Paul Ryan takes you for an idiot

Updated
Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan delivers his speech last night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan delivers his speech last night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Paul Ryan’s speaking style seems old-fashioned, a bit halted, and somewhat unnatural. Perhaps it betrays a lack of comfort with the object Republicans so repetitively make the butt of jokes, the TelePrompter. I can’t fault him for that, just the same as I can’t fault Ann Romney, whose inexperience with it gave her less-than-spectacular speech a touch of authenticity on Tuesday night. With Ryan, it only indicated that his posture and speaking manner shared a mendacity with the words escaping his lips.

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic, a prior “MHP” guest, was less concerned with showmanship than the lies:

At least five times, Ryan misrepresented the facts. And while none of the statements were new, the context was. It’s one thing to hear them on a thirty-second television spot or even in a stump speech before a small crowd. It’s something else entirely to hear them in prime time address, as a vice presidential nominee is accepting his party’s nomination and speaking to the entire country.

Perhaps the most egregious of the five lies Ryan spoke, all of which Cohn lists and debunks, involves the passage saddling President Obama with the blame for a GM plant closing in his hometown of Janesville, WI, even though he wasn’t yet President. That is something that, in a political world that made sense, would have embarrassed the candidate to the degree of minor scandal. Last night in Tampa, it was one of the leadoff anecdotes, and earned the defense of his (tearful) hometown governor afterwards on msnbc.

Our own Steve Benen pivoted off of Cohn’s post with an excellent observation of his own. Emphasis mine:

Paul Ryan, the man the media and Republican celebrate as a bold truth-teller, told one lie after another, demonstrating a near-pathological disdain for honesty. His speech presented no substantive ideas, no policy solutions, and no bold positions on any key issue, but it included enough falsehoods to choke a fact-checker – all because he assumes you’re a fool and journalists are too incompetent to separate fact from fiction.

And there’s the rub, folks.

Debunking Ryan seems to be the order of the morning amongst responsible media members. I’d recommend Joan Walsh, Dan Amira, Aviva Shen, and particularly our own Steve Kornacki in addition to Benen and Cohn. (Dude, even Fox News is calling it “deceptive.”)

I call attention to Kornacki’s piece because he notes the many journalists who last night turned into starburst-afflicted pundits, breaking down a convention night like it’s a sporting event, and valuing the rhetorical power of Ryan’s delivery over his truthfulness. That seems like, to be kind, a misjudgment of priorities. More from Kornacki:

The point here isn’t to condemn these news organizations and others that approached the speech similarly. Many of them made an effort to document at least some of Ryan’s dishonesty in their reports. Some found other ways to make the point; the New York Times, for instance, also features an editorial excoriating Ryan and other convention speakers for ignoring or fudging the details of their plans and records, and the Associated Press provided a helpful fact-check.

But the reality, of course, is that most casual voters don’t read editorials and fact-checker columns and probably don’t get much beyond the headline, picture and (maybe) first paragraph or two of a news story about a speech like Ryan’s. The Romney campaign is clearly counting on this…

This is why Ryan seems poised to get away with the deception he peddled last night. He and the Romney campaign, as Greg Sargent has been arguing, have no incentive to give up this tactic until and unless major, down-the-middle news organizations decide to make their dishonesty the focus of their reporting. It’s only at that point that the noise generated might begin to affect casual voters, which is all the Romney team is really worried about.

These lies shouldn’t be noted out of any agenda, or mere disagreement. For one, I just don’t particularly enjoy being lied to, and I’m shocked that others in the media seem to take it so well. I get why Kornacki gives them a bit of a pass, but given the Romney campaign’s record of lying, I’m surprised voters put up with it.

This strategy is Republican boilerplate at this point; it’s unsurprising, given what might actually happen if they were somehow infused with truth serum and compelled to run on their actual track record and ideas. Instead, we get this. In that respect, Ryan was hardly alone. Mike Huckabee made a sexist joke about Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, then perhaps the most outrageous statement of the night. Rand Paul, speaking in front of what looked like a wall of fire, let Supreme Court precedent be damned and declared President Obama’s health reform to be unconstitutional. Even Condoleeza Rice’s more statesman-like address was chock full of nonsense and denial.

But in terms of cool efficiency and sheer quantity, I had thought no one would top the droll Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio in the brazen-lie department last night. Portman’s speech was chock full of distortions and convenient omissions. Yet the Congressman from Wisconsin’s 1st District, placed under the brightest light of the evening, likely outdid him.

We’ll see if the man at the top of the ticket takes it even further tonight.

You’ll find the reaction of our msnbc analysts to Ryan’s speech below, and also after the jump.

 

 

Explore:

Paul Ryan takes you for an idiot

Updated