Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ryan Invents New Janesville Narrative, Newsbusters’ Kyle Drennen Fails To Keep Up

MRCWatch Dept. - Kyle Drennen continued Newsbusters' defense of the indefensible Paul Ryan today, falsely claiming that NBC’s “Today” falsely claimed the Republican candidate had “played fast and loose with the truth” in his speech to the RNC.

Drennen’s subject was an interview of Ryan conducted on the morning program by Matt Lauer. The host’s first question:

"There are some people who are claiming that you played a little fast and loose with the truth on certain key elements. And I’m not just talking about Democratic analysts, I’m talking about some independent fact checkers. Would you concede that while many of the things you said were effective, some were not completely accurate?"

Ryan replied:

"No, not in the least, actually. What they're trying to suggest is that I said that Barack Obama was responsible for our plant shutdown in Janesville. That is not what I was saying. Read the speech. What I was saying is the President ought to be held to account for his broken promises. After our plant was shut down he said that he would lead an effort to retool plants like the Janesville plant to get people back to work. It’s still idle, people are still not working there... So my point was not to lay blame on the plant shutdown, it was, this is yet another example of the President's broken promises. In 2008, he traveled all around the country making promises that he broke, just like the one in Janesville."

Lauer said that, in his opinion, “it seemed like you were unmistakably trying to link the President's promise with the closing of that plant, which you know obviously, closed before he became president.” Ryan was having none of that:

"The promise was that he was going to open the plant. The promise was he was going to lead an effort to retool the plant so that people go back to work and it would be open for another hundred years, he said. So the point is, he filled people with all this hope as he traveled around the country running for president, making grandiose statements and promises, which are just not true... I know they don't like the fact that we point these facts out that they made a lot of promises that did not materialize. Janesville was just yet one more example of that."

Some facts: In his RNC speech, Ryan was discussing a campaign visit Obama, as a presidential candidate, made to the Janesville plant in February 2008. Contrary to Ryan's present assertion--which is a new claim--that was not "after our plant was shut down." It was, in fact, before GM had even decided to close the plant. That decision came months later, in June, with the plant-closing following in December. Obama made no "promise" that "he was going to open the plant"; at the time of his visit, the plant was open for business. Obama did, indeed, say that as president, he "would lead an effort to retool" plants like Janesville to produce the more fuel-efficient cars of the future but far from being a "broken promise," he has, in fact, done so. Paul Ryan knows this--while he trashes Obama for "broken promises" on this issue, his own now-infamous budget eliminates all funding for the largest program aimed at assisting this retooling. And while it's true, as Ryan said, that he didn't, in his RNC speech, claim Obama "was responsible for our plant shutdown," he did, in fact, make that charge two weeks prior to the Republican convention at a campaign stop in Ohio, as I detailed, here, last week. In that earlier piece, I noted that Ryan, in his convention remarks, was essentially walking back his earlier false charges; on "Today," this morning, he made this explicit.

In short, Ryan was questioned about his dishonesty and, in reply, simply lied some more.

Drennen offers a very different "interpretation." He quotes portions of this part of the exchange with Lauer, and characterizes Ryan's remarks thusly: "Ryan dismantled Lauer’s baseless claim."

Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Expanding those volumes to an encyclopedia, Drennen asserts that the fact-checkers who had challenged Ryan "actually left out several key facts, and yet, the media continues to run with the dishonest attack on Ryan’s accurate statements." To support this, he links to an editorial in the Washington Examiner but though this editorial misrepresents the Janesville issue in its own way,[1] it actually refutes the all-new narrative Ryan offered the Today audience. While Ryan’s new tale is that Obama visited the plant after it closed and promised to open it, the editorial correctly notes that both GM’s decision to close the plant and the actual plant closure happened long after Obama's campaign visit.

Since Drennen is asserting that Lauer made false attacks on Ryan in the context of Newsbusters' larger thesis--the false notion that the national corporate press is "liberal"--it's worth noting that Lauer allowed Ryan to get away with this, to sit before a national television audience of millions and weave a narrative that was fundamentally false in every respect.

Continuing, Drennen recounts:

"Lauer again tried to portray Ryan as dishonest in another part of the speech: 'Let’s talk about the example using the Simpson-Bowles recommendations… you voted against sending those recommendations to the Senate, basically killing any further action on them. Didn't you owe it to the people in that room to say that as well?'

"Ryan refuted: 'But if you read the next paragraph, I said Republicans offered alternatives... The President didn't do that. The President didn't offer a budget to fix the problem. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget in three years.'"

This is Ryan blatantly misrepresenting his own speech. Here, from it, are his remarks on the debt commission:

“He [Obama] created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”

As Lauer suggested, the degree to which Ryan, in real time, regarded this report as "urgent" is made rather plain by the fact that he, himself, opposed it and voted against it. These remarks, in context, weren't a preface to comments about Republican "alternatives," either; they were a charge in a list of charges.[2] Lauer had, in his question, quoted Ryan's exact remark from the speech but Drennen, in his article, removed the quote, leaving only ellipses. I’ll leave it to the reader to speculate as to why.



[1] Actually, in the way in which the righty blogosphere has misrepresented it.

[2] As had been Ryan’s previous paragraph and as was his next: "Republicans stepped up with good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems.  How did the president respond?  By doing nothing--nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue."

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