There’s little point in posting my initial reactions to the Paul Ryan speech. I lack the fact checking department to respond rapidly to the string of falsehoods launched by Paul Ryan. Here’s a good rundown. I also like that article because it highlights the ridiculousness of “a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.” I mean, who the wrote this tripe? I refuse to believe that was from Matthew Scully because he can do better than this — Palin’s 2008 GOP Convention speech, for instance. And because vegans like Scully don’t usually deal with tripe.
But what I saw last night represented the fruition of a bold political gambit. On Tuesday, Romney campaign pollster Neil Newhouse declared, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”
Specifically, Newhouse meant that the Romney campaign would not back off the new “Obama is trying to remove the work requirements from welfare” ads that pretty much no one is willing to give any shred of credibility. Newhouse and other Romney campaign pollsters have noticed an uptick based on these ads and refuse to allow truth to rain on their parade.
This theme, more than any other, has prevailed throughout the Republican National Convention. The debt clocks display the mounting debt attributable to President Obama largely due to his assumption of two unfinanced wars from the last administration and his continued commitment to the Bush-era tax cuts. The persistent repetition of the phrase “We Built That,” referring to an Obama statement that was never made. The apotheosis of the GOP’s shallow lying nature was highlighted by Obama campaign Press Secretary Ben LaBolt when he tweeted, “Notable that Debt Clock is next to GOP’s We Built This sign.”
Last night’s speech from Paul Ryan was almost pathological in its repetition of lie after lie. I would believe that his continual “Harrumph” face after nearly every line may have been an unconscious acknowledgment of his discomfort with lying if his record didn’t suggest a prior profound lack of political conscience.
The GOP is gambling that Americans won’t care about the facts. The damage is done and people will not be swayed back just because the media has researched the charges. While I can see certain circumstances where this strategy might work, the GOP has botched this both in the timing and the tenor of their lies.
The most effective lie is that cannot be dispelled in a quick enough time frame – the “October Surprise” paradigm. The Republicans have unveiled their laundry list of half-truths a little more than two months before the election. For the next two months they will not only face fact-checkers and sharply-worded campaign retorts, but a growing number of Obama ads labeling the campaign as liars – the worst possible charge to face as a challenger hoping to win the trust of the American people. Indeed, the Obama campaign’s fixation on tax returns and Cayman Islands bank accounts stems from their role as proxies for distrust. Now the Romney campaign has handed over more direct fuel for that fire.
I’d wager that the Republicans have devised this strategy by learning the wrong lessons from the John Kerry “Swift Boat” ads. The Swift Boat attacks, roundly condemned as misleading or untrue, took place long before the election, yet still damaged John Kerry beyond repair.
But the Swift Boat ads traded in doubt, not in falsehood. The viewer wasn’t there with Kerry in Vietnam. The speakers in the ads ostensibly were. Kerry could not categorically disprove the claims of the ad and the viewer was left with doubt. Doubt is difficult to overcome.
Paul Ryan’s speech deviated from Swift Boating because he cited events that could be checked. The GM plant closure he blamed on Obama took place before Obama took office. This does not leave any doubt of Obama…it’s just AN HISTORICAL FACT. This might have worked on the Wednesday before the election, but it’s not going to pass muster two months before the election.
Paul Ryan, Newhouse and the GOP strategists pushing the “damn the fact checkers” approach should pause to reflect on the words attributed to the second national nominee of the GOP: “You can fool some of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”