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By James Rothwell
“College graduates,” Paul Ryan told an enraptured audience at the Republication national convention yesterday, “should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at faded Obama posters.”
The pithy sound bite drew raucous applause and a standing ovation from the crowd. It was one of many in a well-oiled speech that was heavy on rhetoric and remarkably low on policy.
He also railed against Obama for dodging the blame on economy woes – “The man assumed office almost four years ago. Isn’t it about time he assumed responsibility?”
He also fumed that Obama had lost his creative drive: “They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”
But a backlash against Ryan came hot on the heels of those smears. Within hours of the speech being covered by the UK’s papers, the BBC had already run a story, reporting allegations that the speech contained factual errors.
Fact checkers say, for example, that Ryan’s accusation the White House cut around $716 billion dollars from Medicare was spurious at best. In fact, Obama’s healthcare reform law is understood not to make any spending cuts at all; it simply clamps down on any further spending to keep the business solvent.
To add insult to injury, Ryan savaged Obama for his $800 billion stimulus plan, only for the Associated Press to point out that he himself proposed a similar policy in his home state of Wisconsin – an interesting shortcut, considering the Republican running mate also accused Obama of hypocrisy.
But perhaps the most eye-watering gaffe of all for the 42 year-old Wisconsinite was raging about the closure of a GM plant in his home town of Janesville.
According to Ryan, Obama had once told employees of that plant that “if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” It was closed down within a year, and at Obama’s hands, he claimed.
But that Janesville plant was, in fact, shut down under the previous administration of George W Bush.
On the whole Ryan weighed in heavily on some smart rhetoric and the odd impressive sleight of hand with statistics. His speech writer, whoever he or she may be, has done a good job.
But if the allegations of sloppy fact checking ring true – or are proven to be downright deliberate lies, as is most probably the case – then it could be a humiliating blot on the record of a White House wannabe in the infant stages of his campaign.