The truth behind the fiction of the Republican National Convention

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.

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  1. Edward
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    What they want to say is I Built It. By saying “we” they just make Obama’s point. these people can do nothing right.

  2. Watching Ypsi.
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    It’s truly amazing; how this GOP convention was literally lie after lie after lie.
    They don’t care at all about any facts.
    This is just crazy.

  3. anonymous
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    My dad just sent me a long email suggesting that Obama’s college education was paid for by a Chicago crime syndicate. I don’t quite follow the logic, but I guess they had somehow taken a liking to the young Barry Obama when he was attending Occidental as an undergraduate, and determined that he could one day be molded into a powerful weapon and brought to Chicago to do their bidding. So, they decided to put him through Harvard. There’s no other way, you see, that a young black man of modest means could do something like that on his own. Two minutes with Google brought up all kinds of information on Obama’s student loans, which are well documented. (He was still paying them off when he was in the Senate. Ultimately, he paid them off with the royalties from his autobiography.) I made this clear to my father, and the next day I received an email about Obama’s birth certificate and how easy it is to have documents forged when you control NASA and the Pentagon. There is absolutely nothing that you can say to these people. But, I keep trying. The debunking fatigue is setting in, though.

  4. Knox
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I consider myself a fan of Clint Eastwood’s, but Jesus that was painful watching him on stage last night. They should have known better.

  5. Meta
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Michael Moore weighed in on Eastwood’s bizarre performance.

    Speaking to Invisible Obama last night, in a performance that seemed to have been written by Timothy Leary and performed by Cheech & Chong, Clint Eastwood was able to drive home to tens of millions of viewers the central message of this year’s Republican National Convention: “We Are Delusional and Detached from Reality. Vote for Us!”

    The footage of Eastwood rambling and mumbling to his “Harvey” – President Obama – will be played to audiences a hundred years from now as the Most Bizarre Convention Moment Ever. The people of the future will know nothing about Dirty Harry or Josey Wales or a Million Dollar Baby. They WILL know about the night a crazy old man hijacked a national party’s most important gathering so he could tell the President to literally go do something to himself (i.e. fuck himself). In those few moments (and these days, it only takes a few moments—see Anthony Weiner), he completely upended and redefined how he’ll be remembered by younger and future generations.

    A few years ago, at the annual National Board of Review film awards held at Tavern on the Green in New York, I was there to hand out one of the honors. When it came time for Eastwood to accept his, he went up to the microphone and growled to me in front of the audience, “If you ever show up at my house with that camera, I’ll shoot you on sight.” The audience laughed, I laughed, but the person who issued the threat wasn’t laughing. That creeped me out a bit. I made sure never to go stand on Clint Eastwood’s lawn.

    But as I said, the best outcome from the incident last night was that it showed just how out of touch Republicans are these days. It’s as if they want a divorce from us, the American mainstream, so they can go live in the land of legitimate rapes and ice caps that don’t melt. Most Americans don’t live there on Planet Koo-koo, and I don’t suspect many will be visiting there any time soon.

    Thanks, Clint: you made our day!

  6. Eel
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Eastwood says he doesn’t think attorneys should be Presidents. (Yeah, Lincoln was pretty terrible.) Apparently he doesn’t know that his candidate, Romney, is an attorney.

  7. Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I was in a park yesterday and noticed a car with a bumper sticker “I don’t believe the LIBERAL media.”

    I spent the next hour trying to tease it out.


    1. What exacty IS the liberal media? Is he referring to specific media providers? Or does he mean to imply that ALL media is liberal?

    2. What is there to “believe” or not believe. Are weather reports on how much rain fell yesterday to be left to scrutiny? Are we being misled by reports on football scores on the New York Times?

    I don’t know, I probably spent way too much time with the bumper sticker, but I couldn’t help but interpret it as to say “I only believe whatever suits me, don’t confuse me with the evidence”

    I will return to my coffee now that Mark has turned down my lunch offer, that bastard.

  8. karma flintstock
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    a better bumper sticker would be


  9. Mr. X
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Given media consolidation, almost all of our current alternatives are owned by the same few individuals and corporations, almost all of whom are conservative. When people rant about the “liberal media” what they’re really ranting about are facts. They’re objecting to having to be confronted by facts. It’s that simple.

  10. Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I take issue with the use of the word “facts.” I think the more appropriate term would be ” evidence.”

    People dislike being confronted with evidence which counters broad assumptions, which are perceived as self-evident.

    I agree, though, the “liberal media” is really a catch all term for “all media which runs counter to my fixed and immutable perception of the world.”

    It’s sad, really.

    Another pont, the US media is not a monolithic entity. The New York Times, Fox, the Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, The Nation, Alex Jones’ website, NPR and this very blog are a testament to the diversity of the US media.

  11. Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Correction, the Economist is not American,. I apologize for the oversight.

  12. sue melke
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    the photo is not real. I saw it yesterday and they debunked it. Those signs did not appear together at the convention. Just FYI

  13. Anonymous Mike
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Nate Silver is giving Obama a 71% chance of winning. I don’t think having a delusional Clint Eastwood yelling at a chair helped.

  14. Eel
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    The next Republican Convention will be better. Honey Boo Boo is going to be the mystery speaker.

  15. Lady Bird
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Chris Rock said it best.

  16. Alice Krum
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    The most troubling line from Mitt’s speech last night.

    “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

    It got tons of applause.

    Not only do they not want to do anything about the impending disaster that we’re facing, but they’re gleeful about their refusal to address it.

    Also, did Obama not want to “help you and your family”? I don’t recall him saying that.

  17. Meta
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    They had considered having a hologram of Reagan at the convention.

  18. Meta
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Ryan said: “Last year, under President Obama’s failed leadership, 1.4 million businesses filed for bankruptcy.” The actual number was just under 48,000

  19. Meta
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Ryan doubles down on his lies:

    Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan declined on Tuesday to back away from statements in his party convention speech that nonpartisan fact checkers have branded as false or misleading.

    In a round of television interviews, the Wisconsin congressman was challenged by network anchors to defend statements on Medicare, the federal deficit and the 2008 closing of a GM plant in his hometown, Janesville.

    Asked by NBC “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer whether he would concede that some of his statements “were not completely accurate,” Ryan responded: “No. Not in the least, actually.”, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, found that Ryan’s nomination acceptance speech last week in Tampa, Fla., “contained several false claims and misleading statements.” Politifact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times and other news organizations, faulted the speech for falsehoods as well.

    In the speech, Ryan said many people liked the sound of President Obama’s talk about change during the 2008 campaign — “especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”

    But GM had closed the Janesville plant a month before Obama took office as president. Ten months before the shutdown, Obama had visited the plant and told workers there, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to retool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.”

    “After our plant was shut down,” Ryan told Lauer on Tuesday, “[Obama] said that he would lead an effort to retool plants like the Janesville plant to get people back to work. It’s still idle. People are still not working there. Lots of people I grew up with who lost their jobs there still don’t have those jobs there. So my point was not to lay blame on a plant shutdown. It was, this is yet another example of the president’s broken promises.”

    Lauer also questioned Ryan on his remarks at the convention on Obama’s creation of “a new bipartisan debt commission.”

    “They came back with an urgent report,” Ryan said in his speech. “He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing. Republicans stepped up with good faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems. How did the president respond? By doing nothing — nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue.”

    Lauer asked Ryan whether he owed it to the public to mention that as a member of the panel — the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — Ryan had voted against sending its deficit reduction plan to Congress for a vote, in effect blocking action on its recommendations.

    “But if you read the next paragraph, I said Republicans offered alternatives,” Ryan told Lauer.

    Ryan said the Republican-controlled House addressed some of the plan’s shortcomings and adopted its own version. “That’s my point,” he said. “The president didn’t do that.”

    But Obama did release a plan to cut the deficit by $3.6 trillion over 10 years through spending cuts and tax hikes.

    On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Ryan to respond to charges by Democrats that it was dishonest for him to criticize Obama for $716 billion in Medicare cuts that Ryan included in his own federal budget proposal.

    Ryan said his budget, which the House passed, included the Medicare cuts because it was “based upon current law,” which included assumed the reductions as part of Obama’s healthcare overhaul. He told Stephanopoulos that he voted to undo those cuts when he backed repeal of the healthcare law.

    “The point is, and this has been pretty well verified and established, if you’re taking $716 billion from Medicare to finance Obamacare, that really is a raid of Medicare for Obamacare,” Ryan told ABC. “We think that’s wrong. Our plan to save Medicare does not affect or change the benefits for anybody who is in or near retirement.”

    The $716 billion in Obama’s Medicare cuts also do not affect anyone’s benefits; they come mainly from reductions in government reimbursement rates for hospitals and other care providers.

    Obama’s reelection campaign released a statement hammering Ryan for his remarks on the GM plant in Janesville.

    “On all three network morning shows today, Congressman Ryan repeated the falsehood he told about the Janesville GM plant in his convention speech,” the statement said. “The truth is that the GM plant closed before President Obama took office and, as the Detroit News reported, he ‘made no such promise’ to keep it open.”

    After his morning show interviews from North Carolina, where he campaigned on Labor Day, Ryan planned to head to Ohio for an afternoon rally near Cleveland, then to Iowa for another in Cedar Rapids.

    Taken from the LA Times:,0,3872415.story

One Trackback

  1. By MIchelle Obama says “the truth matters” on September 5, 2012 at 7:15 am

    […] I really liked what she had to say about the truth mattering, which I took as a direct response to the blatant lies that were put forward by Paul Ryan and others last week, during the Republican National Convention… I don’t know that Twitter traffic […]

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