Did you watch?
Several people have asked me if I've been watching any of the Republican convention on television. And I readily admit that no, I have not.
Not only have I not watched the Republicans in Tampa, but I have no plans of watching anything from the Democratic convention next week in Charlotte. Facts and integrity have a curious habit of disappearing at such events, or becoming so distorted that reality ends up being what the most charismatic speaker can make it.
It's called "spin," and frankly, mostly all it does is make me dizzy.
So I wasn't surprised that today, critics from Miami's local NBC station, to the BBC, to Huffington Post were finding easy pickings for falsehoods among Paul Ryan's fiery factoids from his keynote speech last night. Indeed, if nobody had found anything critical to say, that would have been truly surprising! Bluster, exaggeration, and patriotic hyperbole are basic elements of these political conventions, no matter if you're a liberal or conservative. It's become almost a sport for armchair quarterbacks to begin parsing what the opposition has said almost before the words are out of the speaker's mouth.
And true to form, the fact-checkers didn't have to dig very deep to uncover the full story behind some of Ryan's own spin-doctoring.
For example, the auto factory Ryan intimated Obama helped shutter actually closed early in Obama's presidency, but as part of GM's already-scheduled restructuring plan in which George Bush's administration played a part, not Obama's going back on his word.
Ryan also accused Obama of dismissing the deficit reduction report Obama himself had commissioned from Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, but Ryan failed to acknowledge that as a member of the commission, he himself voted against the commission's final report. Ryan decried all of the bailout money for which Republicans have mistakenly blamed Obama entirely, bur Ryan ignores the fact that he scooped up millions of that money for his own home state of Wisconsin. Ryan similarly feigns amnesia when blasting Obama for playing fast and loose with Medicare money, when Ryan himself had earlier proposed the same changes Obama later enacted as part of Obamacare.
Of course, it hasn't helped the Republican's cause having one of Mitt Romney's pollsters, Neil Newhouse, grousing that the very fact-checkers Romney has used in the past against Obama have suddenly become irrelevant.
"Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs," Newhouse told reporters earlier this week, "and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."
Well, which are they, then? Fact checkers, or spin doctors? And which are you being, Mr. Newhouse?
Speaking of spin doctors, it's been interesting to notice the lack of any defense for Ryan's speech on major right-wing websites today. Drudge Report didn't try prove Ryan's naysayers are the ones who are lying, nor did Rush Limbaugh. Maybe that's because many conservatives either believe Ryan entirely, or they simply don't want to believe the entire truth.
To its credit, Red State did try to mount a plausible explanation of Ryan's depiction of the Wisconsin GM plant's closure. However, their between-the-lines posturing and a clearer outline of events by PolitiFact becomes more of a Clintonesque "definition of the word 'closure'" debate. Apparently, GM's process for shuttering the Janesville facility involved a variety of considerations (including their unions - an odd group of people for Ryan to champion). And like many corporate decisions, the actual date on which the plant ceased production is open to interpretation. Still, however you want to look at it, Ryan had the obligation to take the high road in his description of the plant's final days, if he even needed to incorporate it at all in his speech.
Hey, it's not like there aren't irrefutable policy failures out there that can be directly attributed to our current president. Ryan could have crafted a successful and resounding speech without mentioning any of these arguable elements. Why stir the pot unnecessarily?
Red State even tried to turn the tables on the facts when they posted on their website today a goofy article trying to blast fact checkers as "lemmings to their own death."
How does it serve the Republican party when right-wingers prefer duplicity over honesty? Red State points out that yes, it could be argued that Janesville's auto plant did close during Obama's presidency. Obama did dismiss the deficit reduction commission's report. Obama did spend a lot of money on bailouts, and he did reclassify Medicare funds. But they tried to say these were the only important facts in these stories, which itself isn't true. Ryan presented these facts in an entirely negative light, without bothering to tell his audience the full story behind them. A full story which would have neutralized his own stance on them.
Not one fact-checking site I read today denied the literal truth of anything Ryan said. It was Ryan's omissions of additional facts in each illustration that tainted the truth he was trying to posit for each one.
"The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." That's not what Ryan spun in his speech.
Admittedly, Ryan was preaching to his base, a group of people who likely dislike Obama so much, Ryan could have said almost anything, and they would have cheered.
But hey - I'm voting for this ticket, having decided that America would be better off without four more years of our current administration. And it bothers me that Republicans insist on wasting so much effort on half-truths and deceptions.
Campaign on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and see how easy it will be for conservatives to win back the White House.