Commandment takes beating in Tampa: “Lies, Damn Lies, and Republican Convention Rhetoric”

Mitt Romney is a Mormon and Paul Ryan is a Roman Catholic so they will differ on how to number the Ten Commandments, but they both violated the one that says, “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

Ryan went first with these obvious lies:

1. He claimed the President had “More debt than any other president before him, and more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined.” It just isn’t true. When he took office the national debt was 10.6 trillion dollars, and is now about 15 trillion. How much of that is his?  President Bush increased the debt by more than 5 trillion dollars during his two terms. President Obama has increased the debt by less than 1 trillion. The two Republican wars have been expensive, but the Bush tax cuts have been more so.

2. Ryan blamed the president for the credit downgrade last August, even though the ratings agency that made the downgrade blamed Republicans for refusing to accept any tax increases as part of a deal.

3. Ryan blamed the president for the failure of the Bowles-Simpson compromise plan, when in fact it was Ryan who persuaded other House Republicans to scuttle the plan.

4. Ryan blamed the president for the closing of a General Motors plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, but the plant shut down in December 2008, before Obama even took office.

5.  Ryan claims that “$716 billion, (was) funneled out of Medicare by President Obama,” a deliberate distortion of the Affordable Health Care Act savings by eliminating inefficiencies, when Ryan’s own plan for Medicare includes these same savings.

6. Ryan, an admirer of Ayn Rand, the high priestess of self-reliance and contempt for the poor and weak, said in his speech: “The greatest of all responsibilities is that of the strong to protect the weak,” and “The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” Yet his budget has Draconian cuts in social programs for the poor and unwell. At the same time Ryan would give richest citizens and corporations $3 trillion in tax breaks.

Governor Romney is not as big a liar as Congressman Ryan, but that is damning with faint praise. He started his speech with one of the biggest whoppers in political history (what Andrew Sullivan called the big lie):

Four years ago, I know that many Americans felt a fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president. That president was not the choice of our party but Americans always come together after elections. We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than divides us.

Now anybody who has picked up a newspaper or watched a legitimate TV news source (which eliminates Fox) knows that the President was met by a partisan wall of Republican non-cooperation from his first week in office. The GOP decided that they would put making the President look bad above the good of the country.  And they didn’t even bother to hide their contempt for him, as when Mitch McConnell pronounced that his party’s  primary goal was the President’s defeat: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

I don’t ever remember such open contempt for a sitting President, which I ascribe (at least partly) to racism, I am sad to say.

So Governor Romney’s rewritten narrative that “Americans always come together after elections” is an egregious lie.

But there were other lies in his speech, including these

  •  “Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.” This isn’t true, but according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Romney’s own tax plan would increase the tax burden on middle- and low-income Americans if it is to be revenue neutral, as Romney promises.
  •  “His trillion-dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk.” These cuts are hardly “his” (President Obama’s) as they result from an agreement between House Democrats and Republicans unless they can agree on other ways to cut spending.
  •  “His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation – and jobs – in medicine.” These “cuts” are actually reductions in future Medicare spending, and they are to providers, not Medicare recipients. They also extend the life of the Medicare program, which is perhaps why Paul Ryan has included them in his own budget plan.
  •  “Today more Americans wake up in poverty than ever before.” This one is factually true, but misleading. The poverty rate, a far fairer gauge of poverty under the president, was 15.1 percent in 2010. That’s the highest since 1993, and it’s nothing to be proud of. But it’s 7.3 percentage points lower than the 1959 poverty rate.
  •  “The centerpiece of the President’s entire re-election campaign is attacking success.” This is a reference to the President’s now famous “You didn’t build that” speech, which was taken out of context, his point being that you need help to be successful.  (Source: CBS News fact check)

Both Ryan and Romney know they are not telling the truth about the president. Where there are political differences let there be vigorous debate, but let the lying stop. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” And God said, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Ruminations about the label “Wing Nut”

I never cared much for William Safire’s political views, and often skipped his op-ed pieces in the New York Times where he was for many years the token house conservative, but I loved his column On Language in the NYT Magazine and looked forward to reading it every Sunday. His death on September 27 came as a surprise to me since he had written a column just weeks before, and the paper just said he was on hiatus. I guess he was. I miss him.

I thought of him yesterday when I blogged about Republican Congressman Nathan Deal from Georgia asking to see the President’s birth certificate. In that blogpost I wrote: “I have many fine, smart, and knowledgeable friends who are Republicans, and wouldn’t call one of them a wing nut.”

I was immediately faced with the kind of issue Safire often addressed, how to spell a neologism, especially one from the world of politics. Should it be wing-nut, wingnut, or what I finally went with, wing nut? All three are in use.

The word, of course, originally refers to a piece of hardware, a nut with wings that can be turned without the use of tools.

In its metaphorical usage in American politics it refers to a person of extreme political views, usually conservative. It is usually considered disparaging, and in my post I was careful not to call any particular person a wing nut. In my youth the operative term for a person with extreme views was that they were a member of the “lunatic fringe.”

I imagine the “wing” in “wing nut” comes from the far wing of a party, and the nut comes from the disparaging part, as in “he’s nuts.”  The term is often used to refer to right-wing talk radio hosts, and their TV counterparts.

That it is only the right-wing (or should it be right wing?) that get to be called wing nuts got me ruminating (always dangerous) about political labels in general and how they seem to be party specific. For example, I have heard of “dyed in the wool” Republicans, but never “dyed in the wool” Democrats. The only wool that is used against Democrats is “wooly-headed” (meaning vague or muddled) but never against Republicans. Is it because Republicans are never vague or muddled? I wouldn’t think so.

Republicans can be “staunch,” but not Democrats. I wonder why. Are they too vague and muddled to be staunch? I guess I better quit all this wondering before I go all Andy Rooney on you. I wouldn’t want you to think I’m a wing nut.

(November 13 update:  I just learned that there is a AA baseball team called the Wichita Wingnuts, which caught my eye since my mother grew up and went to college in Wichita, Kansas, which also has of late seems to have more than their share of wing nuts in the sense described above.)