A not-very-truthful speech in a not-very-truthful campaign: Honestly? I didn’t want us to write this piece. The original pitch was for “the five biggest lies in Paul Ryan’s speech.” I said no…. I wanted us to bend over backward to be fair, to see it from Ryan’s perspective, to highlight its best arguments as well as its worst. So I suggested an alternative: The true, the false, and the misleading…. An hour later, the draft came in — Dylan Matthews is a very fast writer. There was one item in the “true” section.
So at about 1 a.m. Thursday… I sat down to read it again… with the explicit purpose of finding claims we could add to the “true” category. And I did find one. He was right to say that the Obama administration has been unable to correct the housing crisis, though the force of that criticism is somewhat blunted by the fact that neither Ryan nor Mitt Romney have proposed an alternative housing policy. But I also came up with two more “false” claims. So I read the speech again. And I simply couldn’t find any other major claims or criticisms that were true.
I want to stop here and say that even the definition of “true” that we’re using is loose. “Legitimate” might be a better word….
But Ryan’s claims weren’t even arguably true. You simply can’t say the president hasn’t released a deficit reduction plan. The plan is right here. You simply can’t say the president broke his promise to keep your GM plant open…. You simply can’t argue that the Affordable Care Act was a government takeover of the health-care system. My doctor still works for Kaiser Permanente, a private company that the government does not own. You simply can’t say that Obama, who was willing to follow historical precedent and sign a clean debt ceiling increase, caused the S&P downgrade, when S&P clearly said it was due to congressional gridlock and even wrote that it was partly due to the GOP’s dogmatic position on taxes.
Oh, and here’s one we missed: “You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation, and nothing else, his first order of economic business. But this president didn’t do that. Instead, we got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care.” The stimulus — which was the administration’s major job creation package — came before health care. It was their first priority. That’s simply inarguable.
After rereading Ryan’s speech, I went back to Sarah Palin’s 2008 convention address. Perhaps, I thought, this is how these speeches always are. But Palin’s criticisms, agree or disagree, held up. “This is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state Senate.” True. She accused Obama of wanting to “make government bigger” and of intending to “take more of your money.” That’s not how the Obama campaign would have explained its intentions, but the facts are the facts, and they did have plans to grow the size of government and raise more in tax revenues. Palin said that “terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay” and “he wants to meet them without preconditions,” which was true enough.
This has been a central challenge during this election. The Republican ticket, when it comes to talking about matters of policy and substance, has some real problems – problems that have nothing to do with whether you like their ideas. Romney admits that his tax plan “can’t be scored” and then he rejects independent analyses showing that his numbers don’t add up. He says — and Ryan echoes — that he’ll bring federal spending down to 20 percent of GDP but refuses to outline a path for how well get there. He mounts a massive ad assault based on a completely discredited lie about the Obama administration’s welfare policy. He releases white papers quoting economists who don’t agree with the Romney campaign’s interpretations of their research.
All this is true irrespective of your beliefs as to what is good and bad policy, or which ticket you prefer. Quite simply, the Romney campaign isn’t adhering to the minimum standards required for a real policy conversation….
I don’t like that conclusion. It doesn’t look “fair” when you say that. We’ve been conditioned to want to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame, and the fact of the matter is, I would like to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame. I’d personally feel better if our coverage didn’t look so lopsided. But first the campaigns have to be relatively equal. So far in this campaign, you can look fair, or you can be fair, but you can’t be both.
Many other people working at the Post whom I have dealt with--Clay Chandler, Ruth Marcus, Jonathan Weisman, Dana Milbank, Glenn Kessler, and Lori Montgomery come immediately to mind--resolve the tension between looking fair and being fair by being careful to know as little as possible about policy substance, so that they have little idea of what actually "being fair" would be.
To his and their credit, Ezra Klein and his stable and Greg Sargent (and earlier, Dan Froomkin) are different. They recognize that being fair will lead to constant attacks by Republican hacks, and deal with it.
The true, the false, and the misleading: Grading Paul Ryan’s convention speech: It was Paul Ryan’s big moment in Tampa tonight…. Wonkblog went about sorting the true from the misleading and the downright false.
TRUE: Obama cut Medicare - Ryan blasted the cuts to Medicare reimbursements and Medicare advantage included in the Affordable Care Act…. Obama didn’t fix the housing crisis….
FALSE: A GM plant in Ryan’s district shut down on Obama’s watch…. The stimulus was the biggest expenditure in government history…. The Affordable Care Act increases taxes on millions of small businesses…. The stimulus was full of fraud…. The Affordable Care Act was a government takeover…. Obama doesn’t have a debt plan….
MISLEADING: Obama didn’t support Bowles-Simpson’s report…. There were not enough votes to agree upon recommendations, in part due to opposition from committee member, er, Paul Ryan. The statement misleads viewers by implying that Ryan supports the proposal, when he aggressively opposed it, and by using the third person to avoid noting that Ryan was on the commission and voted no…. Obama caused the debt downgrade…. Obama added more to the deficit than any other president…