In fact, until Ryan showed up in the traditional role of a vice president attack dog, my impression was that, given the nasty, brutish attacks by both sides in this campaign, the Republicans were generally on good behavior.
The first night was a bit odd, since it was devoted to the political exploitation of a single Obama gaffe — “You didn’t build that” — the Republicans blatantly misrepresent. The theme was so overdone, with virtually every speaker making reference to it, that it may have actually diluted the impact of the attack.
Ryan was so quickly labeled a fibber by the Obama campaign that one suspects it was a deliberate effort to tear down his reputation as a policy expert, similar to using attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital record to undermine his reputation as a skilled business executive.
But worst convention speech ever? Please.
The gold standard for convention speeches filled with misrepresentations remains the speech of then-Sen. Zell Miller (R-Ga.) at the 2004 GOP convention attacking Democratic nominee John Kerry. Miller, who as a Democrat delivered the keynote address at the 1992 convention that nominated Bill Clinton, delivered a slashing attack that was breathtaking in its dishonesty.
Miller accused Kerry of voting against a vast array of weapons systems, making it appear as if Kerry had repeatedly voted to kill urgently needed tools for the military — when in reality the charge was based on a single vote nearly 15 years earlier. More important, these were weapons that then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney (and the vice president in 2004) had urged Congress to kill. Miller also suggested that a quote Kerry had given to the Harvard Crimson 35 years earlier, when he had just returned from serving in the Vietnam War, represented his current policy toward the United Nations.
Now, that’s a speech for a fact checker! The Washington Post did not have the Fact Checker column then, but it ran a front-page article detailing how he misled viewers with his language.
Four years ago, our colleagues at FactCheck.org catalogued a series of errors and misstatements by John McCain, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin in their speeches. (Joe Biden got a pass.) All of them airbrushed their pasts or mischaracterized their opponents.
Palin, for instance, gave a self-serving account of her support for the “Bridge to Nowhere”— claiming she said “thanks but no thanks”— when in fact she had supported it until it was largely killed by Congress. This is a bigger failure to tell the whole story than Ryan criticizing Obama for doing nothing with the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction recommendation, without noting that he himself voted against the commission report .