Paul Ryan's watershed event!

THURSDAY, AUGUST 30, 2012

How will the press corps react: Paul Ryan’s speech last night was a watershed event.

Every four years, the four major-party nominees give similar convention addresses. Has any nominee ever misled and deceived the public in anything like the way Ryan did?

His performance was simply astounding.

Just a guess: People who use the word “lie” may be throwing Ryan a life-line. For several reasons, it’s hard to show that something’s a “lie.” Use of that term often gives the accused a way to shift the discussion and wriggle off the hook.

That said, Ryan’s performance was astoundingly dishonest, on a succession of points:

His comments about the Janesville GM plant were grossly misleading, insultingly so. (Warning: He made no flat misstatement.)

He scolded Obama for failing to heed the Bowles-Simpson commission—while failing to say that he himself voted against the commission’s proposal. (Warning: No flat misstatement.)

How about this disgraceful presentation about Medicare? For various reasons, these must be the most repellent statements any nominee has ever made in such an address:
RYAN (8/29/12): You know what? The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over. That will come as news to the millions of American who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.

(APPLAUSE)

And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with the new law and new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So they just took it all away from Medicare, $716 billion funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.

(CROWD BOOS)

An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for.

(APPLAUSE)

The greatest threat to Medicare is Obama Care and we're going to stop it.

(APPLAUSE)

In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and the wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer's and she moved in with mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved. We had help from Medicare and it was there, just like it's there for my mom today. Medicare is a promise and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom's generation, for my generation and for my kids and yours.

(APPLAUSE)

So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the left isn't going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program and raiding it. Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate, we want this debate, we will win in this debate.
There you see the Romney campaign’s basic charges about the Medicare program:

Obama “funneled” $716 billion out of Medicare “to pay for a new entitlement!” Our parents and grandparents are being sacrificed!

The Medicare program is being raided! Medicare is a promise and we will honor it!

It’s hard to show sufficient contempt for these remarks, though Lawrence O’Donnell managed. What was wrong with those statements?

For starters, Ryan included the $716 billion in future Medicare spending reductions in his own House budgets! If an obligation to our parents and grandparents was being sacrificed, Ryan was sacrificing our parents and grandparents too!

If that $716 billion represents a “raid on the program,” Ryan wanted to be one of the raiders!

How disgraceful was Ryan's conduct? The camera played on the face of Ryan’s mother as he used her smiling presence to mislead the nation’s voters. He used the memory of his “wonderful grandmother, Janet” in the same way.

There were other problems with Ryan’s Medicare presentation. But good God, that use of his mother and grandmother was truly disgraceful. And by the way, here’s his remarkable language about the Bowles-Simpson commission:
RYAN: Back in 2008, Candidate Obama called a $10 trillion national debt unpatriotic. Serious talk from what looked like a serious reformer. By his own decisions, President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him. And more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined. One president, one term, $5 trillion in new debt.

He created a new bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanks them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.

AUDIENCE: Boo.
“They came back with an urgent report?” How many of those booing people knew that Ryan himself voted against that urgent report?

Warning! There is no flat misstatement there, unless you count the vage assertion that Obama "did exactly nothing." But the slippery, eager dishonesty there seems to be without precedent.

For today, we'll stop with these three topics, although there are several others. Let's move to this key idea:

This speech represents a watershed. Ryan and Romney seem to feel that we’ve moved past the need for anything resembling traditional honesty. They seem to feel we’re in a totally tribal world.

In that world, the two tribes make any claims they want, no matter how deceptive, misleading or bogus. We the rubes then make our choice.

Will the press corps know how to respond to this conduct? During Campaign 2000, they spent twenty months pretending to be outraged by the lies of one candidate—lies they themselves had invented.

They feigned great concern about honesty then. What will they do about this?

Ryan told no “lies” last night. But the dishonesty was vast, without any precedent. No candidate has ever deceived the public so baldly in a convention address.

Will the terrible people of the press know how to react to this conduct? If they know what they should do, will they be willing to do it?

By this deeply degraded point, does anyone care what they say?

28 comments:

  1. This is the best Daily Howler in recent memory. Pointed, directed, no hint of derangement. Ryan's address last night was the most dishonest speech by a Presidential or Vice-Presidential nominee in 30 years. What will the press do with their darling, the "serious" Paul Ryan?

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    1. Even if you define the "press" as mainstream newspapers, they've been on this speech like ugly on an ape all day, but I am sure Bob will parse the wide range of takedowns of Ryan's speech and focus for the next two weeks on the ones that don't fit his high standards.

      That is, if he ever does any "research" beyond MSNBC and the NYT.

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    2. The Anonymous IdiotAugust 31, 2012 at 3:10 PM

      Yeah, The New York Times! Why would anyone waste time pointing out their irrelevant failures. Get a life, Somerby!

      Delete
  2. I get the sense that Sarah Palin's candidacy for Vice President turned the tide with respect to how the candidates address the media and the public. My recollection is that after Governor Palin's very shaky interview with Katie Couric, she came to the debate with Joe Biden and simply ignored every question, instead saying whatever she wanted to say instead of answering what was asked. When that approach didn't hurt her with her supporters, I think that every other politician decided that they would pay no price for refusing to play by the rules.

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    1. That tactic was hardly new with Sarah Palin. Pols-- and yes, Dem pols nearly as much as GOPers -- have been doing it since time immemorial.

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  3. "He created a new bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report."

    There was no debt commission report. However, it is true that the co-chairs of the commission did create their own report.
    This is both grammatically correct and yet misleading in that "they" appears to refer to the commission.

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  4. I have read so many "Ryan's Five Biggest Lies" articles this morning that I've lost count.

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    1. Yeah, our local rag had a purported news story titled "In Their Anti-Obama Fervor, GOP Ignores History." It was from McLatchey

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    2. It's what they actually SAY in those "so many articles" that counts...

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  5. Quaker in a BasementAugust 30, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    By this deeply degraded point, does anyone care what they say?

    Well, one might take a clue from the earlier speech by Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty launched a long series of uninspired, leaden "jokes" about the current President. His best japes traded on spurious personal characterizations of Obama. The worst didn't even require that much thought--they were just bald personal attacks based on nothing at all (He's not as bad as people say--he's worse!).

    Pure tribalism.

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  6. I don't see where Bob pointed out any Ryan lies. Bob acknowledged that Ryan made no misstatement about the Janesville GM plant. Bob tacitlty acknoledged that Obama did nothing with the report of his own Deficit Reduction Commission, as Ryan asserted.

    Bob offers a tu quoque defense regarding the Deficit Commmission report. There's something to that defense, but not much. After all, when that report was delivered, Paul Ryan was merely a Congresman in the minority party. One would hope for a lot more leadership from the President, especially since Obama had appointed that Commission in the first place.

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    1. D in C, you re truly Orwellian.

      AC in Mass.

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    2. Since this site began allowing comments I have occasionally thought that DinC might be willing to acknowledge some facts even if they went against his preferred party.

      With this response, DinC makes clear that he is an utterly dishonest hack who will excuse any behavior by someone with an (R) next to their name.

      DinC defends Romney and blasts Obama over the whole Bain Capital issue - stating that Romney wasn't in charge at the time. Yet now he defends Ryan's accusation that Obama is responsible for a plant closing that closed in 2008 (before Obama was president).

      Also, DinC seems to forget that Ryan was ON the deficit commission and encouraged the republicans on the commission to reject the commission's report. He wasn't "merely a congressman".

      Personally, I am done with DinC. What's the point of engaging with someone so dishonest? There are other Republicans/conservatives on this site (looking at you Cecelia!) who can at least ackowledge basic reality.

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    3. Yeah. I just lost what respect I had for D in C as well. I know he's not stupid, so when he writes that "I don't see where Bob pointed out any Ryan lie," he is engaging in willful hackery. Orwellian indeed. Just be clear D in C: you know damn well that Somerby's entire point was that you can deceive people more effectively if you avoid an outright "lie." Ryan calculatingly couched his deception in slippery half truths, which makes his performance even more ethically repulsive.

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    4. I don't see how it's "Orwellian" to point out what Bob admits - "no flat misstatements." And politicians have used slippery half truths as long as I can remember. Most dishonest ever seems pretty histrionic.

      Here's what Ryan actually 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."

      Where are the lies?

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    5. All this righteous indignation and fake-solemn oaths ("I'm done with David in California" - hahaha) would be counter-productive and off-putting even if it was genuine, and it misses the point of Ryan's anecdote, which is not that Obama is responsible for the plant closing, but that he promised hope but has produced squat - the same point as the part about Simpson Bowles (Created, trumpeted, and ignored by Obama) - Obama is weak and ineffective. That's going to be the core of the Republicans' attack, I'll bet.

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    6. Where Ryan and the Republicans get Orwellian (OK this is one example of it) is that Obama in his negotiation with Boehner was willing to compromise on the entitlements and budget cutting (though what never seems to be pointed out is that the budget cutting will directly cause enormous job losses - it's anti-Keynesian, moreso even than raising taxes). Simpson Bowles encompassed cuts in spending and "entitlements" but also increases in taxes. The Republicans stonewall on any increase in taxes, even when limited to the wealthiest, and instead insist on reducing their taxes even further and taking the money out of entitlements. It's absurd.

      AC / Mass.

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  7. I've been struggling with the question of why the US citizenry accept lies from candidates for elected office since I heard Ryan's confabulation last night. It is extremely troubling in many respects. More than party or particular positions on issues......trust is the primary requirement for someone to receive my vote. I would imagine this is the same for most voters. How can we trust somebody who would out-and-out lie on so many issues (and I do consider ommitting key information from Ryan's own position on the Simpson-Bowles thing as lying). In the court of law...lying to the judge is "game over". At the state-of-the-union address.....providing and incomplete picture on the yellow-cake thing was universally seen as unacceptable. But in campaigns to identify the presidency....the facts can be twisted and altered with only minor incident. I simply don't know how we got here. We need a Tea Party movement to eliminate lies from our elected officials. God knows there's enough difference between the positions of the candidates without the fictional accounts.

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  8. FACT CHECK: Obama promised and failed to keep Janesville GM plant open

    Last night, in his Republican National Convention speech, Paul 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.

    The Washington Post, and a host of other liberal media outlets, are calling this passage “misleading” because the Janesville plant “closed before the president was inaugurated.” The Post is dead wrong. Here are the facts:

    1. On February 13, 2008 Obama said in Janesville : “I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.”

    2. In June 2008 GM announced that the Janesville plant would stop production of medium-duty trucks by the end of 2009, and stop production of large SUVs in 2010 or sooner.

    3. In October 2008 Obama doubled down on his promise to keep Janesville plant open: “As president, I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and all across America.”

    4. In December 2008 GM idled production of GM SUVs at the Janesville plant. Medium-duty truck assembly continued.

    5. In April 2009, four months after Obama was inaugurated, GM idled production of medium-duty trucks.

    6. In September 2011, more than two years after Obama was inaugurated, GM reiterates that Janesville plant is on “stand by status.” Auto industry observer David Cole, tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel it would be premature to say the Janesville plant will never reopen.

    6. Today the GM facility in Janesville still has not been retooled “so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs,” as Obama promised.

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/article/2506462#.UD9ualTgJN2

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    1. Good, Lordy, where to begin?

      David, do you know the difference between promising to keep the Janesville plant open, long AFTER the decision had been made to close it, and promising to keep plants LIKE the Janesville plant open?

      And you cite the Washington Examiner? Good lord!

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    2. David in Cal is as sharp as a dulled knife stuck in hardened concrete. Cut him some slack. But very, very, very slow-ly...

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  9. There's no "promise" to keep the plant open in Obama's speeches, any more than the part of Ryan's speech dealing with the plant is a "lie." "I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville" is patently not a promise to keep the plant open, although it's phrased to make the listener think that the plant will stay open. I can't tell you how tired I am of people on both sides pretending to be shocked that politicians use slippery language. But there's no promise, DinC.

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  10. I am reminded of the old story about the boy who kills his parents and pleads for mercy because he is an orphan. The republicans did everything in their power to keep President Obama from being effective and now,as we all knew they would,are trying to defeat him on the basis of his ineffectiveness. It is truly sad that a strateegery like this could work but this is still the same country that elected George W Bush twice. This sad state of affairs could not continue without the help of the laziest most unprofessional press corp in my lifetime . Regardless of how Bob chooses to make this simple point he is dead on.

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  11. Maybe I'm just very old-fashioned, but as a child I was taught (by my parents, in public school, in Sunday school) that to lie was to intentionally leave another person with one impression of your view of the facts or truth while actually holding another view. To be sure, there could be gray areas. Leaving aside the moral issues around "white lies" sincerely told to spare someone else's feelings over a trivial matter, you might locate gray areas in situations where someone mixes just a little bit in the way of lies with many sincere statements, or, where a person lies to herself, however briefly and self-servingly, thereby also misleading her interlocutor. You might indeed hesitate to apply the strong word "lie" in some of these gray areas, if only because to do so would preempt exploring fully the complexities of someone's representations. You might, then, call the person "dishonest" (among other possible terms, like disingenuous).

    Still, the word "dishonesty" includes not only things like "shaving the truth" but also outright lying, as well as things like stealing. It's a very large term. That's why it's reason in situations where you are avoiding harsh characterization, but that's also why it is often un-usefully vague.

    It may be more prudent, because more effective with e.g. undecided independents, for people like Obama himself to use words like "dishonest" in characterizing Ryan's speech last night (and on other occasions): it's less harsh, less partisan-sounding, less angry (and a black president cannot afford to sound angry). But I don't see why journalists or, most of all, Bob Somerby or commenters on his blog or others should refrain from characterizing Ryan's speech as a pack of lies. However carefully Ryan may have avoided outright mis-representation of facts according to an almost Jesuitic parsing, it is perhaps impossible to avoid the conclusion that Ryan intended to leave the impression of X, with a large portion of his audience, while himself believing not-X to be true. That makes him a liar. (Btw, even in law, where parsing the technicalities of a statement is an important tool, the totality of a statement, the speaker's intentions, and issues like that are given great weight as well. Hell, even in grammar, you'll get nowhere fast if you confine yourself to narrow parsing.)

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  12. Ryan's young, he has big blue eyes, he sounds serious, and he's willing to do the bidding of the elites, which is to push through budgets that will allow for even greater tax cuts and wealth transfers.

    That's why the media love him and let him get away with figurative murder of the truth. It all comes back to those tax cuts and wealth transfers into the pockets of the rich. Money = speech = power = domination. Yes indeed, and it doesn't take fifty shades of gray to figure that one out.

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  13. mch wrote: I was taught (by my parents, in public school, in Sunday school) that to lie was to intentionally leave another person with one impression of your view of the facts or truth while actually holding another view.

    Right. So, when Mr. Obama came to the GM plant in Ryan's home town and promised to keep it open for 100 years, and when he returned and promised to keep plants like that one open, I think he left an impression that his policies would keep that particular plant open.

    OTOH Mr. Ryan's comment left the impression that Mr. Obama had failed to fulfill his economic promises. That impression is unfortunately accurate.

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    1. Implicit in Paul Ryan's criticism is the idea that government should have intervened to prevent the plant's closing.

      Either the government should intervene in the economy or it should let market forces work. If Mr. Ryan favors the latter, he shouldn't complain that the president hasn't done enough of the former. That would not be ideologically consistent.

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