Welcome to the First Completely Post-Factual, All Bull[****] Campaign.

I’m feeling better. In my last post I suggested it was a kind of post-hippie, gauzy-eyed, chemical flashback optimism that led me to think America’s generally flaccid “mainstream” press corp was stumbling toward holding politicians accountable to the truth this season. Now I think I can grasp something tangible. In the course of a week two remarkable events have leapt out into the media’s face.

First, Paul Ryan’s speech to the GOP convention. And then … Mr. Ryan’s highly revealing claim that he once ran a two-hour fifty minute marathon.

Over the past seven days people like James Fallows at The Atlantic have noted the — unusual — lengths The Los Angeles Times and other publications have gone to dissecting Ryan (and others’) convention speeches for their shameless parade of fractional truths, complete non-truths and stuff they just clearly pulled out of their white asses. Simultaneously, the topic of what reporters (and their revenue-anxious bosses) should do in the face of “campaigns” demonstrating such a complete indifference to facts and accuracy has dominated conversations on earnest, wonky, “reality-based” public radio shows like “On the Media”. While the latter is speaking to a niche audience with — just guessing here — a single-digit affinity for the Romney-Ryan ticket and the entire modern GOP ethos, if I dare call it that. When big, second-tier papers like the LA Times (albeit in securely Democratic California) start making an issue of flagrant lying, you can safely say the worm is turning.

As I said last week, part of the problem is that the GOP campaign to date has been such a colossal farce. First it was the Sarah Palin-Herman Cain-Michele Bachmann-Donald Trump vaudeville act. Now we have Mitt Romney, a man who has been so steadfast in his refusal to explain exactly how he’d create 12 million jobs, get tough with Vladimir Putin and lay out to fellow Americans precisely how he bootstrapped his way to fantastic financial success that the ordinary press has little option other than to treat a strategy of opacity and rhetorical fraud as a bona fide issue. The press suspects, as I believe the general public also does, that Romney’s career is built on a bedrock of semi-piracy, (gorging on the casino spin of debt, which as Bain handled it required sliding gutted pension programs off on taxpayers) and the ruthless gaming of a tax system that his company and peers lobbied into existence.

But this marathon business — an otherwise silly exaggeration — accelerates and ingrains the notion that Romney and Ryan can be/must be handled differently than even a manifest air head charlatan like Sarah Palin.

Where the roots and mechanisms of Romney’s fortune remain obscured by the arcane terminology of exotic finance — and Romney’s refusal to disclose anything more to “you people”, as Mrs. Romney refers to the press adds to the curtain — flagrant lying like Ryan on his marathon prowess is a much easier — much easier — window for the average voter into “the real person within”.  (BTW, that “you people” line/attitude is not a good strategy for keeping the impudent media dogs off your lawn.)

Big, highly public events like political campaigns are always vulnerable to seemingly extraneous, petty events that distort the careful focus, like someone suddenly slapping on a fish-eye lens. So it may well be with Ryan’s marathon gaffe and how it cements a now well-established reputation for self-aggrandizing mendacity. Post-marathon bullshit, his crediblity is seen through fundamentally different glass.

The “average voter” probably had the same reaction I did to hearing about Ryan’s whopper — told on a right-wing radio show, not over drinks with his P90X buddies. When a guy exaggerates his prowess at anything, by a little, no one much notices or cares. For me to say for example that I once shot par at the Edina Country Club might astonish anyone who has seen me play golf, but the average audience probably won’t think a moment longer, assuming even the worst duffer can have one out-of-his-mind experience. But … if I go around saying I shot a seven-under par, anyone who has ever played the game has a whiplash moment. Life teaches discerning adults that someone who feels a need to lie/prevaricate so flagrantly is someone with a psychology that knows it is a house of lies and is essentially pleading to be caught and revealed.

Several writers and sites have noted the popular response to Al Gore for “saying he invented the internet”, something he never said but suffered with far more patience than I could have ever mustered. Gore’s actual statement has been heavily fact-checked, and he has a long career built on treating scientific facts as sacred, “inconvenient” things.

Not so much in Ryan’s case. What he said in a half-dozen different points in his big, nationally televised speech and about his marathon ability has now been heavily fact-checked … and proven wholly, utterly false or at best, grossly misleading.

Team Romney may believe they can get away with running the first wall-to-wall completely post-factual All Bullshit campaign, unabashedly ignoring demands for details and transparency and shamelessly repeating the most transparent lies.

But I’m saying they have taunted and tempted an inconvenient fate.

44 thoughts on “Welcome to the First Completely Post-Factual, All Bull[****] Campaign.

  1. PM says:

    Thing is, I’d love to be able to say i ran a sub 4 hour marathon……(and, yes, i did run one once…a solid sub 5 hour marathon….)

    1. Erik says:

      Yes, well he made a mistake in the course of a conversation and an enormously benign mistake at that. He conflated under 4 for under 3, it probably being many years since he was conversant at the drop of a hat with what those numbers meant. To the extent a person wants to be self complimentary or brag, yes, it’s an embellishment. People will do that. It remains benign.

      Joe Biden. Probably more here in the way of gross lies, but pretty analogous.

      http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/315700/great-moments-vice-presidential-lying-jonah-goldberg

      Elizabeth Warren lied about being a Native American. She didn’t conflate. She did this fraudulently, with premeditation. She refuses to be fact checked on it.

      1. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Yeah, I still think the now iconic footage of Sully Sullenberger’s water landing is an untapped metaphor for Obama’s challenge in the face of the 2008 “recession.”

        Turning this inherited disaster around in four years was no more plausible than Sullenberger landing on an airport runway. The immediate goal for both men was survivability. Landing an airliner in a freezing cold river could only be understood as a good outcome by someone on board that flight realizing that the other option was doing nothing and auguring into Manhattan. Who but a fool would, instead, hold the water landing up to a smooth landing on the runway of the scheduled destination and call it a failure?

        it’s not a perfect metaphor. Certainly the implementation of the TARP, for example, was handled with a deplorable Wall Street bias over the interests of Main Street. But failing to appreciate that it all could have been far worse is a failure of imagination and intellectual honesty.

      2. Erik says:

        TARP was W ostensibly, but no matter.

        You fellows who worked for big coffee table glossies had salaries paid from ad revenue from remodelers, developers, cosmetic surgeons. Economic activity spun off from the housing market. HELOCs, 2nd mortgages. It’s not like anyone can expect those days to return. I would have expected the President to try and mend the housing market though. HAMP, the QEs, the Stimulus are the only thing that really distinguishes Obama economic policy, and they are all flops. Worse, they are instances of the President being naively taken by the banks and various Democrat cronies. With the QEs, the Fed buys existing treasury paper. They banks take that Fed $ and buy new treasuries from the govt. That’s not money circulating in commerce. This is very cynical policy and not a recipe for job growth.

        Sully had a basis of expertise. For him, executing a soft landing was within the realm of possibility. If you want to vote Democrat because you’re a Democrat, that’s one thing … but own it, will ya? The idea of Obama administration economic competence gets a Pants on Fire. Four Pinocchios.

      3. Erik says:

        My analysis is correct.

        That’s a hell of an article. What is it that moves you to think the Obama administration acted on superior knowledge, skill and altruism when Barofsky is there to credibly explain nothing could be further from reality?

      4. Joe Loveland says:

        I love the Sullenberger landing metaphor, Jim. Perfect. With both Sully and Obama in the winter of -09, avoiding a catastrophe during the landing was an extremely impressive win. Under the historically perilous circumstances, sticking a perfect landing with zero lasting damage was an impossibility.

  2. Erik says:

    Lambo, your bio here on the blog says you’re a former senate advisor. How long did you have that gig? A couple weeks? What was your title? What advise did you dispense?

    1. Erik says:

      Chait’s argument is respectable, as far as that goes. He agrees: this marathon time thing is inconsequential.

      1. PM says:

        Yes, he thinks that its significance might be that it is a signal that there is a chink in the armor/aura of Ryan’s reputation (which Chait thinks is undeserved).

        By itself a little thing of no consequence.

        All I remember about running my marathon was that i was slow (and it hurt!)

  3. Sparky says:

    Anybody who has run a marathon knows exactly how long that journey took them…….and always will. Conscious manipulation to say anything else.

  4. Oh, Christ. How Lambo was able to expend enough hot air into an entire diatribe (I mean column) about a marathon is rather mind blowing….and I’ve had my mind blown by some pretty good stuff.

    As the famous Dr. Gregory House once said:

    “Everyone lies. The only question is about what.”

    Name me one person who you know…yourself included…who hasn’t lied about something, and if you tell me you haven’t….well, you know what you are. Oh, I can feel the liberal chest thumping coming.. the moral equivalence raz mataz. To this, I can only say:

    Read the book “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.” I’ve told a few little fudge facts myself. My time in Grandma’s was an OK 4:05 some long 24 years ago but I know for certain I may have chopped off some real time in conversation…probably more and more over the years, a lot if a woman was in earshot. Mom, stop reading here.

    I also have been guilty in golf in reporting my scores as higher and lower than I actually shot. Why, you ask would I want to lie by swinging both ways (not in that regard, silly).

    Well, because anyone who knows the handicap system can tell you that adding strokes comes in handy when betting….sandbagging I think they call it.

    Conversely, anyone trying to impress someone of the opposite sex (or same sex, no discrimination here), might brag about his or her prowess with his, uh, driver. You might soon find yourself on the range teaching her the proper grip, stance and….well you get the picture, not that I’ve ever done that. Oops, there goes another little whopper. See how easy it is to get caught up in this little game?

    I know, we only elect people who never lie….slick Billy being pure as the white hair on his head. What a farce. Not only does every person lie, but that is exponentially true of politicians in general.

    The Current Occupant has told his share of lies and distortions of other people’s records. Some would call it spinning. My long winded point is this: Why don’t we talk about what was promised to the American people under Mr. Obama…roll the tape. Then let’s look at what we got. Lying or whatever about a marathon time may or may not reveal larger things about Mr. Ryan. Let’s evaluate Mr. Obama on his record.

    1. Erik says:

      I still don’t think this passes for pathological. He’s a bullshitter, but this is an archetype that I think is neither benign nor malign. Any person he talks to will have minutia they care about, and he’s not shy to trod onto that turf and banter. He’s a politician with some of the requisite charismatic features.

      As a practical matter and as a matter of mental fortitude, he seems to have no difficulty taking a deer by archery. As a practical matter and as a matter of mental fortitude, most deer hunters do have difficulty taking a deer by archery. It’s an enormous challenge. At first glance I’m not uncomfortable equating it to running a marathon. I’ve not done either a marathon or taken a deer by archery.

      1. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Oh, he’s a bow hunter, too? My, my, one assumes he’s a Boone and Crocket record holder by this point in the campaign.

      2. Erik says:

        Pope and Young for archery Jim, but close enough. Ryan’s bow-hunting pictures are in seemingly wide circulation now on the web. He appears to be the real deal as far as that goes. He’s very credible.

        I was THAT GUY, for a time, as I used to run a 5.1 sec 40 yard dash and did embellish down to 4.9 for a few years. Then I reached adulthood and got over my inability to break the 5 second barrier. Or something. Your Gawker author is on to something by way of archetypes, but wrong on the details. Amateurs don’t BS that they can run a 4.5. That’s NFL speed.

        What about Joe Biden, Jim? I mean, he’s a Democrat, so of course there’s no moral equivalence. But isn’t he exactly analogous as a blowhard?

      3. Jim Leinfelder says:

        It’s curious how you manage to put your finger on the very point while completely missing it, Erik. As you say, amateurs don’t lie about 4.5 40-yd sprint speed, only NFL pros. But not Ryan, he’s a shoot-the-moon fabulist who WOULD claim 4.5, as was the equivalent differential in his claimed and actual time in his single marathon.

        Same with the carefully-parsed claims about notching 40 “climbs” of fourteeners in Colorado. The careful verb choice juxtaposed with the elevations (why even mention peaks’ altitudes if you didn’t summit?) obviously in the hopes the listener infers reaching the top, not just scrambling around its flanks. I’ve hiked Rainier, but I would not say I “climbed” it, i.e. summited

        It only matters to me because we’ve had to endure sonorous lectures here about how this guy’s fairly ordinary fitness regimen and outdoors accomplishments are prima facia evidence that he is, not just another strategically-chosen VP candidate in service to the electoral needs of the actual presidential candidate, but someone in possession of an extraordinary discipline and work ethic that make him a transformative political figure threatening to eclipse the top of the ticket.

        And now, given his firmly-established reputation as a serial bullshitter, as I look at that image on the Gawker link you provide of him posed with that handsome buck, I have to now wonder if he took it over a salt lick at a Texas game farm, as opposed to the hardwood forests of his native Wisconsin.

        As you assert, not that big a deal, just an unappealing trait in any man whose acquaintance one makes.

      4. Erik says:

        He’s not a fabulist. He’s in an occupation where conviviality and banter plays well / is a requirement. So he banters. You could say he free style banters, and maybe gets far afield. But then the various aficionados – the marathoners, the climbers – go to guard their turf. They subject this banter to the screen that they use to filter out poseurs. They are not getting the context here.

        I’ll accept some description of unappealing. I think it’s silly to call it pathological. It’s an exercise in projection at that point.

      5. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Where you see “banter,” I see compulsively self-serving boasting about heights Ryan’s not even reached. At best, this narcissistic sort of conviviality leads to the sort of pitying, eye-rolling affection reserved for the Cliff Claven types of this world. Compulsively one-upping your audience with puffery is not convivial in my circles, rather, it’s obnoxious; all the more so when it’s revealed to be gratuitous malarkey.

        And, yes, btw, Biden’s record show he’s been more than generous to himself when his insecurities as an intellectual have come under assault. But the appealing thing about VP Biden, who’s resume is much longer than Rep. Ryan’s, is that he’s as generous toward others as he is to himself. THAT’S conviviality.

      6. Erik says:

        “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, according to The New Yorker. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.” – Pres. Obama

        Do think this is narcissism? Is it / has it been a problem operationally, or is it just annoying at worst?

      7. Erik says:

        It’s really not the most plausible explanation. He’s a man of limited experience. He really didn’t even get going in politics until he was 40.

      8. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Erik:

        Apples and cabbages, as you surely understand but disingenuously ignore, in attempting to make this ill-matched comparison. Lying about objectively-verifiable accomplishments versus expressing subjective confidence in one’s rhetorical skills or political acumen, especially from behind The Resolute Desk in The Oval Office, are simply not equatable.

        You may legitimately disagree, of course, with Obama’s self assessment, as a matter of opinion. It may well strike you as hubris, the manifestation of his greatest weakness on the flip side of the coin of his greatest strengths. But it’s not a lie or an attempt to mislead.

        And, again, unwittingly, you make Obama’s point. The man must’ve relied on some prodigious native talents, given what you consider to be a relatively short political resume, in getting elected the POTUS.

      9. Erik says:

        My examples are not literally like to like, but they are indicative of self-aggrandizement. Apples and cabbages or not, they are relatable and fair game for discussion. Your analogy of Sully to Obama is purely figurative, the stuff of apples to unicorns, and much more of a stretch by comparison.

        But fine. You can be the analogy police. How about this one? where the President misrepresents / lies about the nature of his mother’s insurance coverage.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obamas-mother-had-health-insurance-according-to-biography/2011/07/14/gIQAUFm7EI_story.html

    1. PM says:

      True, I do not golf. To golf is to admit that i am old and no longer fit for real exercise.

      And, yes, our bet is still on, and still up in the air. Close one so far!

  5. Mike Thomas says:

    Before you know it Ryan will be lying before a Grand Jury or talking about ducking away from sniper fire when visiting foreign countries….oh wait…

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