Watching Paul Ryan’s speech, a cold, disturbed feeling began to rush over me. It took me a moment to remember where I had this feeling before, and then it came to me. It reminded me of the feeling of nearly physical discomfort that came over me during the run-up to the Iraq War, when the Bush administration went on an elaborate misinformation campaign designed to distort reality so much that the public didn’t know up from down, and would be compliant with whatever the administration did next. It was the feeling you get when you’re being subjected to a Big Lie. Not your typical lie, which tends to be focused on confusing one issue or that in order to swing some votes. No, Ryan pulled a Babe Ruth, pointing his Bat of Horseshit at the Fences of Facts, and announced to the world he would be hitting this one so far past them that the truth would never be found again. He told lies like a man born without a conscience. And the crowd ate it up.
Not that the Republican Party hasn’t had its share of glib liars before. Mike Huckabee became so beloved so fast because his experience as a pastor had turned him into a master spinner of bullshit, a man who had learned to mimic the cadences of empathy and kindness so well that even some liberals mistake him for a man of compassion who simply has strange religious beliefs. But even Huckabee had his tells. They were especially visible to those of us who’ve had more exposure to the disingenuous folkways of Southern Baptists who praise Jesus in the daylight while keeping the darkest corners of the porn internet fiscally solvent at night. Those of us who picked up quickly the importance of not getting yourself stuck in a direct conversation with evangelical men who imagine themselves community leaders, lest you feel the need for a shower afterwards. We swiftly see the spark of hatred behind Huckabee’s jovial demeanor, one that flared to the surface repeatedly during his speech, particularly when he was thinking about the nerve of Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office just because he won the election. Huckabee knows this about himself, which is why he sprinkles his speeches with faux self-deprecating humor; he hopes these jokes will make you forget the way the anger flares up in him, revealing periodically that no, he is not in this because he’s a man of sincere religious faith so much as a man of sincere fury that he had to live in an era where the white man’s right to rule everyone around him is being genuinely questioned.
But Paul Ryan? He isn’t crippled by any of that. Paul Ryan told lies like a man untroubled by passion. Like Huckabee, he’s a man who’s devoid of empathy and compassion, but he’s also scrubbed himself of anger. It may even be that he didn’t tell more lies than Huckabee, though I suppose he had to, as every word out of both their mouths was rooted in lies, and Ryan spoke longer than Huckabee. He’s not a robot like Mitt Romney is accused of being, either. His entire personality seems to be boiled down to the single character trait of “glib”. As if scientists found a way to distill a frat boy’s gives-no-fucks demeanor and create an entire human being out of it. He tells lies smoothly and without a single bump, because he’s been freed from the usual concerns that ordinary people have: what others think of you, if you’re a moral person, having concerns outside of winning. None of that appears to touch him.
And the convention-goers ate it up.
The rest of the liberal media today is going to be combing over Ryan’s speech, trying to expose the cloud of lies that’s so dense that the mainstream media appears to have given up even caring about. Please read those, and maybe soon we can put together a crib sheet to help you with your arguments on Facebook. But I had to take a moment to point out that one reason Ryan has been put forward as Republican Lying Bastard Number One is that he does it with the ease of brushing one’s hair. I see why Republicans love that shit. I just wonder if independents and swing voters will fall for it.