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Stagecraft over substance

<p>&lt;p&gt;When we last heard from Paul Ryan on Medicare policy, his rhetoric had descended into gibberish: &amp;quot;So the score now stands at: Ryan says he
Stagecraft over substance
Stagecraft over substance

When we last heard from Paul Ryan on Medicare policy, his rhetoric had descended into gibberish: "So the score now stands at: Ryan says he wouldn't have cut Medicare. Then Obama made those cuts. Then Ryan voted to reverse them. Then he decided to bring them back in the Republican budget. Now he opposes them and thinks they hurt seniors."

As Rachel noted on the show on Friday, Ryan scheduled a trip to a Florida retirement community -- with his mother, no less -- to give his new-and-incoherent message a trial run with an elderly audience. How'd it go? Well, let's just say Orwell would have been proud.

Ryan spoke at a community called The Villages -- one of the most Republican-dominated areas in the entire United States -- where the right-wing congressman wouldn't have to worry about a skeptical audience, since Republican sycophants would cheer his every word. Indeed, the handful of Democrats at The Villages were told in advance that they were not allowed to protest, and if Republicans disapproved of their clothing, the voters would be removed from the premises. Democrats weren't even allowed to use nearby venues with featured speakers.

With dissent stifled, Ryan stood in front of a large banner -- with all-caps lettering that read, "Protect And Strengthen Medicare" -- and a podium with the same text. The fact that Ryan intends to neither protect nor strengthen Medicare apparently didn't matter. I half-expected Ryan to start assuring the audience that "ignorance is strength," just to test the boundaries.

And then there was the speech itself.

In a campaign stop at The Villages Saturday -- a massive retirement community in central Florida known for its Republican leanings -- Paul Ryan delivered a speech aimed at reassuring the retiree audience that their Medicare would be safe under a Mitt Romney administration and warning that it's in grave danger under a second term of President Obama. [...]"When I think about Medicare, it's not just a program," Ryan, whose mother -- a snowbird who spends part of the year at another Florida retirement home -- was in tow. "It's not just a program, it's not just a bunch of numbers. It's what my mom relies on. It's what my grandma had.""We have to keep that guarantee," Ryan said. He called the Medicare for current seniors "a promise we have to keep."

How did Ryan defend his plan to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher scheme? He didn't. Instead, the vice presidential hopeful simply presented himself as the champion of socialized health insurance for seniors, while pretending the actual Medicare advocate -- President Obama -- wants to undercut the program he supports. Indeed, Ryan walked through a series of talking points, each more inaccurate than the last.

It was a perfectly lovely event intended to pull off a carefully-crafted deception.