His Republican National Convention speech was stunning for its dishonesty
By Joan Walsh
Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan accepts the nomination as he addresses delegates during the third session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar)
Paul Ryan gave a feisty anti-Obama speech that will have fact-checkers working for days. His most brazen lie accused President Obama of “raiding” Medicare by taking the exact same $716 billion that Ryan and the House GOP notoriously voted to slash. It was stunning.
But that’s not all. He attacked Obama for failing to keep open a Janesville GM plant that closed under Bush in 2008. He hit him for a credit-rating downgrade that S&P essentially blamed on GOP intransigence. He claimed that all taxpayers got from the 2009 stimulus was “more debt,” when most got a tax cut (and the stimulus is known to have saved between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs). He derided the president for walking away from the Simpson Bowles commission deficit-cutting recommendations when Ryan himself, a commission member, voted against those recommendations.
He blamed Obama for a deficit mostly created by programs he himself voted for – from two wars, tax cuts, new Medicare benefits and TARP.
And of course, he riffed on the tired central lie of the GOP convention: that the president said “government gets the credit” for small businesses, not the business owners themselves.
Other than that, it was a great speech.
Interestingly, for all his lies, Ryan didn’t repeat the Romney camp’s false claim that Obama did away with the welfare system’s work requirements. Maybe he ran out of time.
Ryan got off a few good zingers: “College grads shouldn’t have to live out their 20s in childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters.” He didn’t mention that he opposed legislation to keep student loan rates from doubling. His remarks about his childhood were slightly moving. He talked about losing his father at 16, and he called his mother, who went back to school and to work after that, his role model. But he never mentioned the Social Security death benefits that let him go to an out-of-state school. Occasionally he seemed to be going after swing voters, rather than his hard-right base, taking a more in sorrow than anger tone about Obama’s failings. Then he’d mix things up with nastiness and lies.
And when Ryan riffed on the handful of jobs he briefly held, his Ayn Randian roots were clear. “When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life, he said. [Perhaps that’s because he wasn’t; he grew up in a wealthy family.] I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.” That’s straight out of Rand, and ’50s anti-Communist paranoia.
Finally, the man chided by the Catholic Bishops for his anti-poor budget had the audacity to say, “The greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” Ryan’s budget decimates programs for “those who cannot defend or care for themselves.”
The sanctimonious V.P. nominee seems to have forgotten the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not lie.” Ryan believes he can say anything and get away with it.
Joan Walsh is Salon’s editor at large and the author of “What’s the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was.”