“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, to an ABC breakfast panel, ahead of GOP vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech, Wednesday.
It is kind of appropriate that Aeschylus’ famous, fifth century, B.C., quote, “In war, truth is the first casualty,” was popularized by a World War I era, American politician. Who knows better than someone who has had to fold falsehoods into the fight for votes in this diverse country, what a nuisance the truth can be?
Last night, at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, commentators and rebutting Democrats pointed out lies in many of the speeches, but it was with the faux earnestness of the words presented by the featured speaker, GOP vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), that most took exception.
You have probably read, or heard, by now, how Ryan told the exuberant crowd that President Obama was responsible for the closing of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, where, Ryan said, “[a] lot of guys I went to high school with worked… 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.” But Ryan buried the fact that the plant closed in December, 2008, when George W. Bush was still in the White House.
Other obfuscations in Ryan’s speech, according to a USA Today “Fact Check,” include that he:
“•Accused President Obama‘s health care law of funneling money away from Medicare ‘at the expense of the elderly.’ In fact, Medicare’s chief actuary says the law ‘substantially improves’ the system’s finances, and Ryan himself has embraced the same savings.
“•Accused Obama of doing ‘exactly nothing’ about recommendations of a bipartisan [Simpson-Bowles] deficit commission — which Ryan himself helped scuttle.
“•Claimed the American people were ‘cut out’ of stimulus spending. Actually, more than a quarter of all stimulus dollars went for tax relief for workers.
“•Blamed Obama for the loss of a AAA credit rating for the U.S. Actually, Standard & Poor’s blamed the downgrade on the uncompromising stands of both Republicans and Democrats.”
While it is true that, as the nineteenth century Prussian, Otto von Bismarck, said, “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election,” Ryan’s ruse goes completely against the RNC keynote speaker’s assurances, just twenty-four hours earlier, that it is the Republican Party’s “duty to tell the American people the truth.”
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), in his address to the convention, Tuesday, banged the drum of “hard truths,” and waved the flag of “simple truth.” He used the word “truth,” in fact, 20 times in the 30 minute speech, insisting that it was a trust Republicans held sacred and Democrats devalued.
“They believe that the American people don’t want to hear the truth,” he said of President Obama and his party.
“We have a nominee who will tell us the truth and who will lead with conviction,” he promised the crowd. That should have been the first clue that he and his compatriots were using “truth” rather loosely, since that claim, in particular, is a blatant example of political cognitive dissonance, ignoring the fact that his nominee, Gov. Mitt Romney, is notorious, even among the GOP base, for changing his own version of the truth to meet the times, and has the political convictions of a weather vane.
Christie concluded his speech with, “I’m here to begin with you this new era of truth-telling.” Now, many see the 42 year-old Ryan as that new era of the Grand Old Party, “the calling of my generation,” as he put it in his acceptance speech. If that is so, then the Republican rising star has decided that the torch of truth Christie is passing him is decidedly too bright for the battlefield of politics, lest it reveal the Romney-Ryan ticket’s actual positions.
Even with the fact checkers and the pundits challenging the facts Ryan and others have presented, so far, at the RNC, the lies are out there, and are likely coming to a campaign ad near you. “The sad fact is,” wrote Joe Rothstein, in an op-ed for E.I.N., a professional political news service, “that in politics, with enough money, enough repetition and a media largely too spineless or clueless to challenge bald face lies, truth becomes a severely disfigured casualty.”
It is up to the media, then, to continue the fight against blind ignorance, put the candid back in candidate, and reveal a campaign’s claim of truth for the illusion it is, rather than allowing the lies to percolate in the public airwaves, until they become the unquenchable fuel of conventional thought. Otherwise, politics becomes like religion, where colorized truth cannot bear the black-and-white of agnosticism, without the skeptic being labeled a RINO, a DINO or a blasphemer.
- Paul Ryan takes factual shortcuts in RNC speech (thegrio.com)
- FACT CHECK: Ryan takes factual shortcuts in speech – Businessweek (businessweek.com)
- Paul Ryan’s factual shortcuts in convention speech (csmonitor.com)