One of the most surprising things about Paul Ryan's speech to the Republican National Convention Wednesday was not that he shaded the truth, but that he told one lie that was so easily disproven. Reporters used to be able to shame politicians into quitting repeating their lies. Mitt Romney himself got nostalgic for that bygone era just a couple weeks ago. "You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad," Romney said on Bill Bennett’s radio show August 9. "They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead." But Romney's own campaign has been very explicit about blasting ahead, no matter the fact-checkers' complaints. "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said this week.
The morning's coverage of Ryan's speech has been dominated picking through its many factual errors. But the most apparent whopper, in our opinion, was the story Ryan told about what Barack Obama had said of GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin in 2008, "I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years." And yet, Ryan said, "as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. And that's how it is in so many towns where the recovery that was promised is no where in sight." The obvious implication is that if Obama's policies were working that plant would still be open. There's just one big problem: Obama couldn't have saved it, because he was not in the White House. The plant announced it would close in June 2008. It sent home 1,200 workers for good in December 2008, keeping just 100 on until it closed entirely in 2009. This isn't a "shading the truth" problem, where people quibble over whether Obama's policy could have saved the plant. (And for that matter, Ryan himself asked for federal help to keep the plant open in 2008.) So, why would he lie about something so easily debunked by just looking at the dates on old newspaper stories?