Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Marathon Man: The fraudulence of Paul Ryan

Paul Krugman on Paul Ryan's marathon run and how he's giving America the run-around.

Remember Rosie Ruiz? In 1980 she was the first woman to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon — except it turned out that she hadn't actually run most of the race, that she sneaked onto the course around a mile from the end. Ever since, she has symbolized a particular kind of fraud, in which people claim credit for achieving things they have not, in fact, achieved.

And these days Paul Ryan is the Rosie Ruiz of American politics.


Obviously nobody cares how fast Mr. Ryan can run, and even his strange marathon misstatement wouldn't be worth talking about in isolation. What makes this incident so striking is, instead, the way it resonates with the essential Rosie-Ruizness of Mr. Ryan's whole political persona, which is built around big boasts about accomplishments he hasn't accomplished.


So what is this election about? To be sure, it's about different visions of society — about Medicare versus Vouchercare, about preserving the safety net versus destroying it. But it's also a test of how far politicians can bend the truth. This is surely the first time one of our major parties has run a campaign so completely fraudulent, making claims so at odds with the reality of its policy proposals. But if the Romney/Ryan ticket wins, it won't be the last.

The irony is that the Republicans are always the ones to shed crocodile tears -- and impeach a president -- over lapses in morality unless it's one of their own, and run an ad campaign on a "misstatement" by an opponent but laugh off or ignore a demonstrable lie as just one of those things. The news media craps out on this with their hands-off reasonable-people-can-disagree line, which explains why it took the out-and-out lies of Mr. Ryan in Tampa to finally get them to lift their heads off the pillow and pay attention. 

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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