Politics: Today's clarion call of the left: Ryan lied!

Published by: Dan Calabrese on Thursday August 30th, 2012

Dan Calabrese

By DAN CALABRESE - You know Ryan got under their skin because the left is hysterical over his "lies".

It's the left-wing meme of the day, and it's catching on like wildfire. Not only do they consider it an unassailable truth that Paul Ryan's speech was full of lies, they insist he did so blatantly and knowingly, even supposedly repeating "lies" on which he had already been called out. (In other words, liberals had already told him they thought he was wrong and he had the nerve to just keep on saying the stuff.)

The biggest "lie" claim involves the story of the Janesville, Wisconsin General Motors plant and when it closed. But they're also pushing the "lie" claim on other things, like the reference to Obama cutting $716 billion from Medicare to pay for ObamaCare, and even the now-infamous "you didn't build that speech."

Let's take them one at a time:

Janesville. The claim here is that the plant closed "under George W. Bush," as if everything that happens in the country was caused by the sitting president. And because it closed "under Bush," Ryan was wrong to "blame Obama."

Let's step back. The plant was actually placed on standby by General Motors in July 2009, when Obama was in office. Standby means it is kept in reserve to be reactivated, but as of today that has not happened. The notification that it would close - mandated by Ted Kennedy's 1988 Plant Closing Notification Law - was issued in December 2008, when Bush was in office. It was already known that the plant was in jeopardy of closing when Obama gave the speech in question, and what he said was that with government support, plants like this one could stay open for 100 years. He also said in June 2008 that as president he would lead the effort to re-tool plants like the one in Janesville.

Now, did Obama "promise" to keep the plant open? That's arguable. But Ryan didn't accuse him of doing so anyway. Ryan's point was that Obama talked big about how his big-government intervention into industry would save jobs and keep plants open - and Obama specifically used the Janesville plant as an example at least twice. And the result was that after Obama's policies were implemented, plants still closed and jobs were still lost. Janesville was a glaring example of the overall failures of Obama's policies, if not a specific promise broken, and Ryan never said otherwise.

Medicare. Obama supporters say it's a "lie" that Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for ObamaCare. It's not a lie. More than half the cuts come in the form of fee-for-service reductions to Medicare physicians, and Obama supporters claim this does not affect Medicare patients - which is absurd. If you invest less money in service providers, you won't have as many service providers and care will be more difficult to find. Do you seriously think every single doctor who takes Medicare patients now will just keep right on doing it even though they're going to get less money? Another $156 billion will slash Medicare Advantage, which is expected to lead to a loss of more than $3,000 worth of health care services per senior citizen, on average. What Democrats try to call a "lie" is just a set of facts they don't like people to know.

"You Didn't Build That." The claim here is that the entire GOP Convention was built on this theme, and that the whole thing is therefore a lie because Obama didn't really say business owners didn't build their businesses. How do they defend this belief? By analyzing the following passage: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business --- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet."

Clearly, Obama's defenders say, the word "that" refers to the infrastructure and other things mentioned, not the person's business itself. It's a testament to how great an orator Obama is not that he would offer such an impossible-to-understand statement, but never mind that. The problem with the speech is that it was mocking and condescending, and dripping with implication that business owners claim too much credit for their success, and give too little to government. And in my mind, the real money quote is this one: "I'm always struck by people who think: 'Wow, it must be because I was just so smart.' There are a lot of smart people out there. 'It must be because I worked harder than everyone else."

Apparently Obama doesn't think business owners are smarter or work harder than most other people. That's because he doesn't know very many of them. And also because he has no idea what it takes to start or run a business. But while Obama's supporters may argue the semantics of the "you didn't build that" sentence, the meaning of his larger speech could not be clearer, and it is exactly what Ryan and other Republicans have portrayed it to be - disrespectful, mocking and condescending to business owners. So much for that "lie."

Then there's the odd claim that Fox News is blasting Ryan's speech as full of lies. In fact, a Fox News contributor named Sally Kohn - a longtime liberal activist - has written a piece on FoxNews.com that makes that claim. Now this may surprise you, but Fox News does have individual contributors who are liberals. Juan Williams. Bob Beckel. Sally Kohn is part of that group. Her opinions are her own, and Fox News publishes them without necessarily endorsing them. This is very common. When I owned a newspaper syndicate, I syndicated lots of liberal writers - not because I agreed with their views, but because they were good writers and I was trying to sell as much material as I could to people who wanted different things. Sally Kohn is certainly entitled to her opinion, but liberals running around making it sound like this came from Rupert Murdoch or Roger Ailes are either incredibly dishonest themselves, or they don't know anything about how the news business works.

The "lie" accusations don't stop there. Even the patently obvious fact that the 2009 stimulus was a hugely expensive, monumental failure somehow gets twisted into a "lie" by people who want badly enough for it to be one. But you get the idea. This is how the whole line of attack goes. The really disturbing thing is that Obama's supporters are so willing to believe the absurd spin he puts on almost everything, and are so unwilling to face facts that they'll go through these histrionics endlessly rather than deal with what is plain as the noses on their faces - that their guy has failed as president. People like Paul Ryan merely have the audacity to say so.