Annals of Post-Truth Politics: Good for Norah O'Donnell: Relevant background point #1: Rep. Paul Ryan's fame has depended on his reputation as the man… of federal budget policy, and who was brave and honest enough to tell… the… truth…. Corollary #1: Therefore questions of selectively presented truth, or incomplete honesty, count against his reputation more than they would someone who is seen as a run-of-the-mill partisan….
Relevant background #2: In his speech at the GOP convention, Paul Ryan really laid on the "selectively presented truths," more than other major speakers from either party. Especially notable:
- Slamming the Obama administration for Medicare cuts, without mentioning that his budget plan included the same cuts;
- Slamming Obama for not doing more to support the Simpson-Bowles commission, without mentioning that Ryan was on the commission and voted against its recommendations;
- Slamming the administration for the downgrade in the U.S. government's credit rating, without mentioning that the reason for that downgrade (as reported by Standard & Poor's when issuing the downgrade) was the threat by Ryan and other GOP House members to block a usually routine measure to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and therefore risk a default on U.S. sovereign debt.
Again, we expect politicians to shade and shape their version of reality. But getting a reputation for doing this, as Ryan is doing during the campaign, is a particular problem for someone who has been set up as a uniquely honorable truth-teller.
Which brings us to Ryan and Norah O'Donnell…. She presented him with… his slam of Obama for cutting defense spending, without mentioning that he has voted for these same cuts….
Relevant background #3. It is hard for political journalists to know enough about the substance of obscure budget votes to go up against a famed "numbers wonk" from the Budget Committee; harder still for a journalist to be sure enough of their knowledge, in the real-time pressure of live TV, to say "no, that's not right" to a national figure; and perhaps hardest of all for a mainstream network correspondent to take on the responsibility of saying, "This does not seem true," rather than just finding some credentialed "critic" to quote….
On the merits of what O'Donnell was asking Ryan about… Ryan's… rationalization… involves the deliberate omission of a major, elephant-in-the-room complicating truth…