At a basic level, what bothers me about politicians who lie, especially at a national level, is that the deceptions are insulting. A candidate who knows the truth, but makes a deliberate decision to deceive, is working from the assumption that Americans are suckers.
And last night, Paul Ryan made painfully clear that he thinks we’re all profound idiots who’ll believe an endless string of lies, so long as they’re packaged well and presented with conviction. Jonathan Cohn suggested last night’s address may have been the “most dishonest convention speech” ever delivered, and I can’t think of a close second.
It was a truly breathtaking display of brazen dishonesty. Paul Ryan looked America in the eye and without a hint a shame, lied to our face.
Ryan lied about President Obama’s auto-industry rescue, blaming the administration for a plant closing orchestrated by President Bush. Ryan lied about Medicare, falsely accusing Obama of undermining the system. Ryan lied about the debt downgrade, falsely blaming the president for a downgrade caused by Ryan and congressional Republicans.
Ryan lied about the Simpson-Bowles commission, falsely accusing Obama of walking away from debt reduction, and ignoring the fact that Ryan himself fought to ensure the Simpson-Bowles commission never even released a report. Ryan lied about his plans for the safety net, saying he intends to “protect the weak” when he budget plan intends to gut public investments that benefit the poor.
Ryan lied about the debt, saying Obama “has added more debt than any other president before him,” when the truth is, that was George W. Bush — who added over $5 trillion to the debt thanks in large part to congressional votes cast by Paul Ryan.
Ryan lied about the Recovery Act, calling the stimulus “a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst,” when reality shows the exact opposite. Ryan lied about small businesses, accusing Obama of raising their taxes, when he actually cut their taxes.
Paul Ryan, the man the media and Republican celebrate as a bold truth-teller, told one lie after another, demonstrating a near-pathological disdain for honesty. His speech presented no substantive ideas, no policy solutions, and no bold positions on any key issue, but it included enough falsehoods to choke a fact-checker — all because he assumes you’re a fool and journalists are too incompetent to separate fact from fiction.
Is he right?
Dan Amira called the speech “appallingly disingenuous and shamelessly hypocritical,” but added this gem:
Most of the millions of people who watched the speech on television tonight do not read fact-checks or obsessively consume news 15 hours a day, and will never know how much Ryan’s case against Obama relied on lies and deception. Ryan’s pants are on fire, but all America saw was a barn-burner.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said he counted “seven or eight” claims that “fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute,” but concluded the lies didn’t matter because it was “a powerful speech” that gave Republicans what they “were hoping for.”
CNN’s Erin Burnett added, “There will be issues with some of the facts, but it motivated people.”
Let that sentence roll around in your brain for a moment, and ponder what it means for our country.
Ryan lied uncontrollably, but that’s not terribly important. It undermines our democracy and the basic norms of the American political system, but no one seems to care anymore. Ryan thinks we’re idiots, but his cynicism matters less than the electoral implications.
The United States is better than Paul Ryan’s dishonesty. It has to be. Our future depends on it.