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Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012

GOP's Convention of Lies

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Even modern political conventions, which are often little more than highly scripted party infomercials, can't seem to prevent small bits of truth from accidentally leaking out.

One amusing truth that gradually became clear during the Republican National Convention was that many prominent Republicans already had written off their current nominee, Mitt Romney, and were eagerly positioning themselves to run for president in 2016.

The usual job of the keynote speaker at a national convention is to fire up the party's enthusiasm for their presidential campaign.

Instead, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made only glancing mention of the Republican nominee in a speech that went to enormous lengths to effusively praise the alleged virtues and accomplishments of, you guessed it, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Even former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an otherwise stately speech, couldn't resist nominating herself as a young black girl growing up in Jim Crow Birmingham who couldn't buy a hamburger at Woolworth's but could still dream of becoming president of the United States.

That would be extremely unlikely as a Republican, however. Convention officials refused to say how many of the 4,400 Republican delegates and alternates were African American, but reporters identified about 30 to 45.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, as the Republican vice presidential candidate few Americans know anything about, could be excused for devoting most of his speech to his own personal biography. But there was no excuse for what Fox News contributor Sally Kohn described as "an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech."

When even Fox News, with its strong conservative bias, is forced to admit a Republican politician is dishonest, lying as a political tactic has gone beyond amusing to become calculated fraud to deceive voters.

Brazen Falsehoods

To their credit, the national media, including most of the TV networks, eventually reported many of Ryan's most brazen falsehoods. But there were a few subtle ones you had to be from Wisconsin to understand.

When Ryan talks about struggling after losing his father as a teenager and still living today on the same block in Janesville, Wis., where he grew up, he leaves the false impression of an up-from-the-bootstraps success story of a small-town boy who still lives simply.

Ryan never mentions the block where he grew up is the same one where the richest family in town lived—the family of George Parker, founder of the Parker Pen Co., the largest manufacturer of ink pens in the world—and that, since marrying into millions himself, Ryan and his family have moved into the former Parker mansion.

Ryan's steady stream of political lies was far less subtle and impossible for most of the media to ignore, although the fawning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tried really hard for a couple of days.

The most ridiculous ones almost everybody caught included:

  • Accusing President Barack Obama of closing the GM plant in Janesville that closed in December 2008, under President Bush
  • Claiming Obama robbed Medicare recipients of $716 billion in benefits that were really cost reductions that didn't cut any senior benefits and that Ryan himself also included in his House budget
  • Attacking Obama for failing to act on the recommendations of a bipartisan debt commission when Ryan himself, as a member of that debt commission, voted against its recommendations and prevented them from going to Congress
  • And blaming Obama for a downgraded U.S. credit rating that actually was sparked by Ryan's House Republicans threatening to refuse to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, which would have caused the United States to default on its debts

There were more, but what's most appalling is that Ryan has told these same lies before. They have been publicly identified as lies by independent fact-checkers. And Ryan purposely repeated statements he knew to be lies in his biggest moment on a national stage.

Presidential candidate Romney did the same thing in his acceptance speech, launching what's been called the first post-truth campaign. Romney's biggest Republican lie: "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed."

Anyone who was conscious during the past four years knows Republicans were absolutely united from Obama's first day in office in voting against anything proposed by our first African-American president.

That included taking the un-American stand of voting against job creation to intentionally delay recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The lies told at the Republican convention have nothing to do with ideology. There have always been honest conservatives and honest liberals. There really are honest Democrats, and everyone should hope there really are still honest Republicans.

And no: All politicians don't do it. Openly building a party's entire presidential campaign around known lies is political dishonesty on an unprecedented, breathtaking scale. If Republicans succeed, it's our own fault.

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