Politics

A ‘lie’: A truth that Democrats don’t like

A 'lie': A truth that Democrats don't like

Or as DG Myers tweeted, “at least, a contestable proposition they are too lazy to contest.”

Democrats are energetically attempting to create the perception that Republicans — specifically, Paul Ryan — are running around Tampa making stuff up about Barack Obama (as if that’s necessary). And when I say Democrats, as regrettably cliché as it may sound, I also mean the mainstream media.

The following assertions, for instance, are true:

  • Obama did cut over $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare.
  • The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism.
  • The Janesville, General Motors plant was closed down under Obama (though Ryan made a more nuanced assertion that we’ll cover below)
  • Obama did blow off the bipartisan debt commission.
  • Obama’s waivers do allow for the relaxing of work requirements in welfare reform.

Do some Republican speakers use politically hyperbolic rhetoric on occasion to attack the president on these points? No doubt. Are some of the accusers hypocrites. Sure. Is any of this out of line with traditional political campaign rhetoric? Hardly.

You expect advocates of the president to flail away after Ryan’s highly effective speech. The New Republic asks: “The Most Dishonest Convention Speech … Ever?” “At least five times,” Jonathan Cohn writes, “Ryan misrepresented the facts.” He then goes on to list five irrefutable facts that he finds ideologically distressing. Joan Walsh of MSNBC and Salon also writes of “Paul Ryan’s brazen lies,” as is her fact-challenged way, failing to offer one. Michael Tomasky claims Ryan’s speech was a “Web of Lies” but isn’t kind enough to find one for his column.

But take this Associated Press piece that is, no doubt, being run across the country: “FACT CHECK: Ryan Takes Factual Shortcuts in Speech.”

You know what’s funny about this piece? Not a single item highlighted is a factual shortcut or an untruth. They are simply items that put the president in a bad light. Now, some conclusions Ryan comes to might be contestable or they may make Ryan look like a hypocrite, but none of them are inaccurate.

The “post-truth” age, which James Fallows of the Atlantic refers to, is thriving among Democrats who’ve forsaken debate and have gone into the business by asserting that inconvenient truths are “lies” and using that assertion as a baseline for any debate that follows. Just read Fallows’ piece for evidence.

Take the “You didn’t build that” theme that the convention speakers have been focusing on. Quoting Obama verbatim is, apparently, a lie. I would argue that the context of Obama’s speech — one that refreshes Elizabeth Warren’s ode to a state-controlled economy — confirms what Republicans think he meant. Now, I concede that this is a disputable assertion, but it is not a lie.  Yet, read someone like Glenn Kessler, “factchecker” at The Washington Post, twisting himself into knots trying to convince you that the president didn’t say what he said.

“The key question is whether “that” refers to “roads and bridges” — as the Obama campaign contends — or to a business. Yes, it’s a bit of a judgment call, but the clincher for us was Obama’s concluding line: “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Why is that the “key question”? And even if it were, how can a self-professed broker of the truth give Two Pinocchios to the GOP when he himself acknowledges that it’s a “a bit of judgment call”?  Kessler is the same factchecker who gave Republican groups knocking Obama for not visiting Israel Two Pinocchios, as well. You realize, I’m sure, that it is an indisputable fact that the president has not visited Israel, but Kessler was unimpressed by the ads.

Another alleged lie of Ryan’s is his contention that Obama had presided over the closing of a Janesville GM plant. Here’s what Ryan said:

Especially in Janesville where we were about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that G.M. plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.

That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.

Politifact — the most dishonest of the so-called factcheckers — says this claim is false.  Why? “Actually, the plant closed before he even took office,” says the site.

Actually, it did not, as my colleague John Hayward explains in detail. Moreover, when you read the speech you see that Ryan was saying, not so much that Obama was at fault for the closing of the plant, but that his campaign was one of broken promises and false hope.

Ryan is making an argument about the president’s vision and failed promises. With Obama’s record, that’s a tough debate to have for Democrats. So rather than engaging in it, they are often pretending that the parameters of the debate are unfair or that issues on the table are untrue. I doubt that that can work this time around.

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