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Paul Ryan’s GM Plant: Fact Checking the Fact Checks

In his acceptance speech last night, Paul Ryan pointed to a shuttered GM plant in his hometown as proof of Obama’s failed policies.

President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two.  Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account.  My home state voted for President Obama. 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. 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.

Even on its own terms, I don’t see how this makes the case for firing Obama and hiring Ryan. My instant reaction, via Twitter: “A plant in the district I represent in Congress is closed. I blame Obama. WTF?”

But Ryan has apparently used this anecdote before, because the pushback was immediate. Ana Marie Cox retweeted me and Markos Moulitsas responded, “It closed in 2008. Under Bush.”

Glenn Kesslerquickly got up a “fact check” titled “Ryan misleads on GM plant closing in hometown.”

In his acceptance speech, GOP Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan appeared to suggest that President Obama was responsible for the closing of a GM plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisc.

That’s not true. The plant was closed in December, 2008, before Obama was sworn in. But look how Ryan came close to the line in his speech:

“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.”

Obama gave his speech in February, 2008, and he did say those words. But Ryan’s phrasing, referring to the fact the plant did not last another year, certainly suggests it closed in 2009, when Obama was president.

It’s actually more complicated than that, though. A September 2011 piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (“GM Janesville plant still on standby“) explains:

General Motors Co. has committed to reopen its idled plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., and keep its shuttered assembly plant in Janesville on standby status.

The commitment to the former Saturn plant in Tennessee was part of a contract settlement reached late last week between GM and the United Auto Workers union.

Since they were shut down in 2009, both the Janesville and Tennessee plants have been on standby status, meaning they were not producing vehicles, but they were not completely shut down.

[...]

The Janesville plant stopped production of SUVs in 2008 and was idled in 2009 after it completed production of medium-duty trucks.

The Janesville Gazette from February 2009 (“Workers on Isuzu line keep building medium-duty trucks“):

Full-size sport utility vehicle production has ended at the local General Motors plant, but medium-duty truck production is continuing—not starting—in Janesville.

And it likely will continue into May, when the lights finally go off in the facility that has been producing vehicles since 1923.

When GM officials announced last June that SUV production would cease in Janesville, they also said that medium-duty truck production would conclude by the end of 2009, or sooner if market conditions dictate.

Orphaned by the loss of its big brother in December, the Isuzu line and its 50 or so hourly and salaried employees continue to build about 25 trucks four days a week in what has become a nearly empty plant.

The Isuzu line is operating in the north end of the 4.8 million-square-foot plant, an area that was once the plant’s tire building.

So, Ryan was telling the truth and the fact checkers are wrong, right? Well . . . technically.  Obama said what he said Obama said. And the plant closed down after Obama took office—so Kos and Kessler are wrong. But only technically. As PolitiFact points out, “The plant was effectively shut down on Dec. 23, 2008, when GM ceased production of SUVs there and laid off 1,200 workers.” The add, “(Several dozen workers stayed on another four months to finish an order of small- to medium-duty trucks for Isuzu Motors.)”  I’d say that, yes, going from 1250 workers to 50 workers constitutes being “effectively shut down.”

More importantly, though, Ryan hewed to the letter of the truth while implying a something less than true. As the PolitiFact piece notes, in an earlier version of the story on the stump back on August 16, Ryan said, “I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open. One more broken promise.” But, of course, “I believe . . . this plant will be here for another hundred years” isn’t a promise to keep the plant open; it’s a statement of a hoped for outcome. It’s quite possible that Ryan and his speechwriters remembered it as a promise—I gather that contemporaneous newspaper editorials took it that way—and he’s stopped using that language after having Obama’s exact words pointed out to him. But the story doesn’t make any sense as an attack on Obama unless the audience perceives it to be a promise; while Ryan doesn’t actually say Obama broke a promise anymore, he’s certainly expecting the audience to think he did.

And, for that matter, if we’re playing with technical truths, Obama has kept his “promise.” After all, the plant is still on standby, so it’s arguably not closed. Plus, he didn’t say it would be continually producing cars and trucks for the next hundred years—just that it would still be open then. So, we have to come back in February 2108 to see!

Petty parsing of the facts aside, Ryan’s attack here is just weak. Not only are voters more likely to blame the Congressman who’s spent his whole life in the town than the president of the United States for not saving the plant, this is a ticket that opposes government bailouts of auto plants! “Let Detroit go bankrupt” and all that.  And, it should be noted, both President Bush and President Obama gave GM billions of dollars to stave off collapse.

The odd thing is that there are actually useful talking points out of this incident that are neither stupid nor skirts the truth. Indeed, Ryan’s previous stump speech on this was more effective. NRO’s Henry Payne described it back on August 21 (“Janesville: Ryan vs. Obama“):

“I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open — one more broken promise,” Ryan said. “One of the reasons that plant got shut down is $4 gasoline. You see, this costs jobs. The president’s terrible energy policies are costing us jobs.”

Okay, so it wasn’t a broken promise. But we don’t need a broken promise—or any mention of Obama’s appearance at the plant as a candidate at all—to talk about the impact of government policies on business. Payne continues:

Under Obamanomics, the government picks winners and losers. Obama promised Janesville would be a winner even as his economic policies guaranteed it would always be a loser. Indeed, Obama’s whole 2008 Janesville speech is a sobering road map for the job-killing policies he has put in place as president.

Were Obama serious about American manufacturing, he would allow energy companies to explore (Gulf drilling moratorium), would facilitate bringing those resources to market (blocking the Keystone pipeline), allow companies to hire employees without massive medical costs (Obamacare), encourage flexible, non-union shops (demonizing Boeing, the UAW bailout), and stop forcing companies to make products consumers don’t want (electric cars, windmills, etc.).

Some of these issues are somewhat silly, too; we had $4 gas for a while under oil-friendly Bush-Cheney, too. And we certainly can’t blame Obama policies for the closure of the Janesville plant even if we go with the March 2009 shutdown date. But pushback against Democratic policies that put environmental concerns ahead of jobs, place heavy regulatory burdens on business, and the like are much more solid ground for an attack than “Obama didn’t save my town’s plant.” (Although I’m not sure I’d use ObamaCare as an argument against burdening companies with medical costs; indeed, socialized medicine is how other countries avoid that burden.)

Payne’s “Under Obamanomics, the government picks winners and losers” is worth picking up, too, I think. It was one of the more powerful themes of the early Tea Party protests and resonated well with voters. If we just let the free market decide, it’s easy to understand why Janesville is on standby hoping for a miracle while its sister plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee is being reopened: That plant is newer and it’s in a cheaper location. But if the government is picking winners and losers, it’s personal.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Is that water heavy, James?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 10

  2. black onion says:

    I am hoping that when Romney loses this fall, Paul Rand… er, Ryan and his exposure under the national lights of the media will have neutered his chances of moving up in any station in the government he dislikes so much that he wants to dismantle it. Gotta love a guy who gets what he needs and pulls the ladder up behind him.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 9

  3. markm says:

    Ryan would have been further ahead in saying ‘dealership closings’ in place of ‘plant closings’. In doing that, he ties Obama to the jist of the Bain ads (closing X to save Y).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  4. Nikki says:

    Damn, James. Nearly 1600 words to basically state that Paul Ryan is a liar.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 10

  5. steve says:

    Thanks for clarifying this. I was kind of hoping you would say something about his Medicare statements. The supposedly serious guy, when it comes to Medicare and the debt, criticizes Obama for cutting spending on Medicare when we all know Medicare spending must be cut. He will save and preserve Medicare, while failing to mention that his plans have called for greatly reducing government support of Medicare while shifting payments to those on Medicare. Serious? Nope, just another politician.

    Steve

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 4

  6. black onion says:

    @Nikki: You said it in fourteen. Maybe James could be a “job creator” and hire you to write the quick takes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  7. C. Clavin says:

    Romney and Ryan are running the lyingest campaign in modern history. And they are counting on A). Pundits like James letting them off the hook, and B). The electorate being too dumb to get it.
    Sadly….when Combined with restricting voters rights…it will probably work.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 10

  8. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: Um, how is a post saying that the argument doesn’t stand on its own merits and isn’t true in anything but a technical sense “carrying the water”?

    @Nikki: It’s not a lie, either, it’s just a bizarre attack. Everything Ryan says is true; it just doesn’t make sense as an attack on Obama. Following the trail, I think what happened was a good faith but technically wrong attack from two weeks ago got turned into a technically true but hollow attack by the speechwriters.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 27

  9. Fiona says:

    Sorry, but overall it still strikes me as a lie in the misrepresentation sense of the term. It just wasn’t Ryan’s biggest lie of the night.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 5

  10. C. Clavin says:

    @ James….
    Refusing to call the candidate you support a liar…and relying on technicalities to rationalize it…is carrying water.
    Ryan’s speech was riddled with falsehoods. You picked just one…and did some contortions to remain a supporter in good standing.
    But you and Ari Fleischer…a masterful liar himself…are on the same page…so you are in good company.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 6

  11. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    @C. Clavin: Um, how is a post saying that the argument doesn’t stand on its own merits and isn’t true in anything but a technical sense “carrying the water”?

    Dr. Joyner, perhaps if you had more accurately used the words… deceitful, dishonest, misled.

    Here’s a technical truth. “Doug Mataconis is a libertarian who claims he does not support Republicans..

    Technically, that’s true.

    In reality, it’s bullshit.

    See how that works. You used 1000 words. I used 7. I’ll cut you some slack due to your advanced degrees, but you could have explained it in less than fifty.

    Paul Ryan’s comments last night regarding the President and the Janesville GM Plant were deceitful, misleading, dishonest, but technically true. He used clever language to create an issue where none should exist as a way of fooling people into believing a false narrative about the president.

    But that’s not much of a post, is it?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 4

  12. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Meh. Idle time, idle minds. It’s a political speech, not a deposition. Plus the liberal media wouldn’t know the differences between a plant shutdown and a Chia plant. I mean, come on, if you asked a liberal journalist about a WARN notice they’d assume you were talking about Defcon ratings and if you asked them about furloughs they’d assume you were talking about the length of a horse race.

    In any event, good speech by Ryan. Too lengthy and too unfocused. But a solid introduction to the electorate and a solid dissection of the horrible economy under Obama. Overall grade: B+.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 34

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    Following the trail, I think what happened was a good faith but technically wrong attack from two weeks ago got turned into a technically true but hollow attack by the speechwriters.

    People who construct elaborate lies, and continue in those lies day after day, are not operating “in good faith”. You can no longer, if you have an ounce of honesty yourself, use the “it was in good faith” dodge when discussing anything a Republican says — they have lost that presumption.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 5

  14. Me Me Me says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Meh. Idle time, idle minds. It’s a political speech, not a deposition.

    Congratulations, Tsar, on being honest enough to admit you enjoy being lied to.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 5

  15. Me Me Me says:

    Let’s see how the official news outlet of the Republican Party reviewed Ryan’s speech:

    To anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/08/30/paul-ryans-speech-in-three-words/#ixzz2528gzaGP

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 5

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I

    t’s not a lie, either, it’s just a bizarre attack.

    Is it meant to deceive his audience into thinking that something happened that didn’t actually happen? Then it’s a lie.

    You know, back when I was a kid, conservatives didn’t go in for all of this post-modern the truth is a floating signifier and we have to decontextualize the text and can we ever know what true meaning a word has etc. nonsense. They used to pride themselves on plain speaking. How times have changed.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 3

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Not only are voters more likely to blame the Congressman who’s spent his whole life in the town

    Uhh, James? Paul Ryan has been in Washington for 2 decades now.

    Just saying…

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Also via TPM, I like these:

    Bowles-Simpson Debt Commission

    Ryan chastised Obama: “He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”

    Ryan sat on that commission. He voted against it. Following his lead, so did the panel’s other House Republicans.

    (my emphasis)

    and

    Protecting the Poor

    Near the end of his speech, Ryan claimed the campaign’s top priority is protecting the poor. “We have responsibilities, one to another — we do not each face the world alone,” he said. “And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak.”

    Just under two thirds of the dramatic spending cuts in Ryan’s budget target programs that benefit low-income people. That plan also calls for large tax cuts for high-income earners.

    (my emphasis)

    And then the convention center collapsed under the weight of irony….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 0

  19. Rob in CT says:

    You do have to love that the guy who has long waxxed poetic about Ayn Rand, claiming to return to the John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged when he needs to check himself, the guy who handed out copies of that book to his staff… claims that the strong must protect the weak. We know full well he doesn’t think any such thing, not only based on his prior boosterism for Randian philosophy, but his stated policy priorities.

    All of which is to say the obvious: the man is a total fraud.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    The odd thing is that there are actually useful talking points out of this incident that are neither stupid nor skirts the truth. Indeed, Ryan’s previous stump speech on this was more effective. NRO’s Henry Payne described it back on August 21 (“Janesville: Ryan vs. Obama“): “I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open — one more broken promise,” Ryan said. “One of the reasons that plant got shut down is $4 gasoline. You see, this costs jobs. The president’s terrible energy policies are costing us jobs.”

    Wait a minute — you’re citing the above as an example of something that DOESN’T “skirt the truth”? That quote above is itself a lie:

    1. As you yourself noted above, it wasn’t “a promise”.

    2. Ryan cited “$4 gasoline” as one reason the plant was shut down in December 2008. But gasoline in December 2008 when the plant was shut was at a four year low at $1.648 a gallon, nowhere near $4.

    3. Gas did first hit $4 a gallon six months before that in June 2008, but Bush was president then, so “the president’s terrible energy policies” he’s talking about should be Bush’s, not Obama’s. And again, the plant was shut down under Bush, but he’s insinuating that “Obama’s energy policies” are to blame, when his energy policies didn’t take effect until after the plant’s closing.

    4. Finally, the price of oil is set on a world market and the president has little if any effect on the price of oil, which Ryan should well know.

    It tells me something about you that you can read the above as something that does not “skirt the truth”.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 0

  21. Quinn says:

    Dammit, James.

    The implication in the speech is that:
    1) Obama promised federal funds would keep the plant open and vote for me
    2) Obama’s failed policies (auto bailout and stimulus) did not work
    3) The plant closed on Obama’s watch due to Obama’s policies
    4) Paul Ryan’s high school buddies do not have jobs because Obama sucks

    The truth is the decision to close the plant and the majority of the plant closed under Bush’s watch.

    This is not that complicated. It is an effing lie. The whole story is a lie. Stop twisting to justify this crap.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  22. C. Clavin says:

    It’s hilarious that the Republicans entire Convention is built around a theme…”You did build that”…which is based on taking Obama’s words completely out of context…in other words…THE ENTIRE CONVENTION IS BASED ON AN OUTRIGHT LIE. Add in the false Welfare attacks and claims about Apologizing and Mathematically Impossible Economic Plans and claims on the deficit and the PPACA and pretty much their entire campaign is a lie. If your entire argument is based on lies and deception and mis-information then you just don’t have much of an argument.

    If the Obama campaign is unable to tatoo Mendacious Mitt and Lyin’ Ryan with their dishonesty… and completely discredit them in the eyes of the electorate…then Obama doesn’t deserve a second term.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  23. JKB says:

    The anecdote worked in the early theme of the speech, Obama the con man. As you say, it is technically true, Obama did say those words, the local press took it as a promise, implication is people voted based on those perceptions, Obama skipped town and they got nothing. Sure the plant is “idled” but to anyone working there, it is closed as in no one works there for pay. The idling adds to the con, to spur throwing good votes after bad.

    All the inside baseball is amusing but few voters will consider it. The theme that Obama said a lot of things but few people actually got what they thought they were buying has potential. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me resonates with people.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 17

  24. Rob in CT says:

    The Bowles-Simpson thing is even worse than that. Not only did Ryan vote against it (after which the chairmen wrote up their own document), but Republicans were instrumental in the failure of the “supercommittee” to reach a long-term deal, just as they were when Obama and Boehner made a run at a “grand bargain” during the debt ceiling hostage standoff (in the end, a short-term deal was made instead).

    But that doesn’t matter. History can be re-written or just plain ignored like it never happened (Bush the Younger? Oh, that guy, um… never liked him anyway). Facts are less important than how people feel.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  25. Rob in CT says:

    @JKB:

    The GOP’s nominee for POTUS is the guy who wrote an editorial titled “Let Detroit go Bankrupt.”

    Does that resonate?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 0

  26. Argon says:

    I wonder how far the ‘government is picking winners and losers’ faux outrage can play for the GOP. There’s a reason why the Kochs and other multi-millionaires/billionaires are giving Rove’s ‘Americans for Prosperity’ the most money ever seen to tilt elections. The business contributors expect a serious return on their political investments. Heck, buying political support probably cost less than advertisements. Look at root causes of the current recession to see what winners and losers were picked by the GOP policies (with some assistance by weak-spined Democrats). Look at the capture of regulatory agencies in finance, the EPA, land use, and safety by industries they were meant to regulate to see which winners and losers the GOP, especially including Ryan, picked the last time they held sway. Hint: The middle class and the majority of the public were not the winners.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  27. I appreciate the hard work at fact-checking, James. I think you are right though that the big picture is about something else.

    Maybe I’m a cynic, but I think they are going for the inference that the auto industry, without bailouts, would be healthier. It is a “everything does better without government” story line.

    And of course they can show you a closed auto plant. No one can show them a shuttered GM, or a GM owned by Toyota as the alternative.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  28. Stonetools says:

    The fact checkers have gone into overdrive trying to keep up with the falsehoods in in Ryan’s speech. One tweeter wondered if Kessler was going to give to Ryan FIVE Pinocchios instead of the supposed maximum of four. James’s reaction? To insist that one of Ryan’s falsehoods is technically true. ( it really isn’t , but let that pass). Let’s face it, James , you are moving perilously close to pure partisan hackery here.
    Ryan’s speech settles two issues here. The first is that we now know beyond any doubt that Ryan is not serious about policy. The MSM loved the idea of Ryan as the serious, mature conservative policy wonk. That idea should never be entertained again by anyone.
    Secondly, the concept of creating an alternate reality and presenting it to conservatives as the truth has moved from the fringe, to talk radio, to national TV, to finally, the Republican leadership. The evolution is finally complete. Congratulations, Republicans.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  29. Jr says:

    He is liar and hypocrite, James

    You can try to spin it all you want……..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  30. J-Dub says:

    Was this plant in Ryan’s district? If so, what did he do to try and save it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  31. lol James, everyone is hard on you today.

    I was yesterday, so today I’m a friend.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  32. al-Ameda says:

    Ryan is lying of course, but that’s not unexpected.

    It’s the chutzpah here that deserves to be called out as bulls***. The fact is that Romney and Ryan both wanted GM to go through bankruptcy, and they did not care if the auto industry shed hundreds of thousands of jobs at the depths of the recession. So now Ryan claims to care about GM anyway? Please, Paul Ryan is a greaseball.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  33. Stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    You know, it’s one thing to engage in conservative, yet critical, analysis. It’s another to try to spin blatant falsehoods as being in some meta sense, true.
    An honest conservative would have to admit that this speech is a tissue of lies and start the analysis there. James should have done that.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  34. JKB says:

    This is an amusing distraction. Out of the whole speech the chatterers want to talk about a small anecdote and fuss over what “is” means. I don’t blame them. They have to do something shiny and loud in hopes of distracting from this:

    President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record. But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited it, not the economy as he envisions it, but this economy as we are living it.

    Good luck

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  35. Andy says:

    Whether the plant closed under Bush or Obama is irrelevant. Presidents do not decide the fates of manufacturing plants, nor are they the “commanders in chief” of the US economy. The debate about which politician or party should get the “blame” for this plant closing is a dumb debate. It’s obvious the blame for this plant closing belongs to General Motors and their 30+ years of shitty business practices.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  36. Me Me Me says:

    Tsar, JKB and Andy all “defend” Ryan not by saying he spoke the truth, but by saying that what he said doesn’t matter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  37. Andy says:

    @Me Me Me:

    Excuse me, but where do I defend Ryan?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. C. Clavin says:

    @ JKB…
    Actually Ryans speech was filled with lies and distortions…as is the entire Romney/Ryan Campaign.
    James, the chatterer in question, chose to hilight this one anecdote.
    As for the

    “…economy as we are living it…”

    it’s far better than the one left behind by Republicans. And far better than will be if they get control again. History shows that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  39. Me Me Me says:

    @Andy: Where you claim the fact that Ryan lied is irrelevant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  40. Billy says:

    @James Joyner: does the term “material omission” mean anything to you?

    A lie is a lie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  41. Andy says:

    @Me Me Me:

    I said the debate over blaming Presidents for a factory closing is a dumb debate. Paul Ryan started that debate. Your conclusion? I am defending Paul Ryan. You’ll have to explain the logic there.

    But now you’ve gone from a failure of logic to putting words into my mouth. You say I “claim the fact that Ryan lied is irrelevant.” Read what I wrote again genius, I never said what you claim I said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  42. sam says:

    @JJ

    And we certainly can’t blame Obama policies for the closure of the Janesville plant even if we go with the March 2009 shutdown date

    Hmmm. Even if. Obama is sworn in on January 20, 2009. Hypothetical: Plant closes in March 2009. Therefore, Obama, having been in office two months – or less – is to blame.

    Man, that would be some powerful mojo working.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  43. Katharsis says:

    Can one defend sophistry without committing sophistry? Me thinks not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  44. Clanton says:

    GM still owes the government (tax payers) several billion dollars. The Chevy Volt has received some good reviews and the people who have bought this car seem to love it, but the cost is too high. We’ll see how the new Ford electric hybrid does at a much cheaper price. GM could have reorganized and not gone through to the government (tax payers). They also have a chief executive who may not be the best. He said that gas prices are not high enough. I think he needs to concentrate on building great cars. From what I hear the Malibu isn’t selling and GM will face another crisis soon. I don’t know why they dropped Pontiac. They were making good cars and actually were making a profit. Maybe Obama told them they had to go. They should have turned Saturn into an experimental division; developing and testing electric and hydrogen prototypes. Saturn turned into just another division with shared chassis, body styles, and engines. That was not their original mission.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. JKB says:

    @C. Clavin:

    James is just chattering on about the jounolist meme for the day. I just watched the MSNBC video over at Legal Insurrection where Rachel Maddow and company fall all over themselves over this with Gov. Scott Walker. I would say their bias is showing but they exposed that when they blacked out all the minority convention speakers from Tuesday.

    Really, history show that the economy is poor under Republicans? Well, that will certainly be news to those who enjoyed the Reagan and Bush I years. Or even those who enjoyed the boom under Clinton after Republican took control of the Congress. Or even those who lived through the first 7 years of Bush II.

    In the military they have a saying, “What have you done for me today”. And the Obama Administration has not been good for the economy. Most Americans aren’t ready to settle for the new normal just as they chose not to accept it under Carter. You may be able to sell “managed decline” in academia and the salons of the non-profiteers but regular Americans don’t settle for “doing their best”. If you can’t win, you are in the way of someone who can.

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  46. Rafer Janders says:

    GM could have reorganized and not gone through to the government (tax payers).

    No, they could not. Anyone who says this is completely ignorant of how finance works. At the time that GM was in crisis, the government was literally the lender of last resort, the only entity with the money and the will to lend. All the major banks and finance firms were themselves in deep trouble, they were also going to the government with their hand out, and not one of them was willing or able to lend a dime to Detroit.

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  47. Wayne says:

    Obama said in February 2008 to the people of Janesvill
    “We need to maintain our competitive edge in a global by ensuring that plants like this one stay open for another hundred years, and shuttered factories “re-open” as new industries that promise new jobs.”

    http://www.cfr.org/us-election-2008/obamas-speech-janesville-wisconsin/p15492

    Quotes around re-open was my doing. The fact remains that Obama promise those people one thing and did not deliver. Yes, politicians make and break promises quite often and it is also common for their opponents to point that out. Politicians should be held accountable for their broken promises.

    The fact that a politician shouldn’t have made a promise because it was beyond his controlled or whatever doesn’t make his opponent a misleader\liar when pointing out the broken promises. In this particular case, Obama could have used the bailout influence to reopen that factory instead of making them produce Volts. Although, IMO that would have been inappropriate but then again the whole bailout deal was inappropriate.

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  48. C. Clavin says:

    “…Really, history show that the economy is poor under Republicans? Well, that will certainly be news to those who enjoyed the Reagan and Bush I years…”

    Sure…Reagan tripled the debt…increased it by 300%….and you think that’s a good economy?
    Of course you do…you are a Republican. It was under Reagn that the war on the middle class started and the inequality we see today got it’s beginnings. You think that’s a good economy? Of course you do…you are a Republican.

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  49. sam says:

    @JKB:

    Really, history show that the economy is poor under Republicans?

    Myself, I wouldn’t say that. But there is an argument that the economy does better under Democratic presidential regimes than under Republican. See, e.g., How The U.S. Economy Performed Under Democratic and Republican Presidents.

    During the forty years from 1961 through 2000, the United States had a Democrat as president half of the time (1961-68, 1977-80, and 1993-2000) and a Republican president for the other twenty years (1969-1976 and 1981-1992). Power was shared, and the switch-overs occurred infrequently, so that it is fair to associate performance with the ruling presidential party. It’s hard for a party to blame its record on the previous incumbent, if they had eight or even twelve years to straighten things out. I chose five vital economic signs to grade each party’s performance: real GDP growth, growth in employment, consumer price inflation, the change in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the change in the dollar against the mark and/or euro after 1998. I normalized all the percentage changes to a per annum basis so that they could be easily compared, and I aggregated each party’s data. Thus, the presidencies of Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton are counted as one 20-year-long presidency, and the same is done for the presidencies of Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush41. GDP growth was measured from fourth quarter to fourth quarter. Since presidents are sworn in on January 20th, January was counted as a month for outgoing administrations in the cases of employment and consumer price figures. Stock price and dollar data are measured from January 20th or the last business day before that. Also, since the dollar was fixed, not floating, in the 1960′s, that comparison leaves out the Kennedy/Johnson years and thus comprises just 12 years under Democratic rule.

    The Bush43 presidency has had its performance shortcomings and if included with the other 20 years of Republican rule would have resulted in uneven terms in office. So in fairness to the Republicans and because the Bush43 presidency is still going, albeit 94.7% complete, I tallied that administration separately from its four immediate Republican ancestors.

    With twenty years on each side and since some of the ups and downs of the U.S. business cycle lie beyond the direct control of policymakers, one would expect similar results in the two groups. Not so. Instead, one discovers below a significant advantage when a Democrat occupied the White House in each of the five categories.

    % Per Annum Democrat Republican Bush43
    GDP Growth 4.1% 2.9% 2.2%
    Employment 2.9% 1.7% 0.5%
    CPI 4.0% 5.1% 3.0%
    DJIA 8.1% 6.5% 0.9%
    Dollar +0.8% -3.6% -5.9%

    Do see the postscript to this article for links to other studies. And, of course, the current shitstorm began under a Republican president.

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  50. mantis says:

    James has quite obviously crossed the Rubicon and will say anything, regardless of the facts, to defend the lairs to whom he has hitched his star.

    I hope they are paying you, James. You shouldn’t sell your soul for nothing. No longer will anyone think of you as one of the last remaining reasonable Republicans. You’re just a liar.

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  51. James in LA says:

    The trouble for the GOP is that this new fangled internet–tubes-device has a knack of recording the lies with pristine quality for as long as there are readers for the media. The GOP is asking for and will rightly receive next week the label of Liars First. I get why pols still do it — most all elected pols in power hail from the age of newspapers where this white lie campaign could go on without anyone able to connect the dots. And so they go unconnected in the mind of the pol. The lie can continue unabated.

    In 2012, they connect themselves at the speed of light. See: 538.com. See: Memeorandum. See: OTB, where even one of its own benefactors cannot carry THIS water.

    The GOP is finished, as constructed. This convention is a complete farce.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  52. C. Clavin says:

    @ Wayne…
    Do you have a reading comprehension problem. There is no promise made in that quote.

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  53. stonetools says:

    @James in LA:

    In 2012, they connect themselves at the speed of light. See: 538.com. See: Memeorandum. See: OTB, where even one of its own benefactors cannot carry THIS water.

    The GOP is finished, as constructed. This convention is a complete farce.

    Well they haven’t been punished by the electorate yet. I’d wait till November before I write any obituaries.

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  54. C. Clavin says:

    @ Sam…
    Thanks for backing up my “smack talk”.

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  55. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    All the inside baseball is amusing but few voters will consider it.

    So the Romney strategy is to appeal to low information voters who don’t know when they are being lied to?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  56. Nikki says:

    @black onion: Ha!

    @James Joyner: According to the Bible, if it ain’t the truth, it’s a lie, nuance be damned.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  57. Jeremy R says:

    Actually, it’s even more misleading in that Ryan apparently agreed with then candidate Obama’s statement, “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here …” as Ryan unsuccessfully lobbied for a federal gov’t bailout to save that particular plant, in the waning hours of the Bush admin, just before GM set in motion it’s path to being shuttered.

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  58. MattT says:

    Knowing how big auto plants are, the shuttered Janesville plant probably has several dozen security and maintenance people working full-time even today. Will the Right claim that it’s still open?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  59. @Stonetools:

    I read James fairly carefully and critically. I know he often buries his lede, etc. Even as a skeptic I didn’t find much objectionable here. He was not friendly to Ryan. He damned him with faint criticism, or something.

    So, I guess you thought this was a way for big criticism?

    Anyway, if I were to challenge James on anything (maybe tomorrow) it would be a question about that closing paragraph. Has Obama really “picked winners” in the economy, or is that more the brush with which he is painted?

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  60. Sorry,

    “So, I guess you thought this was a [day] for big criticism?”

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  61. Rob in CT says:

    Or even those who enjoyed the boom under Clinton after Republican took control of the Congress

    Heh. Funny how the 1993 tax increase, which the GOP voted against and claimed would destroy the economy*, was a key part of the improvement of the balance sheet (the rest was economic growth coupled with some spending restraint). Funny how that side of the coin is just put down the memory hole as if it played no role.

    Not that either had all that much to do with the private sector boom.

    Funny how Congress matters when the GOP is in control and things are good, but not when Dems are in control when things are good (or when the GOP is in control when things are not good).

    Or even those who lived through the first 7 years of Bush II

    Did you even look up the stats from those years? They’re not impressive at all. Sure, *I* did well. But the overall situation was mediocre at best.

    The situation now is crappy, but the ’08 crash >> the ’01 crash, and the federal balance sheet, which was strong in ’01, was trashed from 2001-2008, putting us in a far worse position when trying to dig out from the crisis.

    As for the Reagan era – solid, but unspectacular growth rates (don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy to see such growth rates now), while the federal government ran big deficits, ultimately tripling the national debt and increasing the size of the federal government (those government jobs played a significant role in the GDP growth in the 80s). If we wanted to duplicate that now, we theoretically could (people like Krugman have been advocating precisely that), though the balance sheet situation scares people off (convenient for the party that caused the balance sheet problem in the first place). Instead, government has been shedding jobs since the recession (with a brief blip up for the census).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  62. Brummagem Joe says:

    This was only one of the at least five blatant lies contained in Ryan’s speech which are being taken apart by the media from Fox to Daily Kos and most of the respectable in the middle. Even worse than these distortions about the Janesville plant to me were the distortions of the record about the S & P downgrade and the Simpson Bowles commission. The first arose because for first time in our history the Republican house led amongst others by Ryan manufactured a debt ceiling crisis; and the Simpson Bowles recommendations were principally torpeoded by guess who?…..Paul Ryan. As Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker pointed out Ryan used to have some credibility (heavens knows why) and he’s rapidly in the process of losing it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  63. Rob in CT says:

    Crap, I meant to put a footnote in there, but forgot.

    Basically, the 1993 tax increase set the rates we all think of as the “Clinton Era rates” right? The rates the GOP continues to insist are simply unacceptable, job-killing, etc. Which, until the economy improves, has some truth (broad-based tax increases right now would indeed risk a double-dip recession). Anyway, the 2001/2003 “Bush tax cuts” undid the 1993 changes and then some, with the promise of growth. The economic result was mediocre, and the federal balance sheet result was terrible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  64. I see that “Paul Ryan’s brazen lies” is top at memeorandum right now.

    A bad day for Ryan, even with OTB’s minor contribution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  65. David M says:

    I still can’t get over how incoherent the GOP arguments about the GM/Chrysler bailout are. After decrying the bailout and saying we should have let the free market sort things out, Ryan now claims with a straight face that Obama should have done more to keep a plant open? Even ignoring the plant was closed in 2008 (and if the closing is announced, it’s closed), they are simultaneously criticizing Obama for doing too much and not enough. It’s nonsense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  66. Rob in CT says:

    @john personna:

    A bad day for Ryan, even with OTB’s minor contribution

    Eh. The people who watched it on TV don’t care about blogosphere debunking. I’ll believe that fact-checking matters if/when I see the GOP get crushed in the election. Until then, I’m sticking with past experience: facts don’t matter to most voters, because they don’t pay enough attention to actually know the facts, and vote on emotion & tribal affiliation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  67. Jeremy R says:

    @james

    BTW, this is the actual Obama quote that Ryan hacked the middle out of and then mashed together:

    “I believe 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,”

    I bolded what Ryan edited out of existence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  68. @Rob in CT:

    Yeah, but, they also tell us that the election is coming down to a few thousand votes in Ohio or Florida.

    In that environment Republicans would like the lies to be loud and clear, and the Democrats would like the fact checking to be stronger.

    Quite a dishonorable path to victory for the GOP.

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  69. JKB says:

    @anjin-san: So the Romney strategy is to appeal to low information voters who don’t know when they are being lied to?

    I certainly hope so. With that strategy, he could pick up 75% of the 2008 Obama voters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  70. JKB says:

    @john personna:

    It’s 2:30 EDT and the journolist meme of the day, like always is coming apart at the seams. It was a nice try but reality wins out….again.

    On the other hand, the Progs and other Dems have had their preconceived notions reinforced so there is that.

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  71. Yvette says:

    Today the plant’s production is at 0% so it really is closed. Ryan is telling the truth.

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  72. Nikki says:

    @Yvette: Production being 0% =/= Ryan telling the truth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  73. @JKB:

    Seriously? When I look now the top story at memeorandum is:

    The Most Dishonest Convention Speech … Ever?

    On the one hand, that is The New Republic, but on the other hand, the whole blogosphere linked it to the top.

    BTW, claiming “reality wins” without explaining which fact you are defending, and where it was proven … that’s not really the way to stake the higher ground.

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  74. Madamfifi says:

    For all of you so intent on screaming the line of ‘Lies’, will you be so discerning when Pres. Obama speaks? I think not.

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  75. @Madamfifi:

    That’s the beautiful thing about a blog with a regular community. You can come back and test us.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t love Obama, and can name things he does that I don’t like (should have gotten out of Afghanistan faster, goes about green energy the wrong way), but the ratio is about opposite what it was under Bush. There while I can count good things he did, they were small (marine protected areas, African aids funding, an attempt at work visas, an attempt to seriously means-test farm subsidies) compared to the big blunders (tax cuts, wars, unfunded wars, subverting the democracy for those wars, subverting the SEC, subverting the EPA).

    For me RomneyRyan are shaping up to be another BushCheney, and so the choice of “less bad” is easy.

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  76. C. Clavin says:

    @ madamfifi…
    You realize Ryan’s speech is being called the most dishonest ever, right?
    You realize the Romney Campaign has been running a number of ads, on Welfare and “You didn’t build that” which have been called blatant lies, right?
    You realize the ENTIRE theme of the Republican Convention is based on a lie, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  77. Me Me Me says:

    @Madamfifi:

    For all of you so intent on screaming the line of ‘Lies’, will you be so discerning when Pres. Obama speaks? I think not.

    I think this is the first post this week to argue that what OTB needs is MORE “both sides do it” argumentation.

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  78. giantslor says:

    James is committing the same error here that many fact checkers make, and that’s not seeing the forest for the trees, focusing on semantics and minutiae and parsing out every fact nugget instead of evaluating the the claim as a whole. Any time someone has to say something is “technically true,” that means it’s false.

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  79. Empire says:

    The Middle Class is doing fine,
    You didn’t build that,
    Un-employment is under 81/5 %,
    NOW THOSE ARE LIES….Where is all the uproar….?

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  80. Dan says:

    Of course he lied but the truth is more elusive.
    He lied because of the same reason they all lie and that is they are paid to do and say what a relatively few people pay for them to say.
    Even the most concrete truth cannot outweigh the vote of money.

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  81. jukeboxgrad says:

    james:

    Ryan hewed to the letter of the truth

    No, he didn’t. Many people have pointed out that you are missing the forest for the trees, but it’s worse than that, because you’re not even reading the trees correctly.

    And the plant closed down after Obama took office—so Kos and Kessler are wrong. But only technically.

    If you want to claim that “the plant closed down after Obama took office,” then you need to notice that Ryan said this:

    That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.

    If “that plant didn’t last another year,” that means the plant closed less than a year after Obama made his statement. Obama made his statement on 2/13/08. Therefore Ryan is claiming that the plant closed prior to 2/13/09. So if it’s also true, as you claim, that “the plant closed down after Obama took office,” that means that you and Ryan are saying this: that the plant closed during the period 1/20/09 to 2/13/09.

    Trouble is, there is no way to read the available facts and reach the conclusion that the plant closed in that 24-day period. That is, that the best answer to the relevant question (‘when did the plant close?’) falls in that 24-day period.

    When did the plant close? The best answer is reflected in what you said here:

    I’d say that, yes, going from 1250 workers to 50 workers [in 12/08] constitutes being “effectively shut down.”

    The problem with your other pedantic gyrations (for example: “after all, the plant is still on standby, so it’s arguably not closed”) is that they gloss over these key words from Ryan: “that plant didn’t last another year.” Because Ryan said those words, you cannot simultaneously claim that “Ryan hewed to the letter of the truth” and that “the plant closed down after Obama took office.”

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  82. jukeboxgrad says:

    anjin-san:

    So the Romney strategy is to appeal to low information voters who don’t know when they are being lied to?

    Yes. This the GOP in a nutshell: people who are deeply ignorant being led by people who are deeply dishonest.

    ===============
    david:

    I still can’t get over how incoherent the GOP arguments about the GM/Chrysler bailout are. After decrying the bailout and saying we should have let the free market sort things out, Ryan now claims with a straight face that Obama should have done more to keep a plant open? Even ignoring the plant was closed in 2008 (and if the closing is announced, it’s closed), they are simultaneously criticizing Obama for doing too much and not enough. It’s nonsense.

    Exactly. GOP rhetoric is this: nonsense. It fails to be even internally consistent. GOP rhetoric is packed with so many contradictions that even their contradictions have contradictions.

    The contradictory, incoherent, nonsensical rhetoric we’re discussing is carefully crafted by smart people for the purpose of influencing stupid people. The people behind this rhetoric are smart enough to understand that there really are a lot of people who are really stupid.

    We are heading straight to Idiocracy unless there are enough smart, honest people who realize this kind of behavior is toxic and needs to be punished.

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  83. Frank Terry says:

    @Rafer Janders: I’m a Libertarian so I don’t understand why either side is angry. They’re both a pack of wolves. Obama hasn’t done ANYTHING except shove a dead carcass of a health reform bill up our arses while not living up to his promise of transparency “The Healthcare debate will be Televised”. He’s a bigger liar than Bush. That’s not an easy task brotha. Die hard liberals are just like die hard Conservatives in that they preach their ideals of religion and social reform at those of us who only want to be left alone to live peacefully without having to endure you’re mathematically challenged systems of welfare and warfare for everyone everywhere all the freakin time.

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  84. Jocelyn Fanger says:

    You missed an important event. . . .On 10/11/2008, GM announced that SUV production at the Janesville plant would end around Christmas 2008–sooner than the June-announced date of 2010. Upon hearing this news, then-candidate Obama stated:

    “This news is also a reminder that Washington needs to finally live up to its promise to help our automakers compete in our global economy. As President, I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and all across America.”

    That sure looks like a promise to me. Or perhaps more specifically, then-candidate Obama vowed, once elected as President, to assume and carry out the already-made promise to help automakers by retooling the Janesville plant and others like it.

    Now, some will say, “Wait. Mr. Obama didn’t promise to ‘lead an effort to retool’ the Janesville plant specifically. He said ‘plants like’ the one in Janesville.” Well, if a guy is courting a girl, promises her that he’s going to marry “a girl just like you”–and then either disappears or marries someone else–she’s going to feel had.

    Further, I didn’t read Mr. Ryan’s statement as blaming Mr. Obama for the plant “closure.” Rather, he blamed Mr. Obama for the fact that, 3 1/2 years into his presidency and despite the promise, the plant today remains shuttered and has not been retooled.

    IMHO, this round goes to Mr. Ryan. Peace.

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  85. jukeboxgrad says:

    I didn’t read Mr. Ryan’s statement as blaming Mr. Obama for the plant “closure.”

    Ryan’s statement was carefully designed to create the impression that the plant closed on Obama’s watch, even though it didn’t. That’s the heart of the lie.

    I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville

    Arguably that is happening, in other plants that are indeed “like the GM facility in Janesville.”

    Well, if a guy is courting a girl, promises her that he’s going to marry “a girl just like you”–and then either disappears or marries someone else–she’s going to feel had.

    The analogy fails completely, because both courting and marriage are assumed to be exclusive. If I say ‘I’m courting you,’ it’s appropriate for you to assume that I will now refrain from courting anyone else. But if I say ‘I’m thinking about retooling plants like this plant,’ it absolutely does not mean ‘this plant only.’ It doesn’t even mean ‘this plant.’ It means ‘a set of one or more plants that may or not include this exact plant.’

    The word “like” is in that sentence for a reason. If he intended to make a promise regarding this exact plant, the word wouldn’t be there. Or he would have said this: ‘an effort to retool this plant and other plants like it.’

    Also, it would be nice if you lifted a finger to address what I said here.

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