Home / General / But He Tells HARD TRUTHS!



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.”

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  • James E Powell

    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

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

      • Jesse Levine

        Tweety should get some points for trying to atone this time around, but nothing can ever undo what he wrought in ’99-00

        • RhZ

          And in my view, nothing can ever repair what A Sullivan did in 2001-2002.

          Just saying. I admire a man who refuses to forgive.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      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

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

      • James E Powell

        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

      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.

      • Leeds man

        Just like Chris Hedges. Truth doesn’t play very well in “American Idol” world.

  • 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

      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.

          • liberal

            … treating the Simpson-Bowles commission as the lost sixth book of the Pentateuch…


          • Boudleaux

            Right. But it’s a long way from an actual “election.” They can maintain that shred of credibility now and still leap into the tank for the plutocrats later.

            • Yeah, the novelty of what’s happening may be provoking an overreaction.

              Still. At least the novelty is happening.

          • I think the piece’s take on the article is too harsh, too.

            But the headline nails it – they lied so much that even the slimy centrist types feel compelled to call them out.

        • Cody

          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.

  • 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.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Ah, probably right.

    • sharculese

      Maybe it’s because I work in abortion policy, but that came off less as a dog whistle and more as a clarion call.

      • DrDick

        Now that Howard has pointed it out, I would definitely agree that this was an air raid siren to the forced birthers.

      • Yeah, the rhetoric around it was all about natural law, and protecting the weak…. nothing subtle except for the fakeout pivot away.

  • Marc

    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

      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.

      • Yes, though he “broke up” with Ryan in a way that pretty much guarantees he’ll fall, and fall hard, for the next Teller of Hard Truths who speaks to his wet dreams. Because people who defend Medicare are spoiled entitlement brats, you know. Also, abortion remains icky.

        • Holden Pattern

          Well, a lot of young women keep falling for the bad boys until they grow up. Wait, what? Will Saletan is a MAN? In his late 40’s?

          Oh, well, he’s just a dipshit then.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Absolutely, Michael. I don’t think that Lord Saletan’s cooling on Ryan speaks particularly well of Saletan.

          But what it does suggest is that Ryan is not so made-of-Teflon that the huge mancrush that the media has built up for him cannot be lost during this campaign.

      • mark f

        I really like the idea of someone spooging the bed over a haunting dream. David Lynch, maybe.

  • TT

    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.

  • David M. Nieporent

    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.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yes, fair enough — he believes in expressing compassion by compelling women to carry pregnancies to term, and after a baby is born they can both go fuck themselves if they’re not heirs to a construction business or something.

    • Malaclypse

      Speaking of “hard truths,” the idea that there are “50 million Americans” without health insurance isn’t one of them.


      • Stag Party Palin

        Damn you and your Flying Fingers!

        • Malaclypse

          As long as we agree on the basic premise that Davey is either lying, stupid, or (most likely) both.

          • DrDick

            All of the above.

    • Stag Party Palin

      WTF? Doing your Paul Ryan impersonation? According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 50 million had no health insurance in 2009. And the percentage of uninsured Americans under 65 is steadily going up. According to CBS News, during 2010 59 million were without insurance at some point.

      I suspect “Nieporent” is Croation for “Lying fuck.”

      • Scott Lemieux

        Yeah, but they’re moochers and parasites, not Real Americans who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps by overcoming the hardscrabble existence of being the son of a governor and auto executive. So David’s data is fake but accurate!

        • BigHank53

          Real Americans don;t have pre-existing conditions. Or lifetime caps. Or congenital…oh, fuck it. It’s Nieporent.

    • CheezWhiz

      And so your corollary is that government has no place in society, right? Ryan is not lying if he believes that government has no role in society. Health care is an individual responsibility. The (deserving) poor should be helped by the local community not the jack-booted thugs of government. Salvation ala-mode and a cup of tea.

      I’d have respect for conservatives who would say this in public, but that’s not how you win national elections.

      • Malaclypse

        Health care is an individual responsibility.

        Luckily, there are no such things as a communicable disease, or herd immunity, because if there were, your statement would be very, very stupid.

        • Cody

          It’s only stupid if you assume they plan on actually helping people this way.

          • Malaclypse

            No, no, it is stupid because when your waiter in your expensive restaurant has drug-resistant TB, and has never seen a physician about that persistent cough, and is working because s/he has no sick days, then the conservative belief that health care is a matter of individual responsibility is really gonna bite you in the ass.

            • DrDick

              Or better still when the cooks or wait staff have cholera or typhoid.

      • Boudleaux

        Props for the Jethro Tull reference.

        • Joseph Slater

          Hey, Aqualung!

      • Leeds man

        Salvation ala-mode and a cup of tea.

        Thanks for that. I was wondering what to YouTube. Next up, Pibroch (Cap in Hand).

  • DanMulligan

    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.

    • Whoever directed that segment is a saint

      Between the angle and the lighting they made Ryan look like a sociopathic mongoose

  • Matt

    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…

    • Malaclypse

      No, someone upthread called it – those who cannot care for themselves are, by definition, fetuses.

      • Holden Pattern

        I’m just waiting for another Dred Scott call-out.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Yeah, was really disappointed we didn’t get that one — maybe he’s saving it for the debates.

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