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Aug 31 2012

Ryan’s Incredibly Dishonest Speech

We’re all used to lies from politicians, so much so that we expect it now and are almost shocked to hear one tell the truth. But Paul Ryan’s speech to the Republican National Convention still stands out for its utter dishonesty from beginning to end. Joan Walsh adds up just a few of them:

Paul Ryan gave a feisty anti-Obama speech that will have fact-checkers working for days. His most brazen lie accused President Obama of “raiding” Medicare by taking the exact same $716 billion that Ryan and the House GOP notoriously voted to slash. It was stunning.

But that’s not all. He attacked Obama for failing to keep open a Janesville GM plant that closed under Bush in 2008. He hit him for a credit-rating downgrade that S&P essentially blamed on GOP intransigence. He claimed that all taxpayers got from the 2009 stimulus was “more debt,” when most got a tax cut (and the stimulus is known to have saved between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs). He derided the president for walking away from the Simpson Bowles commission deficit-cutting recommendations when Ryan himself, a commission member, voted against those recommendations.

He blamed Obama for a deficit mostly created by programs he himself voted for – from two wars, tax cuts, new Medicare benefits and TARP.

FactCheck confirms the same lies. They also debunk many of the claims in Chris Christie’s “fact free” speech. Of course, this was done at a convention whose central theme is, itself, a lie. The entire “we built it” mantra is based on an extremely dishonest distortion of what President Obama said about those who start businesses. Amusingly, they’ve tried to reinforce that lie by presenting two speakers who offered up the tired old “we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps without help from Big Government” line after both received tremendous help from the government in doing so, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in SBA loans and much more in government contracts.

The Democrats aren’t exactly pure in this regard, of course. The ad with Joe Soptic blaming Romney for this wife’s death from cancer was pretty dishonest too (cue the Democratic partisans to get all hyper-technical and engage in special pleading to claim it wasn’t, because that is how tribalism operates — apply different standards to the other side than you do to your own side). But the Republicans have clearly made lies the central focus of their entire 2012 campaign.

30 comments

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  1. 1
    d cwilson

    And predictably, the republican response to the debunking is to start a full on war on fact checkers.

    Nothing must stand in the way of the agenda. Nothing!

  2. 2
    Alverant

    I won’t defend what Soptic said, but I do feel that including it is a sort of false equivalency. Saying something like “both sides lie” implies they lie in equal amounts which is not true. Republicans drawing attention to Soptic are really saying, “Don’t pay any attention to the whoppers we told. Look at what the other side did that’s 1/1000th as bad but we’re going to act like it’s 1000 times worse than anything we did.”

  3. 3
    Gretchen

    A false equivalency would entail some suggestion that the two are actually equal.

  4. 4
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    The difference between the Soptic lie and the Republican lies is that Obama is not basing his entire campaign on that lie, while the entire Republican campaign is based on dishonesty and falsehoods.

  5. 5
    baal

    @#1 d_cwilson

    Mediamatters already has up a clip of Rush Limbaugh promulgating that attack-the-fact-checkers talking point.

  6. 6
    Scott Hanley

    Alverant, I think Ed’s inclusion of the Soptic ad was done quite fairly. You can find Democratic ads that are as dishonest as Republican ads, but that doesn’t weaken the argument that the sheer quantity and brazenness of Republican lies sets them apart from any modern American party.

  7. 7
    typecaster

    This is one of the reasons we should televise conventions, as was mentioned over on the thread about whether we should or not. If Ryan’s speech was given to a closed room, there never would have been any discussion about his honesty. As it is, there’s nowhere near as much as there should be – but at this point in our lurch to the right, I’m happy for any notice at all in the mainstream media.

  8. 8
    The Other Lance

    Along with Ryan’s lies goes the incredibly asinine coverage of his speech by the likes of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:

    So there he is, the republican vice presidential nominee and his beautiful family there. His mom is up there. This is exactly what this crowd of republicans here certainly republicans all across the country were hoping for. He delivered a powerful speech. Erin, a powerful speech. Although I marked at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I’m sure they will. As far as mitt romney’s campaign is concerned, paul ryan on this night delivered.

    Wow. That’s all you got, Blitzer? Some “opportunities to dispute”? Don’t forget to wipe the brown stuff off your nose, there, dude.

  9. 9
    slc1

    Re The Other Lance @ #8

    Wolf Blitzer, Heath’s favorite newscaster (just kidding).

  10. 10
    d cwilson

    Wolf Blitzer covered the speech the way he was expected to: Rate how well Ryan performed. Facts? Pfft! Who cares whether what he says is true or not. Blitzer’s job isn’t to act like a fact checker. His job is to talk about the horse race.

  11. 11
    rickdesper

    I hadn’t even heard of the Soptic ad until today.
    I wish Ed hadn’t mentioned it. It just gives cover to the Republicans for their brazen campaigning built entirely on lying. Nothing the Democrats have done compares in any fashion to the several-month campaign intentionally distorting “You didn’t build that.”
    The truth right now is that Romney and Ryan lie with impunity because the media let them get away with it. But they wouldn’t show the same breathing room to Obama, if he were ever to try lying on anything approaching the same scale (in terms of distorting a political opponent’s record – lying in service of the defense industry is Approved).
    To keep these matters in proportion, you really have to ignore the Soptic ad. It wasn’t approved by Obama, it hasn’t been run nationally, and it won’t be the centerpiece of the Democratic convention. Any mention of it will inevitably lead to it being blown out of proportion.

  12. 12
    savagemutt

    Wolf Blitzer, Heath’s favorite newscaster (just kidding).

    I thought David Gregory held that title?

    (also kidding)

  13. 13
    gshevlin

    Wolf Blitzer is a weathervane blowhard. He will lean whichever way his interviewee wants to lean. I lost all interest in him after he folded like a low hand in a card game when he tried to challenge VP Dick Cheney and Cheney snarled at him instead of addressing the challenge. Blitzer should have stared sternly at him and challenged him to answer the point. At that point I knew that whatever Wolf Blitzer has for a spinal column, it has no rigidity whatsoever.

  14. 14
    rickdesper

    “If Ryan’s speech was given to a closed room, there never would have been any discussion about his honesty. ”

    If Ryan’s speech was given to a closed room, nobody would have cared whether he was honest or not.

    The purpose of the convention is to get a week of free advertising by the so-called news networks. I don’t care if Ryan lies in private to convention delegates. The problem is when he’s doing so in a prominent light as a key part of the campaign.

  15. 15
    addiepray

    I think the relevant difference between the Ryan speech and the “Didn’t build that”/welfare lie ads vs the Soptic ad is that the Soptic ad was run by a third party group, not by the actual Obama campaign. I’m sure there are plenty of lies in Demo ads, but I don’t think this one is a fair example. I know, the “outside” groups are not as separate from the actual campaign as legal fiction would dictate, but this was an outside ad that I don’t think even had much of a run on TV (if at all). It was one of those get-lots-of-attention-on-the-internet spots, as opposed to lies from the candidates mouths as the central organizing principle of their campaign. Romney’s folks have come right out and sid they don’t care if it is a lie, it works.

  16. 16
    vmanis1

    Re Wolf Blitzer: I lost respect for him years ago when he summoned Alan Grayson to `apologize’ for summarizing the Republican health care policy as `1. Don’t get sick. 2. If you do get sick, die quickly.’. Perhaps that was over the top rhetoric on Grayson’s part, but it’s hardly the task of a journalist to demand that a politician apologize for such things, and to have Alex Castellanos on hand to `accept’ the apology. Grayson didn’t apologize.

    Incidentally, it’s common for those on the left to deride Chris Matthews. I don’t. When he does get his jaws in the leg of a waffler or liar, he’s pretty good at keeping them there and raking the miscreant over the coals. He’s perhaps too willing to accept people at face value, and he sometimes misses things on a first hearing, but I think he performs an important service.

  17. 17
    solen

    I have to agree with rickdesper. Comparing the local Sopic ad to the nation wide RNC lies told by Ryan and Romney is like comparing apples to Orcas…not in the same kingdom.

    Ryan and Romney unleashed some whoppers that in previous years (like 20 years ago) would have been the talk of late night news casts. Now, they’re sloughed off and hardly worth pointing out. In the mean time the we’re worried that the local Sopic ad will be used against Obama? And this ad was done by a SuperPac, not Obama’s official campaign.

    There is a large difference between a local SuperPac ad that contains some falsehoods (maybe) vs the Presidential candidate and his VP sewing verifiable falsehoods on the RNC coin on national TV.

  18. 18
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    There’s been a lot of virtual ink spilled over why the GOP has resorted to unprecedented lies, almost their whole shtick is now built on claims that are misleading at best. BUt the easiest answer is probably the most accurate: what else are they gonna run on? Who would vote for them if they came right out and said “We want to repeat every policy that crashed and burned during Bush’s tenure, plus pile on those with little or no political power as scapegoats, and this time we really think it might work”?

  19. 19
    Michael Heath

    I have no idea why I was referenced to Wolf Blitzer by slc1, I have no opinion of him; primarily due to his never getting my attention – even when I have CNN on and he’s talking. savagemutt is correct that David Gregory really chaps my ass; don’t get me going on him and the other morning schmucks who have access to power.

  20. 20
    Michael Heath

    I’m a little surprised by how the press is all over the Ryan convention speech lies. While he lied a lot, I don’t think he lied anymore than Romney, Bush, Cheney, McCain, or Palin – especially on the big stuff where their primary premises on the big issues were nearly all lies. The problem with that is they’re acting as if Ryan is distinguishing himself as a liar rather than pointing out Ryan is merely lying at a rate equivalent to what we observe from all GOP presidential tickets going back to Bush/Cheney 2000. (Yes Dole/Kemp lied, but I don’t recall them doing so at the rate we observed in 2000 and after; of course we didn’t have the Internet resources we have now so I could very well be wrong.)

  21. 21
    slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #19

    It’s somewhat of a tossup as to who is worse, Blitzer or Gregory.

  22. 22
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    The Democrats aren’t exactly pure in this regard, of course. The ad with Joe Soptic blaming Romney for this wife’s death from cancer was pretty dishonest too (cue the Democratic partisans to get all hyper-technical and engage in special pleading to claim it wasn’t, because that is how tribalism operates — apply different standards to the other side than you do to your own side).

    I think this is beneath you. It has you insinuating you won’t consider an arguable defense of the Soptic ad or an argument that frames that ad with all the ads and rhetoric being distributed by both parties and their partisans. That’s a close-minded attribute we rightly denigrate conservatives for doing.

  23. 23
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    The truth right now is that Romney and Ryan lie with impunity because the media let them get away with it. But they wouldn’t show the same breathing room to Obama, if he were ever to try lying on anything approaching the same scale (in terms of distorting a political opponent’s record – lying in service of the defense industry is Approved).

    It seems to me that the bar is simply set lower for Repubs these days – they are expected to lie. When Jon Kyle can get away with, “not intended as a factual statement”, when Jim Inofe can claim that global warming is, “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state”, when Sarah Palin can state that national health care will entail “death panels” and not be laughed out of public life and office, it is clear that their supporters simply don’t care about facts, about reality. All the Repubs care about is that they can dog whistle to enough people to get into or stay in power.

    And apparently the tribalism is enough that their supporters want to hear bullshit as long as that shit can be thrown at the opposition. The attacks on fact-checkers, I think, confirm this.

  24. 24
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    The lines that I quoted above, of course, I should have credited to rickdesper.

  25. 25
    gerryl

    I don’t feel inclined to support the Joe Soptic ad. But it used kludgy editing to SUGGEST that this man felt Romney might in some way be responsible for the death of his (Soptic’s) wife. The Republican ads repeat out and out factual lies. And repeat and repeat.

    If they have to lie to complain about Obama, that would seem to imply they can’t fault him on any true facts. They lack imagination.

    After (grudgingly) watching much of the primetime R convention coverage, I have come to the conclusion that the Romney’s campaign message is “I’m not Obama. That’s all you need to know.”

  26. 26
    stoferb

    I’m not that familiar with what medicare vs obamacare really means. But nevertheless I found it incredibly silly and somewhat amusing that they accused Obama for taking 700 something millions from medicare to obamacare as if that detail was such a horrible thing.

    It would be like if the government scrapped NASA and built an entire new space agency from scratch. Would the complaint be that they used the money earmarked for NASA to finance the new space agency? That is just ludicrus! Whatever the merits of the new vs the old system it makes perfect sense to use the same money for the same purpose.

  27. 27
    iangould

    Stoferb, Medicare serves a primarily white client base, claiming that Obama is taking money from Medicare to pay for medical care for the uninsurered the majority of whom are non-white is classic dog-whistle politcs.

    It’s also completely untrue. Obama wants to cut the amount Medicare pays for certain services. This would reduce Medicare’s costs and make the program more sustainable.

  28. 28
    Michael Heath

    stoferb writes:

    I found it incredibly silly and somewhat amusing that they accused Obama for taking 700 something millions from medicare to obamacare as if that detail was such a horrible thing.

    iangould writes:

    It’s also completely untrue. Obama wants to cut the amount Medicare pays for certain services. This would reduce Medicare’s costs and make the program more sustainable.

    iangould, you’re correct that the Republican fear-inducing tactic on Medicare cuts in Obamacare is a racist dog whistle. However the benefits of those cuts are being diverted towards making Obamacare fiscally viable in at least two ways.

    One is that Obamacare increased taxes on the highest income earners which will be allocated to Medicare, where those revenues will not be passed-on to healthcare providers, who will see decreases in rates for certain services. The second aspect is that while providers won’t see the rate of increase or current rates sustained, they’ll also be getting an increase of about 30 million more patients who will have now access to healthcare for certain items they didn’t prior to Obamacare. In both cases, cuts in Medicare were needed to make Obamacare more viable, at least in terms of political viability in getting it passed without even higher taxes.

    What I find particularly ironic about Republicans screeching about Medicare cuts is that the legacy of the Republican party used to be sold to the public that they were the party who approached governance like successful business-people. They were leaders who supposedly had the courage to make tough decisions. Examples to promote this myth often illustrated supposed bureaucratic spending prolificacy without a commiserate benefit, whereas Republicans promised to run a tight ship with better results. So here we have a president in Mr. Obama who not only employs the rhetoric once favored by Republicans, but passes a law committing the federal government to run a tighter ship by spending $700+ billion less without a decrease in benefits. Obama continues to govern within the legacy of past moderate Republicans, while today’s Republicans continue to increasingly abandon all the prior attributes of the party that made them viable.

  29. 29
    democommie

    Paul Ryan lied?! ZOMG, just fuckin’, ZOMG!!–THAT is not news.

    What would distinguish Ryan from the rest of the GOP is if he told the truth.

  30. 30
    Brain Hertz

    I think that the real screw up with the Soptic Ad is that the creators (Priorities USA, not the Obama campaign) decided to go with the specific case of Joe Soptic. If you read the whole story of what happened, it’s incredibly damning without needing to resort to what is an arguably misleading inference.

    The sequence of events, according to FactCheck:

    1. Bain acquired a controlling interest in GST steel for $8M

    2. Having gained control of the company, they issued $125M in bonds

    3. They then immediately issued $65M in dividends, of which $36.1M went to themselves

    4. After the company collapsed (following another $16M investment from Bain, and another $125M of bonds issued) the pension fund was found to have been severely underfunded and taxpayers ended up on the hook for basic pension coverage (not the amount originally committed to employees).

    Analysis at FactCheck seems to center around figuring out whether the company would have collapsed in any case.

    What seems more significant to me is that Bain managed to walk away with a massive return on their investment whilst stiffing both bond holders and taxpayers. Whether or not the company survived seems almost incidental to their business model.

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