Politics

Paul Ryan’s valid point on the Janesville plant

Paul Ryan's valid point on the Janesville plant

The astonishing power of vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night can be measured by the shrill desperation of liberal “fact checkers” to claim that his performance was packed with “distortions.”  Needless to say, none of these people ever bothered to apply a fraction of the same penchant for hair-splitting accuracy to any of the deceptive speeches delivered by Barack Obama.  They’re happy to believe Obamacare doesn’t cut Medicare just because Obama really, really, really needs people to believe it, but now they’re parsing every period and hyphen in Ryan’s speech to claim he was misleading about some tiny detail.

Typical of the breed is an astoundingly sloppy editorial from Sally Kohn published at Fox News, which really needs to assert some editorial standards and apologize to its readers for running Kohn’s piece without oversight.  It’s basically a nervous breakdown in essay form, in which Kohn accuses Ryan of “lying,” then links to material that proves he’s right and she’s wrong (as in the case of the United States’ credit downgrade, which she claimed it’s a “fact” occurred because “Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling”… accompanied by a link to a PolitiFact article she apparently didn’t bother to read.)

Note to liberals: the trick of putting the words “fact” and a colon in front of tendentious opinions, debatable predictions, and outright lies really isn’t fooling anyone, except the dwindling number of people who already agree with you.

Later Kohn claims it was a “distraction” that Ryan “didn’t mention his extremist stance on banning all abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest, a stance that is out of touch with 75 percent of American voters.”  Well, he didn’t mention Barack Obama’s support for infanticide either, and that’s out of touch with even more American voters.  Ryan didn’t discuss abortion in his speech at all.  Of course, Kohn knows the Democrats are basing their entire convention on abortion, to squeeze the maximum mileage out of their shiny new 2012 Akinmobile, a remarkable vehicle powered entirely by hot air, with an engine that turbocharges the power of a rampaging jackass.  She’s trying to do them a solid by complaining that Ryan wasn’t courteous enough to play into their convention narrative.

But the centerpiece of Kohn’s ridiculous piece, and much of the liberal caterwauling about Ryan’s potent speech, is the closing of an auto plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.  Here’s how Kohn puts it: “While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shutdown of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush.  Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.”

The second sentence consists of two non sequiturs – Ryan asking for federal spending to save the plant, and Romney criticizing the auto industry bailout, have nothing whatsoever to do with when the plant closed, or who was ultimately responsible.  As for whether Ryan’s description of the plant closing was accurate, here is the relevant passage from his speech:

“President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two.  Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account.  My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, 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 GM 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 hundred 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.  And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”

Sorry, weeping liberals, but this passage is one hundred percent factually accurate.  You’re making utter fools of yourselves – apparently at the urging of Obama’s Orwellian “Truth Team” propaganda operation, which appears to be the source of the “Ryan lied about Janesville” talking point.

Courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations, here is the transcript from Obama’s speech at the plant in Janesville on Feb. 13, 2008, in which then-candidate Obama says precisely what Ryan quoted him as saying:

“I know that General Motors received some bad news yesterday, and I know how hard your Governor has fought to keep jobs in this plant.  But I also know how much progress you’ve made – how many hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles you’re churning out.  And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.  The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive.  I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your President.”

Right after that, Obama promised that his energy plan would “invest $150 billion over ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million new jobs over the next two decades – jobs that will pay well and can’t be outsourced.”  Then he says all of his plans “must be done in a responsible way, without adding to the already obscene debt that has grown by four trillion dollars under George Bush.”

Hoo boy.  That’s a whole different column’s worth of material right there.  Actually, you could get a book out of comparing the other things Obama said his Janesville speech with what actually happened during his presidency.  You liberals probably should consider shutting up about the whole thing, pronto, before more people read the rest of Obama’s remarks from February 2008.

At any rate, it’s true that the Janesville plant was in trouble when Obama spoke there.  He knew that, and explicitly promised to keep it open, precisely as Paul Ryan said.  The plant continued producing medium-duty trucks until April 23, 2009, at which time the last hundred employees were laid off.  Sport-utility vehicle production had been terminated on Dec. 23, but the plant was indisputably still in operation through April 2009, as a contemporaneous report from the Janesville Gazette confirms.

So, both of the key factual points made by Paul Ryan are true: Obama promised the plant would remain open if he were placed in charge of the government, but it didn’t last a year beyond the beginning of his Administration.  If you want to be extremely rigid in your analysis of Ryan’s remarks, you could say that he was slightly off about the elapsed time between Obama making the promise to keep the Janesville plant open, and the precise day upon which it ceased operations: it was 1 year, 2 months, and 10 days, so it lasted slightly over a year, but Ryan said it “didn’t last another year.”  If you run around and bellow that this is an example of Paul Ryan “lying,” normal people will correctly conclude that you are psychotic.

Hilariously, PolitiFact tries to claim Ryan’s comments about the Janesville plant were “false” because Obama only said he “believed” the plant could be kept open by a government run in line with his philosophy… and even though PolitiFact admits that most people attending the speech took this as a promise by Obama, one writer at the Detroit News interpreted it to mean Obama was merely saying he thought the plant should be “viable,” so that’s “not quite the same thing as pledging to keep the Janesville plant open.”

In other words, you have to judge Obama’s speech with the very same benefit of the doubt you refuse to allow Paul Ryan, in order to conclude that Ryan’s not telling the truth.  Every single one of Paul Ryan’s words matter; none of Obama’s do.  That sounds like a good reason to vote for Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney.

What remains is the inference between Ryan’s factually accurate statements.  He did not claim, or imply, that Obama actively shut down the plant.  He’s faulting Obama for promising to keep it open, and then failing to deliver on that promise.  Could Obama have made good on that promise, and kept the Janesville plant open?

As a practical matter of fiscal reality, perhaps not – it would be necessary to dig through all of the business decisions GM made, during the period before Obama appeared in Janesville to give his campaign speech, and analyze them carefully to determine if continuing any sort of long-term production at this particular facility was feasible.  But shouldn’t Obama have done that research, before making a misleading commitment to over-ride the decisions of GM management?

And let’s not forget that Obama has done plenty of things that defy fiscal reality, such as ObamaCare.  Obama most certainly could have directed General Motors to keep the Janesville plant open, and provided the necessary subsidies, if he wanted to.  This is the President who claimed the power to declare whether Congress was in session during particular hours of the day, and blew through every safety precaution in a mad rush to stuff money into Solyndra’s coffers.

Furthermore, Obama’s policies make the closing of plants like the one in Janesville far more likely.  He’s a strong supporter of the labor unions whose wage demands made GM’s business model unsustainable.  He’s keeping American oil production down, and pushing the price of gasoline up.  And just a couple of days ago, the Obama Administration announced plans to double the average fuel efficiency standards by 2025.  What did the Janesville plant manufacture?  SUVs and light trucks.

The point Paul Ryan directly and clearly made is completely valid: Obama made a lot of promises he didn’t, or couldn’t, keep.  Obama’s “plan” to keep Medicare and Social Security running for another hundred years is precisely as logical and valid as his commitment to keep the Janesville auto plant humming along until 2112.  Ryan promised that the Romney administration will do better.  It will be fair enough to judge the Romney-Ryan Administration during their 2016 re-election campaign by the same standards Paul Ryan applied to Obama 2008.

Update: To emphasize and slightly restate a point made above, since this entire “controversy” is based on parsing the ultimate meaning of Paul Ryan’s words: Ryan did not actually criticize Obama for failing to keep the Janesville plant open.  He criticized Obama for promising to keep the plant open.  This criticism remains valid even if there was no possible way any President could have kept the plant running.  Obama is the one who should have done the research and determined if his promise was realistic, before he made it – and that’s the entire point of this passage in Ryan’s speech, buttressed by the rest of his remarks on Wednesday night.  To a large extent, the furious liberal “fact checkers” are complaining about something Ryan didn’t say.

Update: A great deal of the hysteria among Obama defenders boils down to this: they’re imagining themselves onstage during the speech, arguing with Paul Ryan, and they’re “fact checking” his imaginary responses.  This is leading them further and further away from what Ryan actually said.

For example, an embarrassing ABC News post, which has already been corrected several times, seems to have begun as an effort to make it seem like Ryan was, at the very least, misleading during his speech, but has mutated into a tortured concession that he didn’t say anything wrong.  There is considerable meditation upon the relationship between GM and Isuzu, none of which has anything to do with Ryan’s speech – it’s another rabbit hole that leads further away from both the plain words Ryan spoke, and his criticism of false Obama promises.

Now that liberal “fact checkers” are realizing Obama’s “Truth Team” made fools of them last night, they’re scrambling to find some way to contest distant points of order that are only tangentially related to Ryan’s speech.  This is, in essence, an effort to make the liberals sound less disingenuous, by convincing readers there are vaguely plausible reasons why they might have over-reacted and accused Ryan of implying something that wasn’t entirely fair.  The real story is simple: David Axelrod’s disinformation machine fed them a bogus talking point last night, and they swallowed it.

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