Tuesday, September 4, 2012

You Want The Truth? You Can't Handle The Truth

Paul Ryan is not going to stop saying it was President Obama’s fault that Janesville GM shut down; he’s not going to stop saying President Obama broke a promise to keep the plant going; and it appears talk show hosts and TV interviewers of all stripes are not going to stop calling him on it (as they did on CBS again this morning).

Ryan does not care what the fact-checkers say, and is not ever going to “cave” in an interview and say “OK, maybe you’re right; GM shut the plant down because it was the oldest GM plant in the nation, and it made gas-guzzling SUV’s, for which demand has been down since gas prices went north” or anything of the sort.

Paul Ryan doesn’t care what YOU think; he’s sending a message to the so-called “low-information” voters to implant and reinforce the idea that President Obama is bad and wrong.  He couldn’t care less that the fact-checkers can nail him to the cross on so many of the things he said in his acceptance speech.  He’s staying on-message and on-target to reach the 10 percent (or fewer) people who will swing the November election.

The technique is effective.

We are now a nation of people who operate with our own notion of what a “fact” is.  We cannot have discussion or compromise or move forward together, because we simply don’t agree on underlying problems.  Facts.

Here’s how well the technique works:  take the acceptance speech (and stump speech) line that goes something like “Under President Obama, America’s Credit Rating was downgraded; under Governor Romney, Massachusetts’ Credit Rating went up”.  This is a factual statement.

But then there’s that pesky “truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth” thing.  The whole truth of the credit downgrade during the Obama presidency, according to the agencies that determine the nation's credit rating, is that it happened because Paul Ryan and the House Republicans, fronted by John Boehner, played chicken with the debt ceiling, and refused for days on end to raise the ceiling (which they did their best to infer meant “more borrowing, more debt”).  Ths made our creditors very nervous, and that's what caused the downgrade. But this “whole truth” aspect has no bearing whatsoever on low-information voters.

There was a textbook case on point last night on one of the local TV news channels, when the anchorette repeated the Ryan line about the credit rating went down under Obama but Massachusetts’ went up under Romney, as she was doing narrative over some footage of Ryan campaigning somewhere or other.

Al Gore’s famously misquoted line about the internet meant the fact-checkers hounded him during that campaign, digging up other stuff Gore said that was more “interpretation” than fact, particularly his comments about global warming (before it became “global climate change”).  Ryan’s recent episode of faulty memory about his marathon time, so easily fact-checked and contradicted, might be a more clear signal that he’s not at all concerned with “objective truth”….and may be the “little white lie” that puts the fact-checkers on double-secret overtime duty to check every Ryan utterance from that point on.

But, Ryan won’t care.  You want the truth (to quote a line made famous in “A Few Good Men”)?  Well, let me paraphrase a few lines from the Paul Newman movie “The Verdict”: the truth isn’t that easy to come by.  Sometimes you have to look pretty hard for it.

Truth and fact are not the same thing.

In this, and so many other cases, it’s fair to say a lot of people really can’t handle the truth.

Getty Images holds the copyright to the picture of Paul Ryan at the top of this post.


  1. Let us not forget Obozo's mention of "re-tooling".

    That didn't happen.

  2. Tim:

    I don't know if you saw this a while back, and the link may not work. Rex Huppke of the Chicago Trib. wrote an obituary for facts. If the link doesn't work, just google "obituary for facts." Hilarious and sadly true.