I am fairly certain that the woman who were seated behind me at the Republican National Convention last night could not have screamed louder when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) took the stage, even if he’d come out from behind the podium, ripped off some pull-away pants and started gyrating like something out of a scene from Magic Mike.
Ryan was Wednesday’s keynote speech that got an otherwise lackluster crowd on their feet after first sitting (and talking) through three hours of everyone from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to anti-Obamacare attorneys general Pam Bondi and Sam Olens (who were the most inexplicable and most inexplicably terrible speakers at a convention that featured so many small business people talking about how they built things that even conservative writers were quietly mocking it) to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), whose appearance immediately preceded a protest walk-out by the Paul delegates. Only Condoleezza Rice, who extolled the virtues of war and America being the world’s policeman despite the sacrifice of American lives, got anything nearing Ryan’s reception and, like most of the night’s speakers, she had trouble holding their attention.
Not so with Paul who, like former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) four years ago, threw conservative T-Bone after right-wing sirloin at an emotionally ravenous crowd — after all, what is a convention for? But while the crowd ate it up, even screaming so loudly at the end of the speech that it was impossible to hear from some (if not all) of the media seats, more than one journalist looked askance at some of the claims made by Ryan and this morning’s news cycle has been dominated by fact checks from opinion writers and reporters alike noting where Paul veered from the traditionally acceptable politically-subjective recounting of events to statements designed to confirm existing world views rather that present at least reasonably accurate accounting of anything (which, in the vernacular, is often referred to as “lying”).
It’s hard to assign a motive to his or his speechwriters’ deliberate fudging — after all, there were and are plenty of completely accurate and politically advantageous critiques to make of the president, from, “It began with a housing crisis they alone didn’t cause; it ends with a housing crisis they didn’t correct,” to “And the story that Barack Obama does tell, forever shifting blame to the last administration, is getting old.” But the minds behind Ryan’s speech are the ones who used the prime time slot to advocate for further military intervention in the Middle East last night and to call for a discussion of love last night. They’re the folks who find the National Labor Relations Board – Boeing case worth ten minutes at the podium, the ones who keep trumpeting the need for more free trade agreements that polls show the American public doesn’t want, the ones who thought having Rick Santorum say “hands” over and over again wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.
Paul Ryan’s speech fired up the base, which was its point — and in that, and possibly that alone, it was successful. But if the goal is just to get the party faithful on its feet in Tampa and out to the polls back home, there’s hardly a point in prime time television coverage or thousands of journalists attending. It was, in prior years, a long-form advertisement, not just to the base, but to the independent voters and those who hadn’t made up their minds. And with all the references over the past two days to disaffected Obama voters and the reasons they should consider voting for Romney-Ryan, it’s clear that the Republicans know that those folks are at least part of their audience — and in Ryan’s speech in particular, he made specific reference more than once to Obama and his supporters that were obviously bridge-building.
So then why ruin it by telling half-truths and falsehoods that are easily debunked? It’s hard to say they didn’t know. You have to guess they didn’t care.
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