Paul Ryan's Speech Bubble

Tuesday, 04 Sep 2012 09:54 AM

By Susan Estrich

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The commentators may be raving, but if you ask me, they're living in a bubble — along with the candidate.

President Obama: Bad. Republicans: Good. My mother: My hero. Small business: Good. Government: Bad. Obama: Bad. Republicans: Good.

I'll be fair and balanced. I'm sure many of the same equations will apply next week in reverse. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single meaningful (and truthful) thing Paul Ryan said. His mother went back to work when his father died at age 55. OK. She looked like a nice woman. My father died at 53. It's tough. My mother worked even before then. I lost two good friends who died in their 50s. Where are we going here? Does that make us qualified to be president?

Obama: Bad. Republicans: Good.

Cute kids. That's nice. Mitt Romney has handsome sons. The Obama daughters are lovely.

There were a lot of the usual hats. The hall seemed very well organized.

When I woke up this morning and discovered that Ryan was earning raves for his speech, I wondered whether I had somehow moved into another universe (or the talking heads had), where things like elderly drivers plowing into a crosswalk near an elementary school are real and immediate, and where perfectly well-canned political speeches that could be computer generated without regard to facts have nothing to do with anything.

Ryan made me feel old. I'll admit that. I looked at him and thought: My God, this guy, who's basically never done anything but be a member of the House of Representatives and give canned political speeches, thinks he's ready to be president? Wild. Give me Bud Hammond and Elaine Barrish ("Political Animals") — smart, complicated, experienced people — any day. To be honest, after watching him last night, I still don't think I'd recognize Ryan if I ran into him on the corner, except he'd be the one who isn't a member of the Secret Service.

But the real problem is not how much of Ryan's speech was canned drivel, but how much of it was just plain wrong. And I don't mean a little wrong. I'm not talking "shades of gray." One of the big images was that GM plant in Wisconsin that Obama supposedly promised would not be shut down.

"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."

Except Obama never made that promise. The plant closed in December 2008. George W. Bush was president then. Ryan had made that mistake before. The mistake had been reported before. So what? He said it again. How dumb does he think we are? Is he really so stuck in that bubble that he can't see what's real and what isn't?

Ryan attacked the president for not supporting the report of the deficit commission. Ryan was on the commission. He voted against that report. He was among the minority who kept it from being sent to Congress.

Ryan attacked the president claiming he would "funnel" money out of Medicare. Actually, Ryan's budget plan proposes funneling money from Medicare. Obama's plan, according to Medicare's chief actuary, "substantially improves its financial outlook."

Ryan blamed Obama for S & P's downgrade of U.S. government debt. But S & P didn't blame Obama. They faulted the highly politicized debt ceiling standoff, led by House Republicans, led by one Paul Ryan. "We have changed our assumption on (revenue) because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues," S & P wrote.

Just a few days ago, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, responding to criticism that his candidate's ads falsely claimed that Obama eliminated work requirements for welfare recipients, literally said: "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."

Not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers?

I don't mind platitudes and canned criticism and candidates who make me feel old. But if there is to be any integrity at all in this political season, anything real about it, then it has to be that the facts matter. Truth counts. You can spin it however you want, but you can't win the trust of voters by lying to them about the day a plant closed.

Thankfully, the 100-year-old man who backed into the crowd didn't kill anyone. His kids are taking the keys away. Outside of the bubble, that kind of thing is very real and very scary.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author whose writings have appeared in newspapers such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, and she has been a commentator on countless TV news programs. Read more reports from Susan Estrich — Click Here Now.

© Creators Syndicate Inc.

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