TAMPA — Maybe it’s unfair to say so because former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice didn’t have to carry any water as a member of the Republican ticket. But her speech to the Republican National Convention was more serious and, yes, more presidential than any other speech on Wednesday night. She outshined Paul Ryan.
Yes, I disagreed with many things Rice said, and there was a hole in the speech where the word “Iraq” should have been. But it was more the speech of a potential chief executive than Ryan’s was.
The most striking aspect of what Ryan said was what he didn’t say. This was not the Ryan of blueprints and budget proposals. Ryan sought to bury his budget for electoral purposes tonight, though you can be sure it will be unearthed at the Democratic National Convention next week.
And he has clearly picked up the Romney campaign’s habit of playing fast and loose with facts. For example, he declared of President Obama, “He 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.”
Somehow, Ryan said not a word about the fact that he was himself a member of the commission and that he voted against its report, one reason it did not get the votes it needed to for adoption.
Ryan also quoted Obama as saying in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. in 2008, “I believe that if our government is there to support you . . . this plant will be here for another hundred years.”
Ryan added: “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. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”
There was no mention of that it was the auto rescue that Obama proposed and Romney opposed that kept GM alive. Worse, he implied that the plant shut down in the Obama years. But GM announced the plant closure before Obama took office. An Associated Press story from June 20, 2008 reported, “GM will close the plant by 2010 as it changes its focus from larger vehicles to more fuel-efficient ones.”
Then there was Ryan’s comment on the stimulus: “It was President Obama’s first and best shot at fixing the economy, at a time when he got everything he wanted under one-party rule. It cost $831 billion -- the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal government.” Actually, Obama had to compromise the stimulus down to $787 billion to win over three Republican votes in the Senate and by no means got “everything he wanted.” And a third of the stimulus went to tax cuts, not “expenditures.”
Oh, yes, and PolitiFact has rated the Romney-Ryan claims about Obama’s supposed Medicare cuts — “$716 billion, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama,” Ryan said tonight — as “mostly false.”
Other critics have gone farther.
I point to these specifics in part because it was remarkable to have a vice presidential nomination speech containing so many questionable claims. But these factual issues also stood out because the speech had little lift, except to the partisans in the convention hall whose cheers carried Ryan along — and will probably help him get some better reviews than this one.