Where can we find one of those “new ideas” we keep hearing about, the ones that the supposedly “serious” Paul Ryan brings to the Presidential ticket? Not in their plan to turn us into a nation without Medicare. That idea isn’t any newer than the song stylings of Patti Page, who was popular in pre-Medicare America with records like “How Much Is That Doggie In the Window?”
Patti Page had her last hit in 1965, the year Medicare was created. (It was the theme song to “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte.”)
And that “new idea” can’t be their plan to gut Social Security. That would return us to the United States as it was in 1935, the year Social Security was created. The big that year was child star Shirley Temple’s rendition of “On the Good Ship Lollipop.”
If thre was a single new policy idea in tonight’s speech, it was very well hidden. What wasn’t hidden were the deceptions. The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim has found a few of the whoppers:
* The already-debunked claim about a factory which supposedly closed during Obama’s Presidency, but which really closed during Bush’s’;
* the real reason Standard & Poor’s downgraded US debt, which the credit company said occurred “because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues”‘;
* the claims that Obama “funneled” Medicare money into his health plan, when the money in question was a cut to provider reimbursements which Ryan also proposed;
* and the castigation of Obama for ignoring a “report” from his Deficit Commission, which (fortunately) deadlocked without issuing one – thanks in part to the fact that Ryan himself voted against its proposed recommendations.
But even the industrious Mr. Grim missed a few of Ryan’s deceptions, such as:
* Ryan’s self-characterization as the son of a “small-town lawyer,” when his family wealth and privilege provided him with political connections and as much as a million dollars in inheritances;
* his description of the stimulus as $831 billion in “government expenditure” when roughly a third of that amount ($289.6 billion) was in the form of Ryan’s much-beloved tax cuts, not expenditures; and,
* his claim that “will protect and strengthen Medicare,” when their voucher would really dismantle it.
But then, who can keep up with all the mendacity? Ryan’s mendacity makes it hard to believe anything he says, including his claim that his playlist “starts with AC/DC” – of “Highway to Hell” fame – and “ends with Zeppelin” (who in any case should be filed under “L” for “Led” and not “Z” for “Zeppelin”). Our playlist starts with Aaron Neville and ends with ZZ Top, and we know a phony list when we hear one.
Sure, politicians have always lied, but the Romney campaign has taken mendacity to unprecedented heights. As the media increasingly retreats into its timorous “he said/she said” shell, this campaign has brazenly deceived the public about everything from its candidates’ biographies to economic statistics, from events of recent history to easily-disproved claims about their own words. They seem to have decided that there’s no longer any price to paid for even the most brazen dishonesty.
Grim caught this nugget from CNN’s David Gergen, a political consultant to Republicans as well as “centrist” (that is,economically conservative) Democrats like Bil Clinton. Writes Grim: “Gergen, while acknowledging some ‘misstatements’ in Ryan’s address, suggested that pundits focus elsewhere. ‘But let’s not forget that this was a speech about big ideas,’ he told his audience.”
There we go with the “big ideas” again. Here, read Ryan’s speech for yourself. You won’t find any “big ideas.” You might hear echoes of Patti Page and Shirley Temple, and maybe even some traces of AC/DC or Zeppelin. But mostly you’ll hear a speech based on the premise that telling the truth no longer matters, either as a political reality or as a moral value.
It’s ironic: In an age when people have more information at their fingertips than ever before, Republicans have concluded that honesty has lost its value in the democratic process. Given the media’s performance, they may have a point. Tonight Paul Ryan doubled down on his party’s radical, Orwellian, and hopefully erroneous new proposition that we’re living in a post-truth world. And as he spoke, the Romney/Ryan campaign finally showed the country a “new idea”: Honesty is obsolete.
We’ll find out if they’re wrong in November.