Paul Ryan (R-WI) spread what can only be seen as Glenn Beck logic this morning on Meet the Press. Ryan spent an entire clip impugning President Obama’s motives and then wrapped it up by lecturing that we can’t move forward by impugning people’s motives.
If only Paul Ryan would listen to Paul Ryan.
Here is the poisoned well of a premise for Ryan’s argument that Republicans are being reasonable on budget issues and the President is not:
“Well, I don’t think that the President thinks that we actually have a fiscal crisis. He’s been reportedly saying to our leaders that he doesn’t think we have a spending problem, we have a healthcare problem. That leads me to think that he thinks we ought to have more government controlled healthcare and rations. I don’t think that’s going to work.”
Problem number one: “I don’t think the President thinks that we actually have a fiscal crisis.” So, now we’re going on Paul Ryan’s opinion of the President’s thought process. Impugning the motives of the opposition is a logical fallacy used by people who have no argument. It is obvious to anyone with more than one brain cell that the President is aware of our fiscal crisis. This is not a real issue.
Problem number two: “He’s been reportedly saying to our leaders that he doesn’t think we have a spending problem, we have a healthcare problem.” To whom did he say this? Reportedly means “according to rumor.” I’ve heard John Boehner spinning this to the press, but does anyone have this on the record? On par with Paul Ryan’s intellectual capacities, this is middle school rumormongering. It’s fine to repeat what he heard, but to use it as a foundation, as proof, of his final assertion is faulty. He should have more than his ideas of Obama’s motives and a rumor, but Ryan will say anything in order to avoid discussing the actual numbers on his budget, which he still has not had “time” to discuss with the public.
The meme that the President said this to Boehner has become the new “you didn’t build that” in Republican circles. Forbes reported it as fact: “President Obama has told House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) that ‘we don’t have a spending problem’ because we have a ‘health-care problem.'” It should read “according to John Boehner,” but no; it’s become a fact in Republican circles.
Logic tells us that the President probably said something along the lines of how we don’t just have a spending problem; we also have a revenue problem (which is true and Republicans didn’t want to hear). Obama has said this before and since he’s made cuts, it’s clear that he doesn’t believe what Boehner wants us to believe Obama believes. Obama’s actions tell us about his beliefs more than Boehner’s memory. But given how Republicans willfully distorted the President’s on the record quote about “you didn’t build that”, we can just imagine how free Boehner felt to revise and parse a quote that only he heard. (No doubt Boehner was frustrated and embarrassed at this point, and any deflection to the President was a welcome reprieve.)
Problem number three: “That leads me to think that he thinks we ought to have more government controlled healthcare and rations.” It’s looking like the biggest problem is that Paul Ryan is “thinking”. Here again, he offers his opinion of the President’s motives and thoughts based on what he admits is a rumor, with nothing to back it up. He then mischaracterizes healthcare reform by tossing in a nod to the 2009 Lie of the Year with “rationing”, also known as Sarah Palin’s Death Panels.
Problem number four: “I don’t think that’s going to work.” This is the guy who still hasn’t done the numbers on his budget. This is the guy who uses logorrhea to cover up his inadequate knowledge (àla Palin, again).
Ryan’s premise is a fraudulent construction of impugning motives, attempts to discredit Obama and Democrats via ad hominem attacks in order to paint their position as suspect, mischaracterizations and moving the goal posts. He then uses this false premise to launch into his argument that many Democrats agree with him on how to reform Medicare and “entitlement programs”.
I have a hard time believing that there are “many” Democrats who don’t know that Paul Ryan has yet to do the math on his “reforms”, or who don’t understand that contrary to Republican fantasy, Obama Care actually reduces the deficit. Of course, Gregory doesn’t ask him to name these Democrats, so we are left with yet more imaginary proof of Ryan’s alleged reasonableness. Yes, that is what he’s selling. Ryan is selling himself as the middle and trying to paint Obama as the extremist. He can’t do this using reality, so he impugns motives and uses second hand information as a fact.
The problem, Ryan tells Gregory, is that leaders of “that party” don’t seem to ever want to come to an agreement with Republicans.
Gregory buys into the entire false premise and only reinforces it as true by falsely equating it with faux push back, pointing out that the President’s obstructionism might be the same thing as Republicans did to him when they decided to obstruct everything he did in his first term. I’ll note this since Gregory did not: The Republican meeting where they decided to obstruct the president was reported by someone other than the President. Additionally, Mitch McConnell himself admitted it in 2010.
Ryan then concludes that his concern is that the President “may be more concerned with political ends” like 2014 than he is with moving to the middle. More impugning motives in order to avoid the tough fact that while Republicans keep saying they didn’t get any cuts for the revenue, in fact they did get cuts. A lot of them. $2.2 trillion in cuts and $620 billion in tax revenue. In case Ryan hasn’t done the math yet, a trillion is more than a billion.
Ryan warns Gregory that Obama’s inauguration speech tells him that Obama is not looking to moderate or go to the middle (more on Ryan’s crystal ball into Obama’s motives to come). According to Ryan, Obama’s looking to go to the far left and he wants to fight Republicans every step of the way.
This is the Republicans’ new meme: President Obama is destroying them, he won’t meet with them in the middle, and he’s an extremist.
This accusation is coming from people so extreme that they lost members of their own party during the last election. At the end of this clip, Paul Ryan proves just how disingenuous he is, by claiming that it’s the President who is being dishonest, “This is the kind of honest debate we need to have, instead of impugning people’s motives.”
I kid you not. It doesn’t speak well of Paul Ryan’s alleged intelligence that this glaring inconsistency did not even threaten to embarrass him.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.