Why Paul Ryan Was the Pick

Paul Ryan single-handedly takes on the Democratic ticket. The gloves are off, and Ryan handles the respect-the-office vs. the tear-him-a-new-one equation with aplomb. Joe Biden’s head is spinning like Linda Blair’s, and the president just looks like he wishes he’d stayed in bed.


The #2 guy on the ticket is the attack dog, and this is champion pit bull stuff. Will it work? I dunno, I can’t remember anything like this guy before. But there’s no way Mitt Romney can beat Barack Obama for prom king, so they might as well try the substance thing.

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past contributor to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.


  1. Except that even a cursory glance at Paul Ryan reveals a politician whose opposition to irresponsible government spending extends exactly as the president’s party affiliation. And his commitment to small government extends as far as making sure the government doesn’t bother his conservative Christian supporters.

    • True, the government shouldn’t be bothering Ryan’s conservative Christian supporters, or infringing on anyone’s freedom of religion. An excellent choice to oppose the Obama administration’s encroachment on constitutional rights. This guy can bring it.

      “What we’re getting from the White House on this conscience issue, it’s not an issue about contraception, it’s an issue that reveals a political philosophy the president is showing that basically treats our constitutional rights as if they were revocable privileges from our government, not inalienable rights from our creator,” said Ryan on NBC’s Meet the Press.

      “We’re seeing this new government activism, paternalistic, arrogant, political philosophy that puts new government-granted rights in the way of our constitutional rights.”

      “That’s really not about contraception,” said Ryan of the mandate. “It’s about violating our first amendment rights to religious freedom and conscience.”

      Bold face mine. This is a big deal, the question of whether our rights come from a “social contract” with government, or from a Higher Authority.

      • I agree, the government shouldn’t be encroaching on a Jewish woman’s religious freedom to get birth control as part of her health insurance package in the private sector as prescribed by law, just because she happens to work for somebody who doesn’t believe it should be covered.

          • Ditto. Religious freedom as the freedom to have somebody else be required to provide something for you is an, shall we say, innovative constitutional construct.

          • Yeah. I don’t think there’s even a right to have real science instead of religious claptrap taught in your kids’ public school; it’s just a good idea.

          • While James is right that there’s no such thing as a right to force someone to provide something, there’s a context when it comes to that issue with regard to religious employers that cries for more examination. When I hear how the religious Right replies to this type of thing, they set it up not in terms of the requirement just happening to not be a legitimate individual right but as valuing the institution over the individual — not “forcing us to pay for it has zilch to do with rights”, but “we have the right to determine what they may do”. That distinction goes far beyond birth control, or even explicitly religious institutions, and into the basic parameters of worker/employer relation.

            Really, how far does that go? To what extent must employees submit more than their labor? Where do you begin and the job end?

      • 1. An appeal to Higher Authority is utter nonsense.
        2. This notion of rights has no relationship with reality.
        3. Please explain Ryan’s repeated endorsement of and votes for policies which exploded (and continue to increase) the federal deficit that he claims troubles him so.

        • 1. D of I.
          2. It’s the American Way.
          3. “Bi-partisanship.”

          • 3. that’s some weak brew. Bush tax cuts. Medicare Part D. Iraq War. They were all republican policies–that’s not bipartisan. That’s just two instances of panderfest and one instance of poor judgement.

          • A senior prescription benefit was promised by each party in 2000, the question was just one of numbers. When the Dems vote no because a GOP doesn’t go far enough, that doesn’t count.

            As for the Bush tax cuts, the lame duck [Dem majority both houses] Congress voted to extend them in 2010, so the waters get murky. [The “tax cuts for the rich” that are the Democrat obsession are worth $100 billion tops, out of a $1 trillion-plus deficit. It’s a political football more than a real issue.]

            And the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq got 42% of Democrats in the House and 48% of Dems in the Senate. Just as only some Reps supported Clinton on the former Yugoslavia, this is consensus. We did Iraq together as a nation.

            Weak brew? Mr. Jacobian? Nay, strong coffee! Wake, and smell!

          • Tom,

            Of course it counts. Ryan voted for a massive unfunded program, which fits with his general history of simply not caring about deficits as long as the president is a Republican. He voted for taxcuts that weren’t paid for. He voted for wars that weren’t paid for. The notion that he’s a fundamentally serious man is utterly ludicrous if you look at annoying things like his entire career. If you ignore that though, the man is a dream.

      • This is a big deal, the question of whether our rights come from a “social contract” with government, or from a Higher Authority.

        Not a simple contradiction, nor the only alternatives.

        There were once upon a time some folk in the U.S. who believed it was a simple contradiction – though they might have used different terms. They still rummage around political discussion, and it’s an index of the contemporary American conservatism’s separation from conservatism that their rhetoric is so broadly indulged, but it was discovered very early on that there was no limiting principle to the limiting principle, that taken as an absolute it meant governing by negation of government, in other words the impossibility of government, wherever the attempt was made to apply it. Your colleague Mr. Kowal’s Declarationist contribution to the Democracy Symposium shows the same infirmity, but, then again, so does virtually every pronouncement and proposal from the “Constitutional Conservative” faction.

        • CK,

          I don’t recall if you commented on the democracy sysmpsium piece to this effect, but I responded to a similar criticism, I believe by Mr. Akimoto. I took care to give credit to government for its necessary contributions to a vibrant modern economy. I only point out we’ve gone about it in a rather haphazard and lawless fashion.

          • Nah, I refrained from commenting on the DS piece, maybe because I was already commenting up a storm along similar lines somewhere else.

            In the above comment, when I mentioned Declarationism, I had in mind this paragraph, where you were referring, arguendo, to the SC sacrificing principle in favor of some pragmatic or economic rationale:

            This should not be. The Declaration of Independence provides that, when government ignores first principles, even otherwise duly enacted laws result in “a long train of abuses and usurpations . . . evinc[ing] a design to reduce [the people] under absolute Despotism.” In such an event, it becomes “their right, [] their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” It is first principles that are too big to fail, not economic policy.

            Leaving aside the question of whether the DoI can be considered as in any way binding, I don’t see it quite making an argument that ignoring the first principles of anti-monarchists necessarily leads to “absolute Despotism.” The deeper problem is that when, in statements like the above, you assert absolute principles and then at the same time admit, as TVD also does, that fairly fundamental compromises can and must be made, and even woven into the fabric of the nation, then we’re just left with absolute principles that aren’t even remotely absolute as actually applied, are honored only in the breach, as they say. They seem to be ideals or aspirations, apparently among others – including very practical ones like justice, general welfare, defense, and so on. So attacking Democrats or progressives or anyone else for violating the first set of principles (which are not in any way binding and which were already recognized as completely insufficient even within the document itself and certainly in the early history of the republic) begins to look completely arbitrary. There is no predictable system for turning any absolute moral precept into a real world policy – and the attempt to do so has historically been at least as often typical of despotism, especially in the modern age, as compromising and muddling through has been. Why shouldn’t we expect that the Constitutional Conservatives, if ever in a position to govern, would immediately set about to picking and choosing when to apply their preferred and loudly advertised ideals – either that or bring the whole structure crashing down chaotically?

          • CK, whatever you read, one of us was drunk.

            deeper problem is that when, in statements like the above, you assert absolute
            principles and then at the same time admit, as TVD also does, that fairly
            fundamental compromises can and must be made, and even woven into the fabric of
            the nation, then we’re just left with absolute principles that aren’t even
            remotely absolute as actually applied, are honored only in the breach, as they


            It would be helpful if you marked those statements delivered when sober so they could be distinguished from the ones for which you have no intention to take responsibility. I’m thinking a line of capital S’s along the top and bottom of the comment would do the trick. I’ve done it on this comment so you can see what I mean. Could save time.


          • Mebbe you should just mark the ones when you’re sober. It’ll be the exception, not the rule.


            Indeed, my position is that I don’t think the ideal is only observed in the breach. I do think the ideal is being abolished in favor of the average, that the mediocre has become our new standard.

            Natural law seeks the necessary and proper; if this is called the “ideal,” so be it. But its razor is really the proper and the not-proper, in harmony with our natures or oblivious to it.

          • Natural law seeks the necessary and proper;

            Sure. But given the necessary and proper concessions to compromise the game is given up before it’s even begun.

            I don’t think CK is drunk. Since when is being drunk a strike against a guy?

          • Mr. MacLeod is drunk [or worse] if he puts those words in my mouth. And to your statement, I likewise reply as I did on the other thread:

            Human [positive] law that violates the natural law isn’t valid law. Such is argued by Aquinas, Blackstone, Hamilton, Martin Luther King.

          • “The deeper problem is that when, in statements like the above, you assert absolute principles and then at the same time admit, as TVD also does, that fairly fundamental compromises can and must be made, and even woven into the fabric of the nation, then we’re just left with absolute principles that aren’t even remotely absolute as actually applied, are honored only in the breach, as they say. … There is no predictable system for turning any absolute moral precept into a real world policy – and the attempt to do so has historically been at least as often typical of despotism, especially in the modern age, as compromising and muddling through has been.”


            I might write a separate post responding to this, but in short: Some of the principles in our founding documents are expressions of the natural law (e.g., freedom of religion, etc.), and some are simply recognition of the natural law (e.g., men are not angels, ergo, separation of powers, limited government, etc.). We can tweak the separation of powers and limits on government while still bearing firmly in mind the trouble of factions and self-interest and the rest. The precise separations and checks and balances in the Constitution are not expressions of the natural law itself, like individual liberties are. There’s room for debate on the former even if there’s not on the latter.

            Also note that, even when it comes to liberties, the Constitution enjoins Congress from making any law abridging the freedom of speech, not speech outright. There is no right to do a wrong, a natural law Lincoln spent much blood, including his own, codifying into our second constitution. Not all speech is justified, and that which is not may properly be enjoined (some of the Supreme Court’s confused jurisprudence to the contrary notwithstanding). Individual rights and laws respecting them have everything to do with presumptions and the giving of justifications. In the American model, the individual is presumed to be free unless and until the government provides a justification, in terms of moral logic, that would abridge his freedom.

            When it comes to economic liberties, the rules of the game have changed in no small degree. Conservatives can, without any danger of contradicting their principles or appearing arbitrary, fully recognize that a number of moral justifications might be given as against the presumed freedom of the individual to do whatever he likes in the modern marketplace.

          • Aha!, Kowal. It’s all here:

            “There is no right to do a wrong, a natural law Lincoln spent much
            blood, including his own, codifying into our second constitution.”

        • No, but I can, CK. Cheers. [Next time copy the image URL via right-click.]

          As Nietzsche Family Circuses go, although they’re sometimes delicious, that one didn’t move the chuckle meter.

  2. Joe Biden’s head is spinning like Linda Blair’s, and the president just looks like he wishes he’d stayed in bed.

    Source? Do you have any actual evidence for thinking this is the Biden/Obama response, or is this just what you think surely must be the case?

    From what I’m reading from Dems, they’re pretty happy with this pick. It’s been reported that the Obama team was actually a lot more worried about Pawlenty, because he’d be harder to work up a good attack against. With Ryan, they’ve already been developing their attacks on him for two years–they know exactly what they want to say.

    That’s why the Ryan pick was something of a surprise; he’s got an actual paper trail that can be–and already has been–targeted.

    That’s not to say it was a bad pick. I said yesterday I think it’s a pretty good pick and I stand by it. And perhaps the Democrats are making a mistake in thinking the pick plays into their hands. But if you think the Democrats are shaking in their boots over this, you’re in denial.

    Sources, limited to only two because of moderation rules even though there are many more. here and here

    • Portman might have been the other good choice, but he’s tainted.

      • I still think Portman was the better choice. Why was he tainted? OMB under Bush II? That’s not so bad as it might have seemed. He’s not (notably) corrupt that I know of, no skeletons of significance and they’d have come out by now I’m sure.

        Ah, that’s academic now. Ryan’s the guy.

    • That referred to the video posted here. And a bit of hyperbolic fun—Joe Biden’s head is not actually spinning. Although the president does look like he wishes he’d stayed in bed.

  3. Because press releases on the friday night of the olympics just say swell idea!

  4. TVD @ https://ordinary-times.com/timkowal/2012/08/why-paul-ryan-was-the-pick/#comment-14402

    Again, same place we began: Why is it “either/or”? When has it ever been, and how can it ever be, as far as governance is concerned? Why must the only choice be strictly between “Higher Authority” as explained in the language of traditional religion, and “social contract”? What if we must envision multiple dimensions and origins of meaning and of the ideal, sometimes seeming to contradict each other, sometimes merely reflecting the same aspiration from an alternative perspective? Is a decent life for all an ideal or, taken as an ideal, a search for mediocrity destined to end in catastrophe?

    For that matter, why simply presume that politics at all, but especially American democratic politics, is a realm for embodying or pursuing any ideal at all, other than perhaps with the single special exception of the ideal of avoiding or preventing the search for the ideal in politics? What gives you any reason to believe that, if “the ideal is being abolished in favor of the average,” that any merely political project or result can reverse, slow, or in any other way substantially affect the process?

    • Human [positive] law that violates the natural law isn’t valid law. Such is argued by Aquinas, Blackstone, Hamilton, Martin Luther King.

      Natural law is not “revealed religion” or Divine Command Theory. Rothbard:

      AMONG INTELLECTUALS WHO CONSIDER themselves “scientific,” the phrase “the nature of man” apt to have the effect of a red flag on a bull. “Man has no nature!” is the modern rallying cry; and typical of the sentiment of political philosophers today was the assertion of a distinguished political theorist some years ago before a meeting of the American Political Science Association that “man’s nature” is a purely theological concept that must be dismissed from any scientific discussion.

      In the controversy over man’s nature, and over the broader and more controversial concept of “natural law,” both sides have repeatedly proclaimed that natural law and theology are inextricably intertwined. As a result, many champions of natural law, in scientific or philosophic circles, have gravely weakened their case by implying that rational, philosophical methods alone cannot establish such law: that theological faith is necessary to maintain the concept. On the other hand, the opponents of natural law have gleefully agreed; since faith in the supernatural is deemed necessary to belief in natural law, the latter concept must be tossed out of scientific, secular discourse, and be consigned to the arcane sphere of the divine studies. In consequence, the idea of a natural law founded on reason and rational inquiry has been virtually lost.


        • A man cried to the mountain:
          “Sir, you are non-responsive.”
          The mountain laughed,
          or would have laughed,
          except that mountains don’t laugh.

      • Rothbard argued himself off the stage of his own argument. But then, he usually did, ridiculous creature. Neither Rothbard nor you can point to one aspect of man’s nature that has ever been defined in such a way as to form up one consistent law.

        Laws against murder? Aquinas mildly tells us war is wrong, but gives us many exceptions which allow it. Aquinas defends every possible abuse of power done in the name of the sovereign.

        There is but one nature to mankind, that of irrationality and self-delusion and these characteristics are especially truth of Murray Rothbard. Natural law is a contradiction in terms: unless it has been legislated into existence, it is no law. We construct laws, like Yeats’ Golden Bird,

        …by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
        In glory of changeless metal
        Common bird or petal
        And all complexities of mire or blood.

        Natural law doesn’t require a belief in the supernatural. Logically, natural law is more easily defended without the supernatural. Christianity short-circuits natural law, blowing every consequentialist diode off the circuit board. If man is dead in trespasses and sins against God but is born into eternal life through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, we are given an eternal perspective on our petty evils. Forgiven our sins, we are obliged to forgive others. Unlike the Prodigal Son, who confesses his sins against God and Man, wretched old Aquinas is reduced to parsing out crimes against God into one pile and those against Man into another.

        That which cannot be defined cannot be enacted into law. Human nature is a wretched conflation of every sort of self-deluding flattery. And even if human nature could be defined, there is the eensy-weensy problem of the individual human identity. If Dr. King could write from the Birmingham Jail about the injustice of segregation, quoting Aquinas and Buber, he also made the point that the White Moderate was the greatest impediment to his cause, preferring Order to Justice. Natural Law has the cart before the horse, saying Justice arises from Order. This cannot be true. Justice is the breaking down of the “Natural” Order, which always finds some jus in every bello.

        • Unlike the beasts, we have the need to so justify ourselves. That will do as a starting point for “human nature.”

        • Aquinas’s is a just war theory. The qualifier is the whole game, for every human, unless he is malfunctioning (e.g., a sociopath), must give an account, a justification, for engaging in morally tragic conduct. No serious person says war is always wrong, or that killing is always wrong. They say that unjustified war and killing are wrong. Whether we come to different conclusions on what constitutes justification is beside the point: we’ve found our common ground, a natural law that governs all men, in the reality that we always demand justifications for engaging in morally tragic conduct.

          As for whether God is necessary to do natural law, as I’ve said before, we’ve got plenty of work getting past David Hume’s problems before we tackle that.

          Law need not be posited to be law. Not all posited laws are natural, and not all natural laws are posited. The defining trait of “law” is that it is authoritative, and there is more than one source of authority (arguably, anyway). But one cannot reject the natural law without devolving into absurdity, because in so doing, one rejects the language of logic and morals which give life to the natural law.

          • Aquinas just a war justification theory. There’s no way around that. Fact is, Serious People have been using Aquinas to justify their own wars, hypocritically un-justifying their enemies and other wars. Morally tragic — the tragically amusing part is that you think there is any natural law or that the evil are called to account for their evil when they win their wars. Little ditty from Elizabethan times: “Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”

            If there were any such thing as natural law, and there obviously isn’t, it would be an un-law, evolution, the survival of the fittest. Aquinas jus in bello amounts to a sovereign hypocrisy, ab surdum, without foundation.

            Rejecting the language of Aquinas Logic and the filthy un-morals of self-justification is the only route to sanity. Hume makes it all clear enough. Morality is just sentimental gas. Law, however, is statutes. If law is authoritative, it derives that authority from those with the power to enforce it.

            Give up on natural law. It’s all swamp gas. Complete nonsense.

  5. Paul Ryan’s schtick is already wearing thin. The more he yells, the smarter Obama looks. El perro que ladra no muerde, the dog that barks won’t bite and Paul Ryan’s already demonstrated his mouth has outrun his ass.

    The comparison to Biden is very apt. A closed mouth gathers no feet. Every time Paul Ryan opens his piehole, it’s just one more embarrassment for the Romney campaign. This kid needs to shut up, smile more and kiss more babies. As an attack dog, he’s worthless.

    • All Obama does is yell. Exhort. Snort at Republicans. Now I know how the country got so sick of St. Harry Truman. STFU and do your job.

      • C’mon, Tom. Paul Ryan’s the male equivalent of Sarah Palin: completely ridiculous. When I said Paul Ryan’s mouth outran his ass, that’s not a metaphor, that’s a fact. How can anyone take this Glibertarian seriously? I mean, seriously, do you take Paul Ryan seriously? He’s barely gotten out of the gate and already he’s been caught out telling porkies.

        Obama’s got his issues, sure. I have some serious reservations about how this guy comes off to ordinary people. He’s evasive and he’s got a sharp elbow. But he does more than yell. If anything, he doesn’t say half enough but then, if he responded to every Republican lie told about him, that’s a full-time job right there.

        I say Paul Ryan will eventually turn into a gigantic liability for Romney. The only New One to be torn involving Paul Ryan is the one Romney’s going to make in Paul Ryan’s backside every time that young man says something stupid, and that will be a full-time job, keeping that young libertarian ape from shrieking and dangling from the chandeliers and shitting on the tablecloths in polite company. Paul Ryan needs a platoon of zookeepers.

        • The criticisms of Ryan are desperate. See, e.g., comparison to Palin, supra. but I don’t harbor hope you and i would agree. What matters is who the undecideds think have practicable ideas.

          • They just aren’t, Tim. This is no different than how Sarah Palin started out, a fresh new face, good looks, a new message. Sarah Palin had just stood up to the oil firms and extracted more concessions from them.

            But then the weird started coming out. It didn’t happen all at once. Some dumb stuff here, some exaggerations there. Some of this is to be expected from a novice politician thrust into the spotlight. Obama’s had some of that, early on. Biden’s had more than his share of gaffes, to everyone’s consternation. Even now, Obama’s capable of doing himself lasting damage with intemperate remarks such as “You Didn’t Build That”.

            I’m telling you, Tim, this Paul Ryan pick is not going to end well for Romney. Paul Ryan doesn’t have any political manners. He’s made enemies in the GOP establishment, both with the first and second Ryan Budgets. He’s a deeply confused guy, completely out of his league. Maybe Romney can set him straight, get Ryan to quit making such stupid remarks with such frequency. He’s worse than Joe Biden, who’s really, really bad about his gaffes. Paul Ryan is in Sarah Palin territory.

          • I don’t mean to be cheeky about it. My sincere reaction to all the criticism about Ryan is that it’s a lot of cheap, mean-spirited shots that fall flat. Chris Matthews, Andrew Sullivan, Kevin Drum all point out that the plant closing was announced before the election. But Obama said it could be kept open, and it was open until June 2009. Obama didn’t keep it open. You can’t assault Ryan without first doing necessary spin about Obama’s comments, i.e., that he technically didn’t “promise” to keep the plant open, that train was already on the tracks, he could only do so much, etc. These guys don’t do that. They treat it like Ryan was making an out-and-out lie when he wasn’t. Cheap, and desperate.

            Simpson-Boles. Of course Ryan was on the commission. His criticism of the President was precise: he did “exactly nothing.” Obama didn’t have to follow the commission’s advice. But she should have done something serious. He didn’t. That’s the indictment. Ryan was right. Obama didn’t get a budget passed his whole term, and too bad for him but the budget is a big deal this election. Whoops. Maybe the President will spin it and slide by, but Ryan is absolutely right to focus on his fiscal mismanagement.

            Ryan’s marathon time. Give me a break.

            Unserious, cheap, desperate attacks, all of them. No one on the right is even worried enough to put their popcorn down to write about them.

          • Ecch, yeah, some of it is cheap and mean-spirited. I have a theory about how political fights are won and lost, exactly analogous to how wars are won or lost. It’s a question of management by objectives. Wars aren’t won on the basis of ideology.

            Napoleon used to measure his generals, asking “Is he lucky?” But luck only favours the prepared. See David Ryan’s business about his Black Box: it’s a matter of attending to all the small things which keep a ship upright and bring her into port.

            Paul Ryan’s just not a careful sailor. At this stage of the game, he ought to be more circumspect. I wrote something a little while back about how we could tighten up on political debate, applying the rules of forensics, not that many people saw fit to comment on it. The fact is, Paul Ryan opened his mouth and said something demonstrably stupid about that plant and he got hammered for it.

            Sometimes, I’ll issue my own little caveat, saying “Allow me to simplify [X] to the point of wrongness.” If Paul Ryan had issued such a caveat, he would have avoided a great deal of entirely-deserved scoffing. What could Obama have done? You tell me. Paul Ryan didn’t want any bailouts: he’s simply bullshitting on this subject.

            You are confusing me, or trying to pull a fast one. Paul Ryan voted against Simpson-Bowles: all Ryan wants to do is kill Medicare and turn it into a cash handout. Some Libertarian he is, the simplistic idiot.

            I’ve said Ryan’s porkie on his race times was just a rounding error on the mountains of fantasy he’s piled up.

        • Get used to Paul Ryan for the next 12 years. Romney for one term and Ryan for two. Bank it.

  6. Tim @ https://ordinary-times.com/timkowal/2012/08/why-paul-ryan-was-the-pick/#comment-14486

    Of course, that’s your “sincere reaction”: You are already sincerely committed to one side of any developing dispute. You’re ready to play advocate for Ryan. Because you generally, and even quite honestly, genuinely, and openly, support his politics, you probably believe that defending him against all comers is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, that means that everything you say must be treated with suspicion, as an attempt to justify and manipulate.

    So, like all of Ryan’s defenders, you’re happy to grant him the benefit of the doubt when he fudges, when he omits information that anyone actually interested in the truth of the particular matter might consider relevant – the precise circumstances under which Obama spoke in Janesville, for instance, or what he actually said, or how a reasonable person could possibly take anything he said (i.e., as a “promise” or rather as an “assertion” or “description” or “argument”), or how exactly the plant closed down. As I understand it, for instance, the condition of still being “open” in 2009 was of a single assembly line of 50-some workers at place that used to employ thousands, just to give an example. It was “ordered closed” a few months after Obama spoke, a few months before he took office. It was all but completely closed before he actually took office. And so on.

    Whether or not Ryan’s statements were “technically true,” or readably that way, any point of view that holds Obama responsible for what Stephen Hayes calls his “suggestion” of a promise would, if fairly applied, have to hold Ryan more responsible for his direct claim of a broken promise. One might argue that Ryan was more a liar than Obama was a promise-breaker. To whatever extent one might hold Obama responsible for a promise he did not actually make, one would have to hold Ryan even more responsible for the much more direct accusation of “another promise broken.”

    However you decide on that issue, Ryan was grossly distorting a series of events with malicious and one-sided intent. In American politics, we call that a “lie.” The liar charge arises in politics not on the basis of the partial narrative whose details are open to alternative construals, but on the advancement of the grossly one-sided narrative as a fair approximation of the truth. The politician lies by knowingly presenting a distortion as the truth. Certainly, we do not call someone who depicts events in such a way a “truthteller,” or consider him someone deserving a reputation as a “serious” individual willing to tell “hard truths” that others avoid. If he’s not a truthteller, but he and his party continually claim to be, then the are liars in that respect as well.

    Your depiction of the Simpson-Bowles narrative is likewise one-sided. It serves your interest, or apparent perceived interest, as a conservative Republican partisan and defender of Ryan rather than anyone’s possible interest in determining the truth of the situation. Ryan’s depiction here, as on Janesville, omits crucial facts.

    Obama did not, of course, do “exactly nothing.” In addition to submitting a budget – his sole constitutional responsibility, the rest is all up to Congress, with Mr. Ryan in one critical leadership role – Obama publicly and repeatedly committed himself to a grand fiscal bargain, negotiated strenuously with Boehner, and, when the debt ceiling talks finally and definitively broke down, he agreed to the supercommittee plus sequestration process that is still playing out. To say he did “exactly nothing” is therefore a gross distortion, a misuse of the words “exactly” and “nothing,” at best a misleading and self-serving exaggeration, and for us simple folk out here in real America, a lie. To present the narrative of events that Ryan did, omitting his own and his party’s role in all events, because it would make for a more complicated telling or however you justify it, qualifies as a lie of presentation as previously described, and a rather dramatic one.

    • CK,

      I think you got it right at the beginning – political speeches, and commentary on political speeches, are widely known to be regarded as something other than journalism. They are spin, they are rhetoric, they are one-sided characterizations of a million discrete facts over the course of the past four years playing into competing narratives. Certain allowances are to be made. And I say that prepared to make the same allowances for what Obama has said and will say to get re-elected.

      For one thing, it is dishonest, from a certain point of view, to focus on, or to insist that Ryan focus on, the minute details of the plant closing in a broad-ranging campaign speech: It is obvious to everyone that his speech was not about a particular plant closing. The speech, like the campaign, is about competing economic outlooks. Obama’s approach was to use the economic influence of the government to stimulate the economy. The plant was one example, and it didn’t work out. There is no shortage of other examples. This is not news to anyone. Everyone knows the economy was in the toilet, Obama promised to get it out of the toilet (or at least, not hit 8% unemployment), and recognized if he didn’t, it would be a one-term proposition. Could Ryan have given more details about the plant closing? Maybe, but it’s not fair to insist that a candidate weigh his speech down with unnecessary particulars where, as here, Ryan is not misleading anyone by what he did say.

      Disputing that Obama did “exactly nothing” is getting metaphysical about the thing. Of course he didn’t do “nothing.” But from an economic standpoint, he did. He submitted a completely unserious budget that got no votes. Sequestration was punted to after the election. I call that nothing, but like you said, I’m in the bag, so I don’t really count. Nor do you, I guess. If that 99-0 defeated budget and the sequestration mess count as better than “nothing” to the undecideds, then Ryan loses the argument. But I think it’s fair to say that, from the point of view of someone who watched Obama do more somethings than he probably had a right to do – e.g., push his healthcare legislation through despite less than majority public support, lawlessly enact DREAM without Congress, etc. – his work on fixing the budget amounts to nothing.

      • Yo, bro, as the prosecutor, Paul Ryan doesn’t need a “defender.” We get things so backwards sometimes.

      • I’m not going to attempt to deconstruct the details of your summary of the last 4 years, nor replace it with a summary of my own. I’m also confident you’re far too sophisticated really to believe that a president and congress “probably” lack “a right” to adopt legislation despite “less than majority public support” – as measured, I suppose, in opinion polls. If they believe that the policy is necessary and the bill represents the best passable bill, then it is fully in keeping within the concept of representative government, as opposed to pure democracy, for them to go ahead and pass it. Anything else would be a betrayal of their charge. This would even be true if they’re not confident that opinion will eventually come around to supporting them, especially once the measure is truly understood by the public. If you don’t think so, then it is certainly well within our technical means to arrange for direct electronic democracy largely or completely replacing our current government, but I don’t see you arguing for that.

        In the meantime, we could have our representatives consult opinion polls on proper tax rates on upper income Americans, for instance. Opinion polls by the time that sequestration was adopted widely supported the President’s position over the Republicans’. Did the Republicans probably lack a right to turn down the President’s Grand Bargain, despite broad public support for its terms? Did they have a right to block the American Jobs Act, despite broad public support for it?

        As for Ryan, it seems to that you’ve conceded that he’s just a politician doing the politician thing, and that the tales of his supposed seriousness and honesty amount to the usual transparently ludicrous hype. His speeches represent an approach to attacking the President, and are not to be graded on any other basis. I actually think that Sarah Palin, pre-VP nomination, was probably a much more authentic reform figure, if in no way truly qualified for the position by character and intellect. Now, of course, she’s a toxic ideologue of no use to anyone. I expect Ryan will have a lot of work to do to repair his own image, since at this point he now stands firmly for Romneyism – that is, saying whatever you need to to get over 50%.

        Now you’re keeping me very busy down around here, so I’m not even sure I can respond to your new post in a timely manner!

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