The verdict for Paul Ryan’s convention speech has been close to unanimous. It was a strong articulation of conservative values and a forceful indictment of President Obama. It was peppered with excellent lines, and Ryan’s earnest demeanor will likely play well to swing voters.
That said, everyone also agrees that it was a stunning display of dishonesty. In the twelve hours since Ryan gave his address, Slate, Bloomberg, New York Magazine, the Boston Globe, the New Republic, the New Yorker and the Associated Press have run scatching critiques.
The leading fact checkers — Politifact, Factcheck.org and the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler — have followed suit. The former gives a “false” rating to Ryan’s claim that Obama broke his promise to keep a Wisconsin General Motors factory from closing, and a “mostly false” rating to his claim that Obama “funneled” $716 billion from Medicare “at the expense of the elderly.” Both Kessler and Factcheck.org took a more comprehensive approach, detailing Ryan’s claims and showing the extent to which few were based in reality.
His claim that the stimulus failed to help Americans? False. $230 billion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act took the form of tax cuts, to say nothing of the more than two million jobs saved by the stimulus, and its role in keeping us out of a second Great Depression.
His claim that Obama is responsible for the U.S’ credit downgrade? False. The Standard & Poor’s downgrade was the result of brinksmanship from the congressional GOP, including Ryan, refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Obama would agree to massive spending cuts. It was this political dysfunction that led S&P to lower our credit rating.
The biggest whopper: Ryan’s attack on Obama for ignoring the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission. The commission never made a recommendation, because Ryan — who sat on the committee — voted against the report, blocking congressional action.
It’s worth reading each of the fact checks and critiques, if only to get a broad sense of the mendacity that now defines the Republican campaign against Obama. The media has begun to catch on, but there’s no evidence that this will matter — the Romney campaign is all but indifferent to shame or correction (as a Romney aide put it, “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers”).
Given the extent to which voters say they care about integrity, it’s possible that they will turn against Romney and Ryan for their dishonesty, but I have my doubts. Just enough people are unhappy with the economy that Romney and Ryan could win, regardless of their dishonesty. It’s hard to say exactly what this would mean for the future of American politics, but it isn’t good.