOP wanted to put them back in chains like many African-Americans who were enslaved in the past. By the subjective standards Kessler applies to what Ryan said, that is precisely what Biden was saying.
Politifact addresses it this way:
Says President Barack Obama broke his promise to keep a Wisconsin GM plant from closing.
Look at the text of what Ryan said. Nowhere does he say Obama “promised” to keep it open. In addition, the plant did not close in 2008 as has already been pointed out. The plant did not officially close until April 23, 2009 (and instead of Obama retooling that plant, he chose a plant in Michigan instead) so when Ryan said, “that plant didn’t last another year” he was 100% right.
The other “lie” is so laughable it’s hard to imagine why it has to be addressed. Here is what Ryan said about Simpson/Bowles:
He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.
Ryan is referring to the Simpson-Bowles Commission, and he is correct that Obama did not act on its report. But Ryan left out the fact that he served on the commission and voted against the final “urgent” report, largely because he believed it did not do enough to overhaul health-care entitlements such as Medicare.
Hey Glenn…..so what? How does Ryan not telling people he voted against the commission’s plan make what he said about Obama untrue? Answer: it doesn’t.
James Fallows in The Atlanta follows the same line of tortured reasoning:
Given that, I said it was surprising that he’d been so careless in his convention speech about leaving himself open on easily-disprovable claims. For instance, if he’s going to criticize President Obama for not implementing the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, shouldn’t he mention that he was on the panel and also voted against its proposals?
So leaving out that he served on the commission makes his claim about Obama doing nothing “easily-disprovable?” How does that happen exactly?
If they and others like them want to say there is more context to what Ryan said, fine. But what he said was not “untrue”, not a “lie”, nor was it “false.” The biggest offender here no doubt is Politifact. They invented a claim out of thin air, accusing Ryan of saying something he did not, and then rating it false.
The real problem is, the media reads these accounts and in their sheer laziness (or in the case of just about anybody MSNBC, their left wing bias) just repeat it. And why not? They’re “fact checkers” right? They can’t possibly get anything wrong, correct?