We’re now two days into the Paul Ryan as veep pick era and the distortions in much of the mainstream media continue unabated. The official narrative about Ryan remains in place: He is “very smart,” he is truly a “nice guy,” he is a longtime “budget cutting hawk” and is just a “small town” Average Joe. My report here from Saturday caught the early coverage, so I will simply update today with numerous items and videos. And Ezra Klein has a Ryan “primer” here.
• Bob Schieffer’s softball interview with the Dad & Lad team last night was naturally followed today with the naming of Schieffer as moderator of one of the three presidential debates (along with Jim Lehrer—who has a terrible record in that role—and Candy Crowley). At least, based on last night’s performance, Schieffer is giving us geezers some inspiration—we are not too old to learn new skills, in Bob’s case, stenography. Here’s an appraisal from The Atlantic (some were more harsh).
• As I noted, nearly everyone in the mainstream media happily and lazily refers to Paul Ryan as “very smart” despite very mixed evidence in that regard in his educational and professional (career politician) achievements. Similarly, they almost always call him a truly “nice guy,” “genial” and invariably willing to take part in very respectful debate. So watch this three-minute debate with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz from CNN over the Ryan plan and Medicare/Social Security. Check out Mr. Nice Guy’s eye-rolling—like a high school junior—and two references to Schultz as not engaging in “adult conversation,” the constant smirk, and more. Also ask if he would have done that with a male colleague.
• Paul Krugman with new blog post at the NYT on Ryan, very much in my mode since the pick was announced, citing the absurdities in his plan, quoting one journalist’s tongue bath, then: “What he’s doing—and what the whole Beltway media crowd has done—is to slot Ryan into a role someone is supposed to be playing in their political play, that of the thoughtful, serious conservative wonk. In reality, Ryan is nothing like that; he’s a hard-core conservative, with a voting record as far right as Michelle Bachman’s, who has shown no competence at all on the numbers thing.
“What Ryan is good at is exploiting the willful gullibility of the Beltway media, using a soft-focus style to play into their desire to have a conservative wonk they can say nice things about. And apparently the trick still works.” Also see conservative David Frum’s “wrong-wrong-wrong” takedown.
• In the same vein as Krugman, James Fallows at The Atlantic: “One request: I hope that when reporters are writing or talking about Paul Ryan’s budget plans and his overall approach, they will rig up some electro-shock device to zap themselves each time they say that Ryan and his thoughts are unusually ‘serious’ or ‘brave.’ Clear-edged they are, and useful in defining the issues in the campaign. But they have no edge in ‘seriousness’ over, say, proposals from Ryan’s VP counterpart Joe Biden…I’m making a simple plea: examine the Ryan plan, and its Obama counterpart, on their merits, and for the different values they express and interest groups they defend, without pretending that there is some bravery or seriousness gap between them. I also encourage you to snicker discreetly, or if you’re in the right setting to start a drinking game, at each pundit occurrence of ‘brave’ and ‘serious.’ People who say these things are revealing their non-serious susceptibility to cliche.”
• The veep pick already being touted, by his running mate and some in the media, for his “small-town,” “just folks” and “blue-collar” appeal. In fact, as the NYT shows most vividly this morning in a lengthy profile, he is among the upper tier of wealthiest in the House. When the Parker Bros. pen company moved its operations overseas (too bad not by Bain), he even bought Mr. Parker’s estate. Ryan has investments in Apple—and Whole Foods! His wife (niece of former Governor David Boren) is loaded, deeply embedded in oil and gas interests, and was former lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies. So guess who stands to gain a lot by tax cuts for the wealthy?
• Another prime media narrative? Ryan is a deficit “hawk.” More like “chickenhawk.” He backed nearly all of the Bush budget-busting spending and tax cuts. Ezra Klein: ”If you know about Paul Ryan at all, you probably know him as a deficit hawk. But Ryan has voted to increase deficits and expand government spending too many times for that to be his north star. Rather, the common thread throughout his career is his desire to remake the basic architecture of the the federal government.”
• Charles P. Pierce at Esquire on “granny-starver” Ryan: “Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn’t believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live.”
• Don’t hold your breath waiting for most in Beltway media to correct GOP charges that Obama “stole” $700 billion from Medicare. It will be the main defense of Ryan’s plan in coming months. David Gregory of NBC came back with nothing yesterday, for example. They rarely do.
• E.J. Dionne: “If Paul Ryan were a liberal, conservatives would describe him as a creature of Washington who has spent virtually all of his professional life as a congressional aide, a staffer at an ideological think tank and, finally, as a member of Congress. In the right’s shorthand: He never met a payroll. If they were in a sunny mood, these conservatives would readily concede that Ryan is a nice guy who’s fun to talk to. But they’d also insist that he is an impractical ideologue. He holds an almost entirely theoretical view of the world defined by big ideas that never touch the ground and devotes little energy to considering how his proposed budgets might affect the lives of people he’s never met…”
• For some fun, see NYT connecting Ryan to Eldridge Cleaver. And you think Obama has a “Bill Ayers problem”! Also, the Agenda Project (which last week brought us “Romney Girl”) has updated its controversial ad spot showing Ryan pushing granny off the cliff (below).
Greg Mitchell’s books and e-books on influential American campaigns include Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady, The Campaign of the Century (on Upton Sinclair’s 1934 race) and Why Obama Won. He also blogs daily at Pressing Issues.