I’m tempted to focus tonight on the xenophobic outbursts and the racist attacks that were witnessed yesterday at the Republican National Convention, but, instead, I thought that I’d share a few observations that others have made concerning the “We Built It” theme, which has been so central to this week’s proceedings in Tampa. (As you’ll recall, the “We Built It” meme began in earnest a few weeks ago, when the Romney campaign released a misleading television ad entitled “These Hands”, in which President Obama is heard telling the entrepreneurs of America that they didn’t, contrary to what they might think, build their own companies. What Obama had actually said is that business owners benefit from shared infrastructure, like bridges and highways, which we all build together, but the audio had been edited in such a way as to reinforce the prevalent Republican narrative that Obama is a Socialist, who, in the words of RNC Chair Reince Priebus, doesn’t even know how to run a garage sale. No, in the eyes of Obama, Priebus would have you believe, it’s government that creates companies, not rugged, hard working, American individuals.) So, the past few days have been spent by Republican party leaders, whipping up their supporters, who apparently don’t realize that they’re inside a convention center that was built with public funds, into an orgasmic froth of anti-government frenzy by repeatedly dropping the phrase, “We Built It,” like it was the most clever buzz phrase since Bush the Elder said, “Read My Lips.” Here’s a photo. (Note the incredible irony in the image.)
Of course, as we all know, the debt isn’t the fault of the Republicans… at least not if you listen to the people on the podium in Florida. Here, with more on that, is an except from today’s Washington Post column by Greg Sargent about Paul Ryan’s keynote last night… a speech, by the way, that was even called dishonest by Fox News. (Just how bad does something on the right have to be before before Fox News expresses outrage? I don’t know that I’ve seen it happen before.)
It was, by any reasonable standards, a staggering, staggering lie. Here’s Paul Ryan about Barack Obama.
“He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”
“They.” “Them.” “Them.” Those words are lies. Because Paul Ryan was on that commission. “Came back with an urgent report.” That is a lie. The commission never made any recommendations for Barack Obama to support or oppose. Why not? Because the commission voted down its own recommendations. Why? Because Paul Ryan, a member of the commission, voted it down and successfully convinced the other House Republicans on the commission to vote it down.
That wasn’t the only bit of mendacity – lazy mendacity, incredibly lazy mendacity – in Ryan’s speech. Twitter lit up as soon as he started telling the story of the Janesville auto plant that Barack Obama didn’t save – a plant that, it turns out, closed before Obama was president. And of course there’s the infamous cuts to Medicare that Ryan lambasted Obama for without happening to mention that those very same cuts were in Paul Ryan’s own budget…
And this is from coverage of Ryan’s speech in The New Republic.
…Ryan said “President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him” and proclaimed “We need to stop spending money we don’t have.” In fact, this decade’s big deficits are primarily a product of Bush-era tax cuts and wars. And you know who voted for them? Paul Ryan…
So, yes, when they show the national debt ticker above a sign that says “We Built It,” they’re being uncharacteristically truthful. And, if you don’t believe me, here’s the graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that proves it.
But we like the idea that Obama is a free spending Socialist who wants nothing more than to take all of the money from hard working white people and hand it over to lazy blacks, and there are no number of facts that can dissuade us from the belief that this is what’s happening. It doesn’t matter that, in reality, the government is growing less under Obama than it has at any point in the last 60 years. All that matters is that we know in our hearts that he’s doing things like removing the work requirement for those receiving Welfare. He isn’t, of course, but that’s beside the point. Facts, as we discussed yesterday, don’t matter anymore. No, we’re way beyond that.
update: The photo at the told of the post, showing the debt clock hanging above the “We Built It” sign, is a composite. Both signs did appear at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, but they were not situated on the same side of the arena, as they’re shown to be in the image. The Atlantic, and several other news sources, unknowingly shared the image, as I did. As both appeared at the convention, I’m going to keep the photo in the post, but I wanted to be clear that it was a composite. Honesty, it would seem, is still important to some of us.