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[ 57 ] August 31, 2012 |

Paul Ryan’s speech was so remarkably, staggeringly dishonest that you’d think it would have to change the narrative. And, yet, it probably won’t. The idea that Paul Ryan is a Truth-Telling Teller of Wonky Hard Truths is a very well-entrenched narrative, although he was no more of a transparent fraud on Wednesday than he’s always been. The many dishonest parts of the speech were mostly worded in a weaselly enough way to permit the “I’m not lying, I’m dissembling!” routine that was recently perfected by Niall Ferguson. The contrast with Gore — whose unearned reputation as a big liar, it needs to be repeated again, was not driven primarily by the conservative press but by the New York Times and the Washington Post, including by some writers who remain inexplicably well-regarded by many liberals today — couldn’t be more depressing. I’d like to think that Ryan’s big speech will change the narrative, but I doubt it.

While we’re on the subject of Ryan, the de facto leader of the Republican Party, this is also a crucial point:

The political logic embedded in Ryan’s formulation was even more telling. He dismissed the goal of providing health insurance to those who can’t afford it as something “we didn’t even ask for.” Who is “we”? We is the majority of Americans who do have health insurance. We outnumber the 50 million who don’t. They can go screw themselves. Ryan actually called Obama’s decision to cut what he deemed wasteful spending in Medicare to cover the uninsured his “coldest power play.” It is a cold power play to give medical care to people who can’t get it, and an act of compassion to take it away from them.

Relatedly, the very biggest untruth in the whole speech was when he pretended to believe that “[t]he truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” But even if your policy agenda boils down shredding Medicare, Medicaid, and all other aid to the poor to pay for upper-class tax cuts and defense spending, if you’re a Republican asserting it is enough.

UPDATE: As Howard notes in comments, Ed Kilgore was right — that line is a forced pregnancy dog whistle.  Shorter Paul Ryan: “Lie, lie, lie, lie, nonsense, non-sequitur, lie, life begins at conception and ends at birth. God Bless America, try the veal, don’t bother tipping your waitress because she’s probably a parasite.”


Comments (57)

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  1. James E Powell says:

    Throughout the 2000 campaign, George W Bush lied repeatedly about major components of his policies and his biography. Yet he was touted as the authentic manly American man while his opponent was a liar who let a woman choose his clothes.

    Despite a decade or so of hectoring about this from Somerby and a few others, the corporate press/media has never acknowledged that this is what they did and that it had disastrous consequences for the American people.

    So it is very likely that they will do the same thing this time. It’s who they are, it’s what they do.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      It’s amazing how many liberals still completely believe the “earth tones” crap. Once again, thank you Frank, MoDo, and Tweety!

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      However, the media really doesn’t treat Obama like they treated Gore, so I’m far from convinced we’re in for a replay of 2000, at least as far as the Democratic ticket is concerned.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        I do agree with that, which was one reason I was an Obama supporter.

      • James E Powell says:

        I am far from convinced that we are not in for a replay of 2000 in this sense: a tacit agreement by the corporate press/media never to discuss the candidates’ or parties’ policies, or the likely impact of those policies. Instead we will get a set of messages that we have already seen and heard in every campaign since 1980.

    • John says:

      Given the tenor of Somerby’s work as a whole, I’d say it’s not at all surprising he’s been ignored. Whatever cause you want to promote, Somerby is a horrible, horrible messenger for it.

  2. Amy Fried says:

    Furthermore, most Americans supported health reform, with consistent majorities supporting Obamacare or a more robust policy (a public option, Medicare for all, etc.). So there has been a “we” that wants health care coverage.

    I think that Ryan’s reputation has taken a hit, as reporters seem more likely to note his false claims. Last night Mark Halperin, of all people, said that sometimes one can draw false equivalences between the parties and the Republicans keep repeating debunked falsehoods.

    • Njorl says:

      Mark Halperin … said that sometimes one can draw false equivalences between the parties

      Are you sure he wasn’t just giving permission?

    • That was a crazy moment. Halperin was just leanin’ back in his chair on his elbow like he do and the syllables out of his mouth where as smarmy as ever. But they were the opposite of the typical bullshit “both sides do it” conventional wisdom! And for him to do that is like Hamlet just picking up a fork one dinner and straight murdering his uncle.

      I wonder if people just hate Romney with enough concentrated bile to override the normal careerist calculations.

        • Yeah Marcotte used the twitter to hammer on that Klein article too.

          But I don’t really see that specific article as an indicative example of these kinds of problems. His opening frame isn’t really “I have to make a false equivalence among these incongruous things so I don’t get yelled at” it’s “I want to avoid doing a Buzzfeed article that’s just empty calories and write about the actual facts of Ryan’s speech”. And that article really goes a long way toward saying the entire Republican platform is a rickety tower of rusted aluminum built on shifting sand.

          In as much as he didn’t recognize the historical level of mendacity in Ryan’s speech, that’s indicative of a similar problematic dynamic. It’s not really clear from the piece whether that’s the case though.

          What I think is actually going on among slimy centrist types is that there’s a vague understanding that these policies are such weak bullshit if they use their normal centrist analysis tropes they get results that sound like gibberish. So there’s a tentative consensus around treating the Simpson-Bowles commission as the lost sixth book of the Pentateuch, which is a position that allows both the normal bashing of center-right Democratic proposals for being written in bong residue and the crazy new spectacle of calling Republican proposals “radical”.

          I mean shit. Halperin, Doug Schoen . . . something is happening.

        • Cody says:

          Honestly, when your pieces starts with

          “I wanted to bend over backwards to be fair”

          I think you know you’re not being fair than, are you? Do they bend over backwards to be fair to Democrats? “Well the Democrats said the truth, but to be fair I’m going to just go all out and say they’re Gods” or something?

          • In the context of an underling coming to him with a Buzzfeed-type pitch, and his other stated desire to just get at the facts be they what they may, and the actual rest of the column which goes well beyond the speech to criticize almost the entire Republican apparatus for being based on dishonesty and double-talk it’s pretty clear he’s not “bending over backwards” to avoid getting yelled at or to advance his career.

            He’s “bending over backwards” to drive him and his staff to avoid the quick ‘n dirty analysis and to get at a more nuanced and truthful look at what’s going on.

            Really this is not the hill to die on. There is no shortage of targets.

  3. howard says:

    according to ed kilgore – who has been outstanding at tracking some of the nuances of republican right-wing speak – ryan’s shout out to those who “cannot defend themselves” wasn’t a lie about his commitment to the safety net, it was a dog whistle about his commitment to ending abortion rights.

  4. Marc says:

    I’m surprised by your conclusion (that this won’t change the treatment of Ryan). We’re seeing front-page articles about Ryan lying in places like the NY Times and LA Times, and it’s being raised bluntly on TV news. I think that they are facing a major backlash, with a balance taboo being shattered. The key tell will be the coverage of the DNC, and whether they need to worship the balance God by scouring for false equivalences.

    It’s actually pretty common for people to have their reputations changed by presidential campaigns. It’s a different spotlight than the one that power players typically find themselves in.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      For example, Will Saletan, previously taken in by the Granny Starver, suddenly discovered this week that Ryan is not the pure tribune of austerity that haunts his wetdreams and “broke up” with him.

      Ryan’s mythical reputation for seriousness and intelligence is clearly one of the reasons he was put on a ticket. And changing that reputation will take a lot of political effort. But it can happen.

  5. TT says:

    To take away what meager dignity and security an ordinary individual may have in order to feed the endless appetite of the super-affluent, and then get those ordinary individuals to not only support such a program but to denounce anyone who tries to stop and reverse it, is an astounding political trick. That Ryan has managed to get this far peddling such a brazen con speaks far more about the priorities and mindset of the press and elite opinion makers than it does about his alleged political skills.

  6. David M. Nieporent says:

    Speaking of “hard truths,” the idea that there are “50 million Americans” without health insurance isn’t one of them. Now, if you said 50 million people living in America, most of whom are American, who were without health insurance for some period of time, even as short as a day, that might have been closer to the truth.

    Relatedly, the very biggest untruth in the whole speech was when he pretended to believe that “[t]he truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.”

    Society != government. And, yes, as Howard notes, it’s probably a reference to abortion anyway.

  7. DanMulligan says:

    Ryan’s “interview” with Pelley of CBS last night was so telling. Hardly an in your face interviewer, to say the least, but when he pointed out to Ryan the reasons that Moody’s gave — in writing — for downgrading the US debt, Ryan just flat out lied and he did it instantaneously. After being read the direct quote, he immediately just said no, that’s wrong, I know those guys …. WTF?

    I have cross examined many a liar in my day — he is on my top 5 of all time.

  8. Matt says:

    Based on previous statements from fellow GOPers, we know exactly what Paul Ryan means by “protecting” people who can’t care for themselves – he means to “protect” them from what he believes is the terrible, soul-sucking Jeebus-destroying awfulness that is government assistance. In Randroid-land, better to die for lack of medical care than to accept assistance – well, at least until the Randroid in question is sick…

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