by Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now
The fact checkers have been working overtime to catalog the distortions and dissembling of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday.
Ryan’s fact-challenged polemic was even too much for reliable Republican mouthpiece Fox News, which said of his primetime remarks, “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.”
Most notable, Ryan blamed President Obama for the closing of the GM plant in Janesville that happened under George W. Bush; and claimed the President’s efforts to find cost savings in Medicare from private insurance companies imperils benefits with nary a mention Ryan’s own plan takes the same amount of money from the program, and uses it for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
But while the shards of Ryan’s credibility may have cascaded to the floor like so much convention confetti, to many, the real outrage is what the 42-year-old Janesville Representative failed to say when speaking to the nation.
Ryan had a the opportunity to explain and atone, at long last, for his vote for the war in Iraq and his unflinching support for the policies that kept our troops there for longer than our troops fought in World War II. Certainly, the appearance of Bush-era Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice as Ryan’s convention warm-up act provided an even more compelling case for Ryan to address his complicity in the Iraq quagmire.
Paul Ryan was one of a handful of Generation X members in Congress when the vote for war was called, and almost all of the American casualties suffered during the Iraq War came from his generation and the even younger soldiers from Generation Y.
Ninety-one Wisconsinites gave their lives in service to our country in Iraq. The oldest, according to available records, was just 40 years old — two years younger than Paul Ryan is today.
Ryan confidently championed the flawed case for war in advance of the 2002 vote, thundering from the House floor, “not since Hitler and not since Stalin have we seen so much evil delivered by one man. On top of that, these are the least of the reasons why this authorization is needed. This tyrant has amassed a large cache of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and is aggressively seeking nuclear weapons.”
Each of these clams wilted in the face of fact, but Ryan never relented in his support for the war concocted by his political allies.
While soldiers struggled with inadequate body armor, while the case for war crumbled, and while rampant war profit and fraud was exposed Ryan remained intractably loyal to the Washington, DC architects of the war, instead of the Wisconsin soldiers who fought in it.
Ryan was 32 when he voted in favor of the Iraq War, stood with Bush, Cheney and Rice throughout his 30s, and lent no hand at 40, when President Obama finally brought our brave troops home.
We can let the watchdogs have the final say on truth and falsehood from Ryan’s Wednesday speech.
But we should give equal voice to those still mourning the massive loss of American and Iraqi life caused in part by the speech Ryan made almost 10 years ago to the month where he unapologetically called for the invasion of Iraq from the safety of a secure Capitol Hill chamber — and failed to protect the young fighting men and women of our proud nation.
Scot Ross is the Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now, a statewide progressive advocacy organization.