Political Animal


August 30, 2012 9:29 AM Paul Ryan: The Audacity of Hype

By Ed Kilgore

A warning to those who went to bed early last night or otherwise occupied yourself during the Republican National Convention: you are going to hear and read a lot today about the oratorical brilliance of Paul Ryan. His speech was a combo platter of, well, platitudes and then attacks on Barack Obama; you would not know from listening to it that the man was the author of a federal budget proposal that is essentially the entire domestic agenda of the Republican Party (give or take a few efforts to ban abortion, resist marriage equality, and suppress votes), since he didn’t mention it. But that’s why the delegates cheered him with such great enthusiasm: they know how dangerous and ideologically edgy he is, and were undoubtedly relieved he got through a major speech by posing as an up-from-poverty orphan whose main motive in public life is to honor his mom by fighting to protect Medicare.

The most essential reading on the speech was done quickly last night by TNR’s Jon Cohn, who cataloged its five biggest lies.

But that’s about the speech’s sins of commission: it’s the sins of omission that really bother me. Charles Pierce, who labels Ryan as the Newest Nixon, nicely captured what Ryan did not say and the deep contradiction his record poses to what he did say:

He knows what he believes, and he believes it with the sincere faith of a true fanatic, but he also knows that demonstrating that faith in public would be a quick way to a career in the private sector. So he turns on his limitless reservoir of greasy charm and sells exactly the opposite.

Of all his sins of omission, I thought this most significant: a man whose budget proposal essentially funds large new upper-end tax cuts by ravaging every mandatory, discretionary, and tax-code-based policy helping the poor did not deign to mention people living in poverty, other than his own fatuous efforts to make himself look like a poor boy because of the menial jobs he did in college. There was a half-sentence reference right at the end to the “responsibility of the strong to protect the weak,” but I am reliably informed that this is probably a dog-whistle about “the unborn” rather than the poor.

The frustrating thing, of course, is that this was the first real glimpse many voters have had of Paul Ryan, and while the people in the hall knew and loved him as the man who is determined to take down the New Deal and Great Society and ban all abortions, his audacious evasion in the speech of everything controversial about his record and his agenda certainly presented a different persona. In a conversation with Paul Glastris this morning, he mentioned that when looking at Paul Ryan last night he kept seeing the face of Eddie Haskell. That’s exactly right: he’s the nasty piece of work who unctuously pretends to be someone else entirely when he need to do so. It only works when it’s done without a shred of conscience, but Ryan was up to the task. But since Ryan was supposed to be the brave truth-teller on the ticket, what on earth does that say about the kind of mendacity we are likely to hear from Mitt Romney tonight?

The mind reels.

UPDATE: Paul isn’t the only person who’s noticed Ryan’s Haskell-esque qualities.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Celui on August 30, 2012 9:53 AM:

    The quote (to end the) “responsibility of the strong to protect the weak,” could very well refer to the unborn, but I'll bet a dime to a dollar that people who heard this also construed it to mean to end the responsibility of the strong to protect the economically weak, the politically weak, the educationally weak, --all the weaknesses that derive from a 'me first' economy and political philosophy. Ryan's numerous omissions were, of course, designed to do what all hacks and salespeople always do: tell only what the audience/consumer wants to hear, and omit the rest. Glad you included Charlie Pierce's article. I have no trust in any of the GOP platitudinous planks. Never did; never will. And, remember, it's Ryan's delivery that overshadows Romney's, and it's Ryan who prospective voters will recall from this fête de fantasie in Tampa. So--the key is from now on, to hit the Ryan delivery hard, repeatedly, factually, and to include George Lakoff's style of appeal to the emotional side of political arguments as well as to the factual side.

  • Mikhail on August 30, 2012 9:58 AM:

    Meh, my mind isn't reeling. By this point the only thing that could surprise me would be if Romney actually said something true.

  • pol on August 30, 2012 9:58 AM:

  • T2 on August 30, 2012 9:58 AM:

    Romney will repeat the same lies, and more. What else could we expect? Lies are the centerpiece of his campaign. But just wait until the Dem convention and Obama speaks...the Conservative Media (meaning just about all the Media) will point out numerous "lies" also. Except, of course, they will actually use the word Lie. They ain't scared. They won't say "misstatements" or any other euphemisms constantly trotted out to describe the Republican lies. So the public takeaway will be that Obama "Lies", and Romney "Misstates". The Big Lie only works with Media Control. HItler proved that.

  • Oh my on August 30, 2012 10:03 AM:

    I missed the "Ryan show" last night so caught it on Maddowblog which posted it this morning (fast forward was my friend). I have to say I'll disagree with the oratorical brilliance some media types will undoubtedly try to sell Ryan's speech as. Like Ann Romney before him, I expected much more. His presentation was at times awkward and quite unexpectedly dry. Even with judicial skipping it was boring and after a short while, his voice really becomes grating.

    Then,of course, there was the lying. Inverting reality on its head. Black is white, up is down. There were the usual (by now) lies in attacking Obama, but I just couldn't help dropping my jaw when at the beginning when he said:

    "I'm the new comer to this campaign. So let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record....and so desperate to keep their power. They've run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division is all they've got left. With all their attack ads, the President is just throwing away money...and he's pretty experienced at that. You see some people can't be dragged down by the usual cheap tactics, because their character, ability, and plain decency are so obvious. And ladies and gentleman, that is Mitt Romney."

    It's 2012, and we've entered a brave new world.

  • c u n d gulag on August 30, 2012 10:08 AM:

    Tonight should be interesting.

    What will be fun to read about tomorrow (since I refuse to 'spoil my beautiful' mind watching this 'Lying Liers Lying On Parade), is will Mitt go and play the rational 'man in the gray flannel suit,' who will lead this country back to the glorious black and WHITE days of the 1950's (on its way back to the 1850's), appealing to the center (and risk angering the attendees by not being 'full-goose bozo insane)?

    Or, will he try to be something he's not, and channel some inner angry Teabagger, to fire-up the base in the live and TV audiences?

    And then, only to discover that all he's shown the faithful, was that the "tea" in their nominated flesh "bag," is Earl Gray?

    Somehow or other, I don't think that tepid Earl Gray will quite be the rabid bases cup of tea.

    To be safe, I think he'll play the kindly and faithful 'man in the gray flannel suit.' (And yes, I do know what that movie was about, but many poeple don't, they just know the phrase - and that's why I'm using it in a double-entendre kind of way).

    But, that's why the powers that be sutured Ryan to Mitt's hip.
    To give that old corporatist vulture capitalist a Teabagging rabid attack pitbull as his sidekick.

    For Mitt to try to sell American Conservative Fascism to the sheep-like masses, while Ryan kicks him in the side when/if he starts to do or say something that might lose the good old boy and gal base that they desperately need to show up on Election Day.

    So, while Mitt tries to sell this Bush-era used car to the rubes, Ryan won't let Romney be "out-n*ggered.'

    Oh, and I've used that Eddie Haskell analogy about him many times over the last few years.
    I'm also sure I didn't originate it.
    Still, it's apt.

    I do love Pierce's Nixon analogy.
    Having lived through those years, and hating that man with a passion unmatched until W and Dick showed up, how could I not?

    And that scares the living sh*t out of me.

  • stormskies on August 30, 2012 10:12 AM:

    What was on that stage last night was Lucifer manifesting itself through the form of Paul Ryan. There simply is no other way to put it, or say it. It is what it is: evil.

    Jesus taught that two of the greatest sins are lying, and BEARING FALSE WITNESS.

    And this shit stain called Ryan pretends to be a Catholic. The operative word here is pretends ...

  • c u n d gulag on August 30, 2012 10:26 AM:

    Oh Ed,
    I was so busy depositing my word turds that I forgot to yell - GREAT TITLE FOR THIS POST!!!!!!!!

  • jcricket on August 30, 2012 10:29 AM:

    Republicans like having an extremist VP candidate to deliver all the dog-whistles and falsehoods that the top candidate cannot deign to do.

    While clearly Ryan is smarter than Palin (not a difficult achievement), we will watch him make ugly, lying accusations like Palin did - in fact, he came out of the gate doing so last night. We will watch him toss out red meat to the base like Palin did. We may even see the True Believers wishing he were at the top of the ticket like they wished Palin was instead of McCain.

    And just as with Palin, the general public will have their chance to get to know him. His history. What makes him tick. Since the Repubs may have learned a lesson with Palin, it is up to the Dems to teach the public about Ryan rather than naturally letting it happen like with Palin.

    Dems have a big opportunity to teach the facts about Ryan, but cannot do it with the same faces and voices that have been used during the Repub primary season. They need to tag team on this one.

    IMHO anyway.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on August 30, 2012 10:31 AM:

    Know what's really annoying? I frequent the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a few times a day, and I am irked like nothing else by the "Trend Watch" thread on the website's front page.

    For a few weeks now, one of the words has been wonk with a picture of guess who beside it: Paul Ryan. If you wanna have a vomit in your own mouth, click on the link... grrrrrrr

  • Patrick Star on August 30, 2012 10:31 AM:

    If Obama (and the Democrats) lose this election because of Medicare, for God's sake, the Democratic Leadership needs to be tried for malpractice. They cannot let Romney/Ryan get away with these Medicare attacks.

  • T2 on August 30, 2012 10:42 AM:

    MSNBC's First Read has a headline saying Ryan "Wowed" the crowd last night. Then goes on to call some of his remarks "misleading" and "unfair". I guess that's how you "wow" Republicans....just lie to them. And hey, they don't care if you do.

    Speaking of "lied to" we PolAnimal bloggers were told a week or so ago that Captcha was on the way out......were we "misled" or "mis-spoken to"?

  • puffin on August 30, 2012 10:48 AM:

    Phony presidential candidate picks a phony VP candidate. What did you expect?

  • Russell Sadler on August 30, 2012 10:50 AM:

    The New Romney-Ryan-Koch Bros Prosperity. It's not for you!

  • tom on August 30, 2012 11:04 AM:

    I know that I'm not Paul Ryan's target audience, but I thought the speech was bad. Not just dishonest or divisive,(though it was both) but rhetorically and aesthetically bad. Ryan sounded like someone running to be Vice President of America's college Republicans, not someone running to be Vice President of of the United States. Honestly, who is the "central planners" stuff supposed to appeal to besides the rest of the people in Ryan's Ayn Rand book club? He couldn't even hit a consistent theme. Are we the victims of an inactive government that's sitting around doing nothing,or are we all caught up in the shackles of an always present big brother dictating our every decision? From an emotional standpoint, the delivery seemed stiff and usually a not too slow, like he was making a student lecture a Pepperdine or George Mason. Just a confusing, unfocussed mess all round.

  • JM917 on August 30, 2012 11:11 AM:

    @ Oh My,

    "It's 2012, and we've entered a brave new world."

    I agree with everything you say but would given even more point to your last line. The calendar may say 2012, but what we've entered is 1984.

    Let's dig out our dog-eared copies of Orwell and note how eerily prescient is this forecast of the kind of totalitarian world that present-day TeaPublicans want to usher in.

  • boatboy_srq on August 30, 2012 11:11 AM:

    What little of Ryan's speech I could stomach brought back a line from C. S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

    “Do you mean to say," asked Caspian, "that you three come from a round world (round like a ball) and you've never told me! It's really too bad for you. Because we have fairy-tales in which there are round worlds and I have always loved them … Have you ever been to the parts where people walk about upside-down?"

    If a completely inverted speech such as Ryan's is any indicator, it seems the US has finally reached that part of the Earth.

  • Al B Tross on August 30, 2012 11:11 AM:

    It's called Social Dominating Orientation, or SDO,
    the Authoritarian personality type with the unique ability to charm, to sound oh-so reasonable, then a turn on a dime to undermine and instigate, to further their personal agenda at any cost.
    It is this type of Authoritarian that leads the starstruck RWA followers to turn upon their fellow citizens, and their own best interests with great fervor. Yes in the worst case example, even to the point of placing another human in an oven.

    Eddie Haskell indeed! I'd add Freddy Krueger in there too...


  • bigtuna on August 30, 2012 11:41 AM:

    Of the first lie - the Janesville plant closing - not only did Ryan lie about the timing of its closure, but he doesn't bother with WHY it closed. Which was due primarily to the market forces at the time, lethargic design efforts at GM, and an incredibly inept management at GM. They could no long sustain several plants building SUVs. Everyone knows this. At the time, there was something like capacity to build 16 million vehicles/year in the US, and aggregate demand was about 9-10 million.

    SO, Paulsy, your GM plant closed due to market forces, and punishing a company that had no vision, no leadership, and an inability to adapt. Seems like it was a victim of --- what is that word ? --- ah - capitalism. The consequece was the 'creative destruction'. The good people of Janesville lost jobs, and that totally sucks. According to Paul's world, too f---ing bad. Suck it up, grow a pair, and move to North Dakota, or Wyoming, or Utah, or Massachusetts or wherever the unemployment rate is lower, and get a job at the Dennys, or Kinkos, or whatever crappy entry level job you can find, and climb back up that ladder. Stop whining and do something real, cheeseheads.

    Paul Ryan is an ignorant, lying ass.

  • bigtuna on August 30, 2012 11:50 AM:

    USDA subsidies for farms in 1st District of Wisconsin (Rep. Paul Ryan) totaled $354,863,000 from 1995 through 2011.


  • boatboy_srq on August 30, 2012 12:06 PM:

    @Oh My: I have never seen opponents so silent about their record.... Maybe being able to tell a single, consistent truth about "their record" is quieter than having to shout out the Lie of the Day every day from now until November - and it's certainly less entertaining. Silence isn't always a sign of guilt: the candidate doth protest too much, methinks.

    @bigtuna: Capitalism is never having to say "we're responsible." And re: the USDA subsidies - there's a difference, somehow, between "free Big Gubmint money" and "your tax dollars." I just haven't figured it out yet.

  • moi on August 30, 2012 12:49 PM:

    I happen to have been born and raised in Janesville Wisconsin, and come from families that lived there for many generations, and am related to some of the Ryans in Janesville (but not this particular branch I don't think).

    When I heard that Romney had picked Paul Ryan, I was sad -- for the country, but mostly for Janesville. The little city has been hit hard, and I knew this guy would not help in any way to bolster the image of it.

    I had no idea the depths to which this guy would go, though. I am at a loss for words.

  • PTate in MN on August 30, 2012 12:50 PM:

    "A warning to those who went to bed early last night or otherwise occupied yourself during the Republican National Convention: you are going to hear and read a lot today about the oratorical brilliance of Paul Ryan."

    It just struck me that I was watching "Hunger Games" during the Ryan speech last night, that vision of an apocalyptic world in which the wealthy are entertained by watching children kill one another. It wasn't intentional, but reading the news this morning, I feel like it was a preview.

    But this blatant lying! Robert Reich had an excellent blog post on how the Republicans can get away with it--repeat the lie over and over until people are confused (thanks to Citizen's United), discredit the main stream media and use misinformation outlets (Fox news, Rush Limbaugh) to create an alternate reality.

    It breaks my heart to think that the great American experiment in "government of, by and for the people" may fail because, ultimately, a enough of the people are selfish, paranoid and gullible, and a ruthless cabal is willing to exploit those suckers.

  • seniorcit on August 30, 2012 1:38 PM:

    Ryan's whole speech last night consisted of short, simple sentences and a condescending tone. It was as if he was saying, "I'm stating it as clearly as I can, you dummies. Why can't you understand?"

    Never trust a person with thin lips and a rubber-band smile.

    Heaven help the USA if they buy this garbage.

  • meady on August 30, 2012 1:57 PM:

    I think jcricket is right except there is more credit for intellect given to Ryan than I think he deserves. I don't know that he is smarter. Palin paved the way. He knows a couple of potential pitfalls, but I think ultimately he'll meet the same fate. He doesn't strike me as smarter, just the male version of Palin. A himbo. Very good looking and willing to make nasty,condescending, derisive comments, red meat for the GOP. I don't really think he appeals outside of that group. I could be wrong (not that demographic), but my gut really didn't like him and though I was predisposed not to like him (admittedly), I walked away from that speech with a far worse view of him than I expected and it wasn't about substance, it was about the type of person he projected. Complete misfire in my opinion.

  • nodak on August 30, 2012 2:03 PM:

    As my polish friend said a few months back "Those Republican, they think they can makeit me stupid" So true so true!

  • Nanuq on August 30, 2012 2:34 PM:

    On Paul Ryan as Eddie Haskell: I've been thinking for several days that Romney is Eddie Haskell. Ryan is Haskell's kid brother.

  • Enoni on September 05, 2012 10:07 PM:

    After just a few minutes of Ryan's speech I threw up in my mouth a little bit and had to change the station. I was however inspired to produce a bit of satire:



    Oh, also @jcricket

    I found your comment regarding an extremist vp candidate very enlightening, thanks for sharing that, I never thought about it that way but it makes perfect sense.