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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Media finally realizing Paul Ryan’s a con artist

Remember back when Paul Ryan was the guy with the “courage” to take on entitlements — entitlements that didn’t actually need to be taken on? Yeah, everyone who bothered to look at them said that Paul Ryan’s budget plans were a mix of economic hoodoo, wishful thinking, and straight-up bullshit. But the press could be bothered to look, they had to run off to pretend they knew what the hell they were talking about and look smart by delivering what they thought was the inside scoop.

Now that Ryan’s a little more consequential, people are starting to pay more attention to his relationship to reality and it’s turning out that maybe Paul Ryan’s not the courageous truth-teller all the talking heads said he was and is, in fact, the bullshit artist all the real truth-tellers kept saying he was.

Jonathon Chait:

Ryan seems to have fallen victim to circumstances he didn’t quite foresee. The Romney campaign has spent the last several weeks practically daring the national press corps to call out its lies. Well beyond the usual exaggerations of a national campaign, Romney has built its entire message around two accusations — “you didn’t build that” and “just send them a check” — that are obviously false. A day before Ryan’s speech, a Romney adviser told reporters, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” The media that had spent the last two and a half years nuzzling gently in Ryan’s lap had been prodded with sharp sticks and reacted in the predictable fashion, though probably not predictable to Ryan himself.

The thing about Ryan is that he has always resided in a counter-factual universe. He is a product of the hermetically sealed right-wing subculture. Many of the facts taken for granted by mainstream economists have never penetrated his brain. Ryan burst onto the national scene with a dense, fact-laden attack on the financing of Obama’s health-care bill that was essentially a series of hallucinations, pseudo-facts cooked up and recirculated by conservative apparatchiks who didn’t know what they were talking about or didn’t care. His big-think speeches reflect the influence of fact-free conservatives and collapse under scrutiny.

During the last couple of years, Ryan took his act to the big city, expanding beyond his Washington conservative movement base and pitching himself to a broader audience as a straight-talking avatar of fiscal responsibility. That he managed to pull off the feat was completely incredible. Ryan’s entire career had been rooted in the “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” wing of his party, and he spent the Bush administration consistently pushing for even more fiscally irresponsible policies than even George W. Bush could bear, and then spent the Obama administration relentlessly killing any effort to ameliorate those deficits. The genuine Paul Ryan is a man deeply devoted to reducing tax rates for Job Creators, and staunchly opposed to universal health insurance and other social spending. He is not a deficit hawk. The tension between Ryan’s policy goals and the persona he crafted was strained to the breaking point. When the press corps finally applied even the slightest pressure to it, it immediately and inevitably snapped.

On the political stage, shamelessness looks a lot like courage. From now on, it would be extremely helpful if the chattering classes would keep that in mind.

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