A Few Thoughts on Day 2 of the GOP Convention – Paul Ryan Made a Huge Tactical Error

Paul Ryan’s speech was the center of attention last night. He riled up the crowd and went after Obama. What he did not do was stick to the truth. After his speech I have decided that we not only need federally fund elections, but every person running for office should have to swear an oath before every political speech. Speeches should have the legal weight of a deposition. If Ryan would have taken an oath to tell the truth last night, I think we would have heard a very different speech.

As it stands, Ryan made a huge tactical error: In putting Medicare front and center he took a big gamble. Then he stuck Mitt Romney with a bunch of half-truths and at least one real lie that Romney will now  have to try to either walk back or defend if he wants to win on the issue. That’s the tactical error. It’s huge because this issue is key in swing states. Michael Cooper talks about this in today’s NYTimes. He points out that in order to make the case Ryan is making against Obama – you can only tell part of the story. If you tell the whole story – Ryan and the conservatives are on the hook for much of the problem.

The AP has a good fact check article on the speech: The writer concluded that the speech was full of “factual shortcuts.” Here are the three whoppers.

Ryan ripped Obama for shutting down a GM plant in his hometown. The truth is that the plant closed weeks before Obama took office and would probably have stayed open had it lasted through Obama’s aid to the auto industry – which has been a success. That’s a misleading story that begins with a straight up lie, and it’s characteristic of Ryan’s method.

CNN exposed Ryan’s misleading section concerning the debt panel. Ryan said,

“He [Obama] created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing,” Ryan, who served on that panel, told the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.” But what Ryan left out of that jab was that he helped kill the proposed report that commission produced nearly two years ago…Obama never fully embraced the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. But he incorporated some of the recommendations the co-chairs made in a plan he sent to Congress the following April, one that called for a mix of spending reductions and tax hikes… Misleading. Obama didn’t sign onto the Bowles-Simpson recommendations wholeheartedly, but he did take some of their suggestions to Congress in 2011. And Ryan ignores his own role in the failure of the Bowles-Simpson panel.”

The major area where Ryan mislead in his speech is the Medicare issue. The New York Times editorial page today included an article titled “The Vacuum Behind the Slogans.” It says,

“The party that claims to have all the answers on Medicare seemed to have no interest in sharing them with the American people at its convention on Wednesday. The session, devoted to the theme of “We Can Change It,” never went any deeper than that slogan or a few others: Reform Medicare. Strengthen Medicare. Protect Medicare. All without the slightest hint of how that supposed reform or strengthening would take place, regarding that program and many others. “We will not duck the tough issues; we will lead,” said Representative Paul Ryan, in his speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination. “We will not spend four years blaming others; we will take responsibility.” Sounds great, except that the speech ducked the tough issues and blamed others for the problems.”

The AP again:

Ryan’s claim ignores the fact that Ryan himself incorporated the same cuts into budgets he steered through the House in the past two years as chairman of its Budget Committee, using the money for deficit reduction. And the cuts do not affect Medicare recipients directly, but rather reduce payments to hospitals, health insurance plans and other service providers. In addition, Ryan’s own plan to remake Medicare would squeeze the program’s spending even more than the changes Obama made, shifting future retirees into a system in which they would get a fixed payment to shop for coverage among private insurance plans. Critics charge that would expose the elderly to more out-of-pocket costs.

Medicare will be at the center of the fight in the debates. Ryan stuck Romney with some real issues last night in terms of the narrative he’s trying to construct and the facts, or lack thereof, that he used to construct it. What do you think? I see why he did it. Ryan’s Medicare proposal is unpopular in key swing states. The question in my mind is: Can Romney and Ryan win on the medicare issue? I don’t think they can win by 1) misrepresenting Obama’s position, and 2) never offering any details concerning their own.

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • Alan Conwell

    Stop using the AP for fact checks. The AP is part of Obama’s campaign machine. When have you ever fact checked anything Obama says?

    So, who “lied” about Janesville? Ryan’s speech accurately described the plant’s history and status. Read it again:

    ( Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”

    That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. )

    “Locked up and empty” and hanging by a thread. And that’s exactly what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described last fall. FACTS:

    General Motors Co. has committed to reopen its idled plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., and keep its shuttered assembly plant in Janesville on standby status.

    …Since they were shut down in 2009, both the Janesville and Tennessee plants have been on standby status, meaning they were not producing vehicles, but they were not completely shut down.

    In other words, everything Paul Ryan said was true: He pointed to Obama’s own lofty promises about the plant being open for the next “100 years” if he were elected and contrasted it with the reality of a shuttered factory locked up and empty to this day. It was Obama who lied to Janesville workers. Ryan told America the truth.

    National Review’s Henry Payne explains more fully how candidate Obama vowed to those workers in February 2008 that if he became president, prosperity would be theirs. That promise, like everything else with this administration, was fantastical smoke and mirrors:

    “(But) I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this (General Motors) plant will be here for another hundred years,” said Barack Obama in February, 2008, promising UAW workers at GM’s giant, troubled plant in Janesville, Wisc., that he would watch over them if elected president. “When I talk about real change that will make a real difference in the lives of working families, it’s not just the poll-tested rhetoric of a political campaign. It’s the cause of my life. And you can be sure that it will be the cause of my presidency from the very first day I take office.”

    It was just poll-tested rhetoric.

    Before Obama was sworn in, the Janesville plant closed in late 2008, eliminating 6,000 jobs. And by his first day in office, Obama had forgotten the people of Janesville and the big SUVs they used to build. Obama not only didn’t keep his promise to the south Wisconsin town, he pursued an energy policy that rewarded politically connected green investors (see Solyndra and Fisker) while making it harder for Janesville to revive the trucks it once produced.

    Janesville would be forgotten like so many Obama political promises but for one fateful turn of history: Janesville is the hometown of Paul Ryan.

    …Last week, Ryan reminded America of Obama’s failed promise.

    “I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open — one more broken promise,” Ryan said. “One of the reasons that plant got shut down is $4 gasoline. You see, this costs jobs. The president’s terrible energy policies are costing us jobs.”

    Another reason was $70-an-hour UAW wage-benefit rates compared with Toyota’s $48 hourly wage. Ryan’s speech provides some insight into the conservative policy wonk’s complex political background: a popular, six-term conservative who represents blue and white collars in a politically split Wisconsin district, who lobbied for government help for Janesville, and who voted for Barack Obama’s auto bailout.

    But the Janesville closing is more revealing of Obama.

    His liberal media allies were quick to pounce on Ryan’s comments. “GM stopped production at its Janesville, Wisconsin production facility in 2008, when George W. Bush was still president,” barked the Daily Kos, filling in Ryan’s obvious blank (true enough, unfriendly-to-Detroit-truck mpg laws are also the legacy of George “We’re Addicted to Oil” Bush).

    But the Left misses the point. Under Obamanomics, the government picks winners and losers. Obama promised Janesville would be a winner even as his economic policies guaranteed it would always be a loser. Indeed, Obama’s whole 2008 Janesville speech is a sobering road map for the job-killing policies he has put in place as president.

    Were Obama serious about American manufacturing, he would allow energy companies to explore (Gulf drilling moratorium), would facilitate bringing those resources to market (blocking the Keystone pipeline), allow companies to hire employees without massive medical costs (Obamacare), encourage flexible, non-union shops (demonizing Boeing, the UAW bailout), and stop forcing companies to make products consumers don’t want (electric cars, windmills, etc.).

    Then Janesville might still have promise.

  • Scott Stone

    Lots to chew on but lets start with the easiest retort. The GM plant closed in April of 2009.

  • Tim Suttle

    “Stop using the AP for fact checks. The AP is part of Obama’s campaign machine.” – that’s pretty funny, Alan. If you are trying to make the point that the president did not follow effectively support the auto industry, I think it’s a pretty tough case to make. He’s made a bijillion mistakes, but the auto bailout is seen as a successful cooperative effort between government and industry. The auto industry is adding jobs & I don’t think the R’s can win on that issue. It seems unlikely that they will try.

    To your point: “Obamanomics, the government picks winners and losers.” The government always picks winners and losers, whether by action or inaction. I’ll never stick up for the president & say he’s done it all well. In fact, the farthest I am willing to go is to say that I am only slightly (very slightly), more comfortable with the President’s economic choices of “winners” than those Paul Ryan seems intent on making. So I get your frustration & know it has merit. But it is impossible for the gov’t not to choose winners & losers. As a Christian I believe the gospel compels me to support the losers – no matter who they are – over and against both parties (D’s and R’s). I believe that Ryan will pick winners from the top 1%. I think the president will, too. But I think the president will try to see that the other 99% get to win a little more often. That is, only if Republicans can cease being the party of “no” and find a way to compromise. If Obama wins, I think they’ll have to.

    Overall, the narrative that Paul Ryan is advancing is false. The GOP strategy of the past 4 years has been no compromise, stalling government, lowering it’s approval, and fomenting frustration. By thwarting any sort of compromise or progress, the GOP intentionally fostered, stoked, and created animosity toward the federal government precisely so that they could run use it to run against Obama right now. Paul Ryan helped call that play & helped pull it off. To lay it all at the feet of Democrats/Obama is a blatant lie & distortion. There are plenty of things you can lay at the feet of the president, but unwillingness to compromise isn’t one of them. It may end up being a winning strategy for the GOP, but it’s based in a false narrative.

    • Alan Conwell

      Yeah the Democrats are big on compromise, aren’t they. Look at all the compromise they made on Obamacare. And look at the winners Obama picks, Solar Industries, United Auto Works, Teacher Unions, anyone who will contribute to his campaign. Look at all the dealerships he shut down and the bond holders he left holding the bag. A private bankruptcy reorganization would have saved the taxpayer billions of dollars. GM still owes the government billions of dollars, great success.

      • Tim Suttle

        Actually it’s called the Affordable Care Act, and most of it is co-opted from Republican ideas.

        • Alan Conwell

          I don’t care how many times you tell me it’s called the Affordable Care Act, it’s still Obamacare. And by the way, after OBAMACARE was passed, my Blue Cross premiums went up over $3000 per year, not down the $2500 Obama said they would. When I called Blue Cross to find out why my premiums were going up so much, they said it was because of the increased coverage they now have to provide to me because of the AFFORDABLE CARE ACT. And if this plan was co-opted from Republican ideas, then those Republican were morons. Government run healthcare is a terrible idea. And don’t try to tell me it isn’t government run.

  • Tim Suttle

    Also, Alan – I’ve always been a Republican by party affiliation. I’m a conservative guy by nature. I’m not a sycophantic Obama supporter. I will be blogging through the DNC convention as well and I would imagine that I’ll be calling out their garbage as well – Lord knows there will be plenty of it. But the stalling government, frustration w/no compromise, and Obama as do nothing president narrative is such a crock.

  • Scott Stone

    Regarding R’s obstruction I’ll just repost a previous comment.

    Scott Stone
    5 hrs, 31 mins ago
    One other quick note. I really object to the political narrative you hear in the press, which is the same as you express. We are not being “held hostage”. The D’s own the senate and the executive branch. The Pres, for the first two years of his administration had EVERYTHING. Filibuster proof majorities. Fiscal policy is a lagging indicator, which means fiscal policy creates results a year or two down the road unlike monetary policy which is almost instantaneous. We are where we are as a direct result of policies implemented by the Obama administration. That is an undeniable fact.
    Like I said previously, I like the guy. But I also liked Jimmy Carter. It is far too easy to blame the right and say we are being “held hostage ” by the extreme right wing of the party. President Obama has to take responsibility for where we are. When is the last time you heard a President, in his fourth year, continue to blame the last President.
    Now I will admit there are some nut jobs in the house but no crazier than Pelosi. Reid in the senate hasn’t introduced a budget in almost 4 years. Once again I think it is a false narrative to just blame the R’s in the house for everything. It’s the easy way out.

    • Tim Suttle

      Hey Scott, You know I dig your point of view, but I think the hostage metaphor works. The language actually comes from Mitch McConnell: “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.” [WP via Political Wire] He also said, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” That’s their attitude and strategy. It’s working, too.

      Also, not for nothing, but Obama got an awful lot done in his first two years: Healthcare Reform, Bailout of the Auto Industry, Economic Stimulus, Wall Street Regulation, Consumer Protection for Credit Card Companies, Ended the War in Iraq, and all this while staving off economic calamity. Don’t forget that much of what is driving the deficit has to do with Bush’s economic bail out money, too (TARP, etc. http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3490). Since then he’s not been quite as productive, but still passed 1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, overhauled food safety laws, got Bin Laden, and his economic policies are growing the economy slowly.

      If you are willing to read some other ideas, here are a just a couple of sources that have shaped mine – both written by Republicans.

      David Frum: When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

      Mike Lofgren: Goodbye to All That

      An Interesting Interview with Lofgren

  • scott stone

    Yes it is the ACA, not Obamacare. And to be technically correct, they aren’t the Bush tax cuts. They are the current federal income tax rates. The minute the President extended them they became the Obama tax rates. He extended them, he owns them. I’m just trying to be consistent.

  • scott stone

    I’ll concede your point on the hostage metaphor to a point but I really think that metaphor is over used in reference to conservatives. Just as the “war on…” you fill in the blank. It is nauseating. In regards to the quote by McConnell wanting to make President Obama a 1 term president. You aren’t that naive to think that Pelosi and Reid didn’t have the same position, just not verbalized. Every opposing party wants the president to have just one term.
    Now on to the cbpp artical. Dude, that’s like sourcing moveon.org. Study that chart one time and think about it. It is a very deceptive chart. They are pushing buttons. It is a completely erroneous metric. In 2019 they aggregate the Bush tax cuts. The chart shows $800B contributing to the deficit in that one year, which is the aggregate of the 10 year projection. The graph is a lie.
    I’m not an economist by trade, it’s just what I did my grad work in 20 years ago, but I can spot a lie pretty quickly in articles and charts such as this and there are quite a few falsehoods in this piece.
    Look, my whole point is this. Both sides are horrible. We have a completely dysfunctional government. I want someone to stand up and take some responsibility and the current administration has no interest in that. Madeleine Albright, at a recent conference, was asked how long they were going to continue to blame the past administration. Her response: “Forever”. Now that’s leadership for you.
    And to be honest my gripe isn’t even with the president that much. My animosity is towards the climate that got him into the office. We were told that this guy was unlike anyone else. He was a God. Jake Tapper even stated that he thought the press was what pushed Obama over the top (I disagree. McCain was a terrible candidate). 99.999% of all Americans do not have the skill set to be a good president. That’s not a knock on those people, it’s just a fact of life. We have a president that does not have the skill set to be effective but we were told by the press how magical this guy was.
    His signature piece of legislation is the ACA. I’m sorry but this is a horrible bill. Remember, I’m way to the left when it comes to health care. We should have single payer universal coverage for everyone. The ACA is bloated and will be ineffectual. Price will rise, and not all will be covered. It set universal coverage back years. If President Obama would have been a pragmatic, effective president he would have focused all his attention to the economy and jobs. With a strong rebound in our economic environment and a dramatically improved labor market, this guy could have gotten the world. He would have been able to go for single payer and been able to steamroll any R opposition.

    • Tim Suttle

      “Both sides are horrible. We have a completely dysfunctional government.” I agree with that. I think Lofgren’s article paints bleaker picture of the far right. Both sides are horrible, but we are worse (I’m a Republican, have I ever told you that?).

      That’s the 2nd time you’ve articulated your disgust w/the sort of Messiah-like way Obama came into power. I’ve just never felt that, or paid attention to that. I always just thought he was a pretty typical politician. I’ve never understood the intense hatred of Obama. Lofgren says some of it is latent racism – could be. I think it’s just how the right plays ball. They hated Clinton in the same way.

      You may be right that ACA is a terrible bill, but let’s fix it, not repeal it. How many times did the house vote to repeal it? 33 I think? You know how much time they could have spent amending the law, working with d’s, change it, make it better?

      I think Obama has the skills to be a good president. I do not think that any Democrat can be an effective leader with the current spate of GOP leaders.

  • scott stone

    I don’t understand the hated either, and I acknowledge it is there. Reminds me of the “Bush derangement syndrome” which still exists. Mention Cheney’s name in a liberal environment and watch half of the people stroke out.
    You can’t amend a bill as massive as the ACA and be effectual. I have to disagree with you. It needs to be repealed and replaced with a single payer universal system. I’m a compromiser but on this issue I’ll give no quarter. Amending the ACA would be like amending CU. When something is wrong it’s just wrong.

    • Tim Suttle

      Yeah, I see Cheney in the same light as I see Pelosi & Reid, McConnell, and honestly Paul Ryan as well. I think Boehner is a pragmatist and would be glad to compromise if the far right wasn’t all over him the moment he thinks about it. I think Mitt & Obama are very similar. Both could be decent executives, but neither will do the right thing because they can’t. Romney will do what the far right wants. Obama will not be able to do anything.

      …point me to some sources on your disgust with the ACA & I’ll read up on your point of view.

  • scott stone

    Lots of good stuff right here. I like the source. It gets to the heart of the problem with the ACA.
    Why can’t we insure everyone in a country as rich as the USA? Drives me crazy. This issue may be the one that I have the greatest disagreement with republicans.

    http://www.pnhp.org/news/2012/june/%E2%80%98health-law-upheld-but-health-needs-still-unmet%E2%80%99-national-doctors-group

    • Tim Suttle

      thanks – I’ll spend some time with it.

  • Tim Suttle
  • scott stone

    From the article:
    Premiums: Romney said that “health insurance premiums are higher” under Obama. But premiums have been going up for years. Experts say the federal health care law was responsible for only a small part of the recent hike in employer-based plans.

    The average cost of an employer-sponsored family insurance plan went up 9% from 2010 to 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual survey. Several independent experts told us that rising medical costs were still the main culprit. The health care law, they said, was responsible for 1 point to 3 points of that 9-point increase.

    I’d like to know who these experts are they cite. The real issue is that we were told that costs would go down. Once again a little nugget that supports my position that ACA must go.
    This reporter sure spent a great deal of time “spinning”. Some of these fact checkers need to be fact checked. I wonder how aggressive the press will be in “fact checking” the DNC.
    There are a plethora of points in this article that I could take to task but that would be tedious and unproductive. A skeptical eye is certainly needed when reading analysis. Reporters don’t report, they promote. They promote a position and create a narrative. How does the AP get away with reporting a GM plant closing before Obama was president and it is so easy to disprove?

  • Scott Stone

    I’m responding very specifically to the charge that Romney was incorrect or misleading when he said health premiums were up. I’m using the article that you cite and am using their words. Premiums went up. Part of the increase is from the ACA. It’s right in the article. Why is this an issue? The author leads one to think that Romney is making things up.

  • Scott Stone

    And by the way, I never cite Fox or MSNBC.


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