Paul Ryan Running on Empty


    Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech at the GOP convention was so brazenly and comprehensively dishonest that even a national media corps that is typically loath to personally call out politicians on either side for their mendacity felt compelled to address the matter, if only to maintain the tiny shred of credibility they still have with the American public.

    Needless to say, that brought out an immediate and full-frontal assault on the media from the typical corners of the Wingnut movement, primarily based on the now debunked and shopworn charges of liberal media bias. Heck, this time even Faux News called out Ryan on the speech.

    But Ryan and his Wingnut defenders also argued (sometimes with merit, sometimes without, in my view) that everything in Ryan’s speech was technically true. They cited Ryan’s story about the closing of the Janesville GM plant as an example. Ryan never actually asserted, they point out, that the plant closed while Obama was president (which is true). Rather, they say, Ryan recited a set of technically accurate, albeit incomplete facts, to advance their argument that Obama’s presidency is one of unfulfilled promises, and, well, if they created the false impression that the plant closed under Obama, that was incidental and unintentional.

    That’s right. Ryan’s defense is I may deceive you, but I don’t lie!

    Okay, that’s pathetic.

    But then there is this, even more pathetic news that emerged yesterday.

    (more on the flip)

    In an interview with Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt published on Aug 22, Ryan spoke about the “marathons” he has run:

    HH: Are you still running?

    PR: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or [less].

    HH: But you did run marathons at some point?

    PR: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.

    HH: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?

    PR: Under three, high twos. I had a two-hour and fifty-something.

    HH: Holy smokes.

    PR: I was fast when I was younger, yeah.

    Hey, good stuff. A sub-three-hour marathon is impressive in anyone’s book, and would, among other things, more than likely qualify you for a spot in the Boston Marathon.

    Runners’ World magazine took note, reporting that Ryan’s time would make him the fastest marathoner on a national ticket, compared to John Edwards 3:30, Dubya’s 3:44, Sarah Palin’s 3:59 and Al Gore’s 4:58.

    Only one thing.  Ryan never ran a sub-three-hour marathon. In fact, Ryan never ran a sub-four-hour marathon. According to Runner’s World, it could find only a single record of Ryan finishing a marathon — the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., where Ryan, then 20, finished in 4 hours, 1 minute, and 25 seconds.

    And when they confronted Ryan, he had to come clean.

    Initially, a Ryan spokesperson told Runner’s World, “His [Ryan’s] comments were to the best of his recollection.”

    Then, last night an embarrassed Ryan responded to Runner’s World with this:

    “The race was more than 20 years ago, but my brother Tobin-who ran Boston last year-reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight.”

    Look, not to put too fine a point on this defense, but this is bull. Even confronted with the facts that he took more than four hours, Ryan still weasels his way to suggesting a time better than he actually ran by asserting his time would be four hours “if I were to do any rounding,” maintaining the fiction that his time may have been between 3:30 – 3:59, when he knows it was not.

    But beyond that response (a typical Ryan tactic of defending one lie with another cheesy assertion that is more difficult to nail him on), there is simply no way he misremembers his time so badly, especially in light of the significance of a sub-three-hour marathon. I ran two marathons in my younger days (the Marine Corps Marathons in 1989 and 1991). I ran them just to finish, and came in somewhere around 4:30 each time. I’m proud of myself for completing two marathons in my life, albeit slowly. But your marathon time is simply not the kind of thing you misremember so badly. Sure, if you’ve run a dozen-plus marathons, you may get confused in recounting a specific time you ran in a race, but even in that instance would still never misremember your single best time. And when you have only run one or two marathons in your life, like me or Ryan it is a highlight, and your time tends to stick in your memory.

    Now, I suspect that Ryan has been telling this particular fib for a while now in an attempt to make himself seem more impressive than he really is in the physical fitness department, so when it came up with Hewitt, I assume, Ryan just told the same old tale he’s been telling for years. It simply never occurred to him that anyone would check it out, because, really, who would care?

    Indeed, all else being equal, this is not a significant matter. To me, it seems on par with lying about a golf shot (“Two inches from the hole, I tell ya”) or score, or the proverbial big fish that got away. Pretty trivial stuff.

    But that, of course, was before the smorgasbord of lies, half-truths and deceptions Ryan served up to America Wednesday night in his quest for the vice presidency, putting his personal credibility into question.

    In the context of Ryan’s lying – er, misleading — speech, his heretofore trivial lies deserve to be viewed in a more critical light as to what they might reveal about Ryan’s character.  Now that Ryan has acknowledged, at best, a casual acquaintance with the truth, what are we to make of the defenses he has advanced to the alleged lies of his acceptance speech.

    This particular exchange with Scott Pelley of CBS regarding Ryan’s hilariously inept attempt to defend his claim about the reason behind the S&P downgrade of the U.S. during last summer’s debt ceiling debacle really stood out for me in this regard:

    Scott Pelley: One Final point on the speech last night. You also suggested that it was the president’s fault that the nation’s credit rating was downgraded…

    Paul Ryan: Yeah.

    SP: …but when Standard & Poor’s issued that credit rating downgrade, it said it was the Republican Congress that was at fault.

    PR: That’s not true. That’s not correct. Standard & Poor’s also said ….

    SP: I can read it to you.

    PR: I know the team. I’ve met with the Standard & Poor’s team. What they said was if our Republican budget would have passed, it would have prevented the downgrade. They basically said because of the lack of leadership in Washington, political leadership, that’s the downgrade. I would argue strenuously that it comes from the fact that the Senate didn’t pass a budget for three years and the president didn’t bother trying to put a solution on the table to get us to avoiding a debt crisis while the House passed our reforms.

    SP:  For the record, what Standard & Poor’s said was, quote, “We have changed our assumptions on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues.”

    PR:  That’s not…

    SP: They’re saying you refused to raise taxes and they downgraded the American debt.

    PR: I see it in a different way. That’s not my understanding from talking to them.

    Hmmm. Well, that’s a horse of a different color. Perhaps Ryan doesn’t realize he actually took four hours to run that marathon. We have to allow for the possibility, one supposes, that similar to the S&P downgrade, he just sees time in a different way than the rest of us.

    As I noted up top, pathetic.


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