There was once a time when lying in a political speech–and getting called out on it by the media–was shameful or embarrassing.
Now, says Jeff Greenfield, the veteran political analyst and Yahoo News columnist, the media is held in such low regard by Americans that getting called out for lying merely serves to confirm a widespread belief that the “liberal media” has an axe to grind against conservative politicians.
As a result, the whoppers that dominated Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan’s convention speech last night will likely not hurt the candidate’s standing with Republican voters, says Greenfield. Rather, they’ll reinforce the right-wing view that the media is “in the tank” for President Obama.
For those who do care about the truth, though, it’s worth noting that even FOX News described Ryan’s speech as “deceiving.” (The FOX columnist, Sally Kohn, also called the speech “dazzling” and “distracting.” And Ryan did have some wonderful lines, especially one about how the job market is so bad that today’s college graduates have nothing to do but go home to their parents houses and lie on their beds staring at “fading posters” of Obama.)
The descriptions of the speech from other observers, meanwhile, ranged from “factually shaky” to “fibs” to “lies.”
What facts in particular were observers up in arms about?
Well, for starters, there were once again the claims that Obamacare cuts $716 billion of benefits from Medicare and that Paul Ryan wants to preserve Medicare. The truth is that Obamacare reduces payments to hospitals and doctors by $716 billion, not benefits.* Also, far from preserving Medicare, after a 10-year grace period, Romney and Ryan want to radically change it.
Then Ryan blamed S&P’s downgrade of US debt on Obama, when S&P explained explicitly that its downgrade was the result of Congressional Republicans–Ryan included–threatening to cause the country to default.
Then Ryan accused Obama of lying to voters in his home state by promising to keep a GM plant open for “hundreds of years” after he was elected, only to have it closed in the first year. The truth is that GM announced that it was closing the plant before Obama took office.
And so on.
Jeff Greenfield says that none of this will matter to voters, who will just blame the media and its silly “fact-checkers.” And he’s presumably right.
But it’s worth noting that Ryan’s distortions came only one day after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie promised the country that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were leaders who were bold and brave enough to give America the “hard truths” that it so desperately needs to hear (and we do desperately need to hear them).
There were certainly some truths in Ryan’s speech–unemployment, for example, is much higher at this point in the recovery than President Obama said it would be–but there were also some lies.
* This is America, so of course there are many smart folks on both sides. I’ve heard from some smart Ryan defenders who argue strenuously that he did not lie about Medicare or anything else. In the case of Medicare, they say the $716B will reduce benefits because hospitals will opt out of Medicare. That’s possible. The reason I called the statement a lie is that I think the point of both the speech and the ad is to convey the message that Obamacare actually cuts $716B of benefits, which it doesn’t. But there are probably ways in which every word of Ryan’s speech could be interpreted as factually correct.
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