One of the most interesting aspects of American politics and politicians’-media dynamics is that someone can state something that is false and get away with it, then if they backtrack all is seemingly forgotten. Will we have another one of those moments? Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan has just shaken the Etch a Sketch on what has become one of his most controversial — and widely covered and repeated more than once by Ryan — assertions:
Vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) backpedaled Monday from a claim in his Republican National Convention speech that President Barack Obama was responsible for the closure of a General Motors plant that in fact closed during the presidency of George W. Bush.
“What they are trying to suggest is that I said Barack Obama was responsible for the plant shutdown in Janesville. That is not what I was saying, read the speech,” he told NBC’s “Today.” “What I was saying is the president ought to be held to account for his broken promises. After the plant was shut down he said he would lead efforts to restore the plant. It’s still idle.”
You could say “fair enough,” except Ryan has been saying Obama closed the plant — and if he has not been saying it he has left the impression he was and has not until now put out this kind of statement:
But Ryan appeared to be blaming Obama for the closure of the plant, located in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., in his speech:
“My home state voted for President Obama,” he said Wednesday. “When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.”
“A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant,” Ryan said. “Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you…this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”
Obama did not promise to keep the plant open. He said that with government help, the plant could remain open.
And how about this story that ran on August 16th in the Detroit News:
Washington – Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan inaccurately said Thursday that President Barack Obama “broke his promise” by failing to keep a General Motors plant open that closed in 2008 – before the Democrat took office.
Ryan, the House Budget committee chairman, recounted the decision by GM to shutter the Janesville Assembly plant in his hometown in June 2008. The last SUV rolled off the line in December 2008.
“I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open,” Ryan said at a campaign stop in Ohio Thursday, recounting the fact that his high school friends worked at the GM assembly plant. “One more broken promise. We used to build Tahoes and Suburbans. One of the reasons that plant got shut down was $4 gasoline. You see, this costs jobs. The president’s terrible energy policies are costing us jobs.”
In fact, Obama made no such promise and the plant halted production in December 2008, when President George W. Bush was in office.
GM cited the low demand for SUVs and high gas prices during the Bush administration as the reason for closing the plant, but Obama hadn’t taken office.
Obama did speak at the plant in February 2008, and suggested that a government partnership with automakers could keep the plant open, but made no promises as Ryan suggested.
“I believe if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years,” Obama said.
The Janesville plant, which once employed about 7,000 and had 2,400 workers when GM announced it would close, remains on standby. The plant opened in 1919.
Will the media continue with the traditional ballet where when someone moves his or her mouth and says some words it must be so — even if the record doesn’t suggest it is?
UPDATE: The Washington Post’s James Downie on its Post-Partisan blog offers these five ways Ryan’s GM attack was dishonest.
At a campaign stop in Ohio on Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan noted that the GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., shuttered its operations despite Barack Obama’s promise to “keep the plant open.” What Ryan left out of the narrative: the detail that the plant stopped production in December 2008, before Obama took office.
Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, said Obama visited the plant during the 2008 campaign.
“I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open — one more broken promise,” Ryan said.
The announcement by then-GM president Rick Wagoner that Janesville would be one of three plants to close came at a meeting of shareholders in early June 2008, according to a Chicago Tribune report at the time.
Obama did speak at the plant in February 2008, telling workers who had already faced layoffs that “if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.”
The plant stopped production on Dec. 23, 2008, according to an Associated Press report.
When Paul Ryan looks at the empty GM plant in his Janesville, Wisconsin, district, all he sees is President Obama and “one more broken promise.” Problem is, the factory that opened in 1919 and once employed 7,000 workers closed five months before the president was even elected.
Ryan accused President Obama of breaking the nonexistent promise at a campaign stop in Ohio yesterday. “I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open,” Ryan said with rolled-up sleeves. “One of the reasons that plant got shut down was $4 gasoline. You see, this costs jobs. The president’s terrible energy policies are costing us jobs.”
Not all of Ryan’s story was a lie. Then-candidate Obama did visit the GM plant in February 2008. During the trip he said, “I believe if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.”
Paul Ryan Sent Out 2008 Press Release On Decision To Close GM Plant
The Congressman acknowledges most work would stop in December 2008, but also noted the accelerated closure timeline only applied to the SUVs built at the plant.
That’s the headline. Here’s the press release: