Fact Checkers Didn’t Get in the Way of Paul Ryan’s Convention Speech

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TAMPA, Fla. — from www.huffingtonpost.com – Paul Ryan pledged Wednesday that if he and his running mate Mitt Romney were elected president, they would usher in an ethic of responsibility.

The Wisconsin congressman and GOP vice presidential candidate repeatedly chided President Barack Obama for blaming the jobs and housing crises on his predecessor, saying that his habit of “forever shifting blame to the last administration, is getting old. The man assumed office almost four years ago -– isn’t it about time he assumed responsibility?”

Ryan then noted that Obama, while campaigning for president, promised that a GM plant in Wisconsin would not shut down. “That plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight,” Ryan said.

Except Obama didn’t promise that. And the plant closed in December 2008 — while George W. Bush was president.

It was just one of several striking and demonstrably misleading elements of Ryan’s much-anticipated acceptance speech. And it comes just days after Romney pollster Neil Newhouse warned, defending the campaign’s demonstrably false ads claiming Obama removed work requirements from welfare, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

Ryan, for his part, slammed the president for not supporting a deficit commission report without mentioning that he himself had voted against it, helping to kill it.

He also made a cornerstone of his argument the claim that Obama “funneled” $716 billion out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare. But he didn’t mention that his own budget plan relies on those very same savings.

Ryan also put responsibility for Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. government debt at Obama’s doorstep. But he didn’t mention that S&P itself, in explaining its downgrade, referred to the debt ceiling standoff. That process of raising the debt ceiling was only politicized in the last Congress, driven by House Republicans, led in the charge by Paul Ryan.

The credit rater also said it worried that Republicans would never agree to tax increases. “We have changed our assumption on [revenue] because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues,” S&P wrote.

Jodie Layton, a convention goer from Utah watching the Ryan speech, said she was blown away by the vice presidential candidate. But she said she was surprised to hear that after his speech about taking responsibility, he’d pinned a Bush-era plant closing on Obama.

“It closed in December 2008?” she asked, making sure she heard a HuffPost reporter’s question right. After a long pause, she said, “It’s happening a lot on both sides. It’s to be expected.”

Ryan has referenced the GM plant before, and his attack was debunked by the Detroit News, which called it inaccurate. “In fact, Obama made no such promise and the plant halted production in December 2008, when President George W. Bush was in office,” Detroit News reporter David Sherpardson wrote earlier this month. “Obama did speak at the plant in February 2008, and suggested that a government partnership with automakers could keep the plant open, but made no promises as Ryan suggested.”

After the speech, CNN’s political commentators focused mostly on Ryan’s misstatements, demonstrating the degree to which they were evident.

Top Obama adviser David Axelrod jumped on the GM factory claim. “Again, Ryan blames Obama for a GM plant that closed under Bush. But then, they did say they wouldn’t ‘let fact checkers get in the way.'”

Ryan, however, appears to have made the calculation that the misleading won’t hurt him with voters. He might be right. CNN’s David Gergen, while acknowledging some “misstatements” in Ryan’s address, suggested that pundits focus elsewhere. “But let’s not forget that this was a speech about big ideas,” he told his audience.

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