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.There you see the Romney campaign’s basic charges about the Medicare program:
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.
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.
The greatest threat to Medicare is Obama Care and we're going to stop it.
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.
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.
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.“They came back with an urgent report?” How many of those booing people knew that Ryan himself voted against that urgent report?
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.
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?