The latest controversy involving Rep. Paul “Lyin’” Ryan concerns whether, in a recent interview, willfully misrepresented the time it took him to run a marathon, some 20-odd years ago. He claims it was under three hours, but apparently it was actually over four. While I do believe he’s probably deliberately lying here, rather than innocently “misremembering” (runners tell me they remember their marathon times like other people remember their SAT scores), normally I think it would be way too petty to make a big deal out of it.
However, given that: 1) for some time now, Ryan has had a reputation for playing fast and loose with the truth, a reputation that notably enhanced by his convention address, a speech that was unusually mendacious even by the standards of the contemporary G.O.P.; and 2) during the 2000 election, the Republicans, and (especially) their enablers in the mainstream media, hung Al Gore for far less (see here, for example), I think going after Paul Ryan for this is totally fair game.
Yes, it’s trivial BS. And no, I don’t by any means believe that this should be the focal point of attacks on Paul Ryan — the fact that he and his party are such ruthless champions of the immiseration of working people should be the main focus of said attacks, always.
That said, ridicule is a powerful weapon, and one which progressives should not shy away from (though sadly, some of the more misguidedly high-minded ones among us do). Besides, if you think I’m going to pass up the opportunity to crack snarky Rosie Ruiz jokes at Ryan’s expense, you are so, so wrong. Clearly!
By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 1, 2012
The secret of Republican political success since the rise of the right is not, as many liberals believe, that they play no-rules hardball. Instead, it’s their skill at projection—at accusing Democrats of doing what they are doing themselves, or are planning to do, or have done. That’s the real Rosetta stone. And that’s what Mitt Romney did this week when he called Barack Obama’s tough, but hardly extraordinary, ads about Bain Capital “character assassination.” He’s trying to make it so that Bain as a subject becomes off limits, and he’s laying the groundwork for later, when the real character assassination starts—and I hope your memory isn’t so short that you forget that he knows a thing or two about the topic himself.
Republicans have perfected many a dark campaign art over the years, from racial nudging and winking to suggesting that we’ll all be killed by terrorists if voters elect Democrats. But projection is the darkest art of all. And it’s so simple! When Republicans are acting like a mob—down in Dade County, for example—they accuse the Democrats of having a mob mentality. When they’re planning on blowing holes in the budget deficit bigger than the one the iceberg laid on the Titanic, via Paul Ryan’s budget and tax cuts for the rich, they stand up and accuse the Democrats of blowing holes in the budget. It works pretty well, too. All the conservative blogs pick up on it, and Fox and so on. And then, when the mainstream media sit down to write about the subject at hand, stories will note that “The GOP has been saying for months…”
This is what is happening here. Romney is trying to do two things. First, he’s trying to make any criticism of his Bain record out of bounds. Aware of course that he’s been forced by reality to revise downward from “more than 100,000” to “thousands” the number of jobs he helped create at Bain, he knows that he can’t use Bain as a plus to the extent that he wanted to. Think about it—the cornerstone of his career, the thing he spent 15 years of his life doing, the business he built (with Mr. Bain’s blessing and seed money)—pretty much out the window now. So that being the case, he needs to eliminate it as a minus. See if the referee will toss it out, if the judge (the media) will rule it inadmissible.
The obvious way to do that is to call any mention of it character assassination. Are those ads really character assassination? Do they say, for example: “Mitt Romney must be a really terrible and malevolent human being to have thrown those poor steel workers out on the street”? Because that would be an attack on Romney’s character. But no, they do not. They say Mitt Romney did us dirt. They’re emotional, sure. And if you want to say emotionally manipulative, all right by me. And yes, Joe Biden took it all a step or two further with his Ohio speech, saying Romney doesn’t understand the rest of us and so on.
But come on. That’s politics. Those aren’t character attacks. They’re salvos in a debate about what kinds of capitalism are good for regular people and what kinds aren’t. Campaigns Democratic or Republican don’t exactly elevate debates, Lord knows; but if we’re going to have arguments about how our society works, that’s a pretty useful one to have.
But the character-assassination label will come in handy—and this is Romney’s second purpose—when the Republican attacks on Obama really start. Maybe Romney is telling the truth, and his campaign will be all about how Obama promised nice things and seems like a nice young man but failed to deliver on them. His polling tells him he has to campaign like that for now, because Obama is far more likable to more people than he.
Something tells me, though, that the Romney campaign will eventually lower the boom. One might argue that it has already. What’s “apologizing for America,” after all? Aside from being a cheap and contemptible lie, is it not a kind of assault on the character of the president of the United States to accuse him of doing something that he hasn’t done, especially when the accusation is obviously meant to carry treasonous connotations? Romney’s “apologizing for America” line has always told us a great deal about character—Romney’s, not the president’s.
Don’t forget, finally, that Romney is pretty adept at character assassination himself. What do you call it when in those crucial primaries that he barely won against Rick Santorum—Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin—he was outspending Santorum six and nine and 12 to one with incredibly negative ads? Or the “tsunami of sleaze,” as my colleague John Avlon put it at the time that the Romney campaign dumped on Newt Gingrich in Florida, where 92 percent of the aired TV ads were negative? Those gutter attacks, aired over and over and over, are, it is worth remembering, the main reason the guy is the nominee. He was tied or behind in all those states until he emptied the trash. He wasn’t winning them over with his wit.
So it’s a bit rich to hear him saying now that he’s sad to see Obama in the gutter and he’s going to keep it on the up and up. But at some point, he’ll attack. And when he does, he’ll sigh sadly and say that he was forced into this position by that mean Obama, and he’ll count on everyone to forget the primary season, the foulest one by far in the modern history of American politics, for which the man who neither drinks nor swears bears the vast majority of the blame. That, come to think of it, is a “character” issue too.
BY: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 19, 2012
It’s a question on a lot of parents’ minds these days: How do we teach character?
New York Times columnist David Brooks was in Cleveland on Monday to talk about his new book, “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement.” During the audience Q-and-A, the self-described conservative was asked how he would design high school curriculum to include the teaching of character.
Brooks shared a memory of his own teachers: “I don’t remember what they taught me, but I remember how they behaved.” Many in the audience nodded and murmured in agreement.
Like most people, I could easily rattle off the names of several teachers who changed my life by the way they lived theirs. I’ll spare you that walk down my memory lane.
Instead, I want to quote another self-described conservative who had a lot to say about character. His recent e-mail to me echoed the sentiments expressed by many readers who object to various states’ legislative attacks against public school teachers, including those in Ohio. These letters and e-mails are not from teachers, but from those who love them.
This particular reader is a business analyst. He made it clear that, while our dads held similar blue-collar jobs, he and I grew up to disagree on many issues. He’s not a fan.
But he does share my high regard for the men and women paid by taxpayers to teach America’s children. He’s been married to one of those dedicated public servants in Cleveland for nearly 14 years.
“We spend tons of money on supplies for the kids,” he wrote. “I have begged her to leave Cleveland and she refuses to because it is her calling. I should be so lucky.”
To insulate this man and his wife from the current blood sport of teacher-bashing, I won’t name them. He did give me permission to share the recent letter of apology he wrote to his wife:
I am a conservative husband, belong to the Tea Party and I voted for John Kasich. I have been married to a Cleveland teacher for almost 14 years and my vote let her down.
For letting people tease you about having the summer off and not asking them to thank you for the tough days ahead that begin in early August. I know for a fact you work more hours in those 10 months than many people do in 12. All those hours are earned.
For complaining that my Sunday is limited with you because you must work.
For making you think you have to ask permission to buy a student socks, gloves and hats.
For not understanding that you walk through a metal detector for work.
For leaving dirty dishes in the sink [when you awoke] for your 4 a.m. work session. I should know you have to prepare.
For thinking you took advantage of the taxpayers. Our governor continues to live off the taxpayer dole, not you.
For counting the time and money you spend to buy school supplies.
For not saying “thank you” enough for making the world and me better.
I love you.
In this husband’s apology, we learn a lot about the remarkable teacher who is his wife. Her students sure are lucky. Every day that she shows up with such optimism is another day her students get a chance to believe in a better version of themselves.
Thankfully, this teacher is not an anomaly. Despite recent attacks on their pay, motives and even their supposed lifestyle, the majority of public school teachers across the country continue to bring their talent and high ideals to some of our most troubled districts.
Consider the take-home message for America’s schoolchildren:
Conservative politicians emboldened by brand-new legislative majorities insist that children are our most precious resource, but then pass bills guaranteed to undermine the teachers entrusted with our children’s future.
Nevertheless, those same public school teachers under attack continue to report for duty every day.
We know that children watch, and learn. And what they are sure to understand is that, unlike those politicians, their teachers refuse to give up on them.
Talk about a lesson in character.
By: Connie Schultz, Syndicated Columnist, The Plain Dealer and Creators Syndicated, Published March 16, 2011, Cleveland.com