It was, by any reasonable standards, a staggering, staggering lie. Here’s Paul Ryan about Barack 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.
“They.” “Them.” “Them.” Those words are lies. Because Paul Ryan was on that commission. “Came back with an urgent report.” That is a lie. The commission never made any recommendations for Barack Obama to support or oppose. Why not? Because the commission voted down its own recommendations. Why? Because Paul Ryan, a member of the commission, voted it down and successfully convinced the other House Republicans on the commission to vote it down.
That wasn’t the only bit of mendacity – lazy mendacity, incredibly lazy mendacity – in Ryan’s speech. Twitter lit up as soon as he started telling the story of the Janesville auto plant that Barack Obama didn’t save – a plant that, it turns out, closed before Obama was president. And of course there’s the infamous cuts to Medicare that Ryan lambasted Obama for without happening to mention that those very same cuts were in Paul Ryan’s own budget. Yes: absolutely everything in Obamacare is an abomination, says Paul Ryan, except for (as he forgets to mention) the cuts to Medicare that he supports – and yet he still singles that part out to use as an attack.
It isn’t even true in some symbolic or abstract way. The real truth is that Paul Ryan completely rejects the approach of that commission – because it includes tax increases along with spending cuts – while Barack Obama has, while not endorsing the exact plan that Ryan shot down, basically endorsed the commission’s approach. Nor was this a side point; Ryan's complaint about Obama on the deficit was absolutely central to his case against the president.
And then there’s the logic of the whole thing. As Seth Masket said, it all comes down to arguing “we must cut entitlements! Obama cutting entitlements is un-American.” There’s also, as many were pointing out, the plain fact that until January 2009 Paul Ryan faithfully supported all the tax cuts and spending increases which created the deficit problem he’s been so concerned about since January 2009.
But really, the proper response to a speech like this isn’t to carefully analyze the logic, or to find instances of hypocracy; it’s to call the speaker out for telling flat-out lies to the American people. Paul Ryan has had what I’ve long thought was an undeserved good reputation among many in the press and in Washington. It shouldn’t survive tonight’s speech.
By Jonathan Bernstein