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.