It took only hours for GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s convention address to get sliced and diced, and dissected and dismissed, by the factcheckers and the pundits.
All fair game. From where I sat Wednesday — watching, like many Americans, to get a first long look at this nominee — Ryan’s biggest lie was one of omission.
Criticizing President Obama’s lack of leadership on the budget, Ryan accurately pointed out that the president did nothing with the recommendations that came from his own bipartisan debt commission. The “Simpson-Bowles” panel — so named for former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton — recommended a $4 trillion deficit-cutting plan that included spending cuts and tax increases.
What Ryan failed to note was that he sat on that commission — and, in December 2010, voted against the Simpson-Bowles plan.
That’s no trivial matter. The plan got 11 yes votes on the 18-member commission — but by the committee’s own guidelines, 14 yes votes were needed to move a proposal to Congress. Could a yes vote from Ryan vote have encouraged a couple of other holdouts to vote yes? And would this have at least advanced the ball on deficit reduction?
I don’t know. I do know this much. Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, one of the 11 “yes” votes on the panel, had to swallow hard to accept some unpopular pieces of the plan. And that’s what it will take to solve the deficit problem: some tough, unpopular decisions. Crapo’s courageous vote resonates a little more with me today.
In terms of rising to the moment, Ryan scored. He came across as passionate, tough, personable and smart.
And maybe a bit too clever.
Ryan is absolutely right to excoriate Obama’s leadership (or lack of same) on the deficit. If you’re looking for the biggest failing of this presidency, start right there.
But for a nominee who said he wanted to level with Americans about the budget crisis, Ryan did a lousy job of being honest about himself.