Friday, August 31, 2012

Fact checkers and the facts

Paul Ryan really hit a nerve with his story about the GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. Everyone on the left is insisting that he told a major lie. Here is how Eugene Robinson describes it:

The whopper with which those pesky fact-checkers had such a field day Thursday was Ryan's attempt to blame President Obama for the shutdown of a huge General Motors plant in Ryan's home town of Janesville, Wis. Ryan's point of reference was a visit Obama made to the plant during the 2008 campaign.

"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."

In other words, Obama promised to help those workers by keeping the plant open but failed to deliver. This is a baldfaced lie.

As Glenn Kessler, author of The Post's Fact Checker column, has noted, Obama visited the Janesville plant in February 2008. GM announced the plant's shutdown in June 2008 — five months before Obama was elected and seven months before he took office. Ryan should be blaming George W. Bush, not Barack Obama.

And technically, the plant isn't even closed. It's on "standby," according to GM, and can be reactivated if the demand for production rises sufficiently.

Ryan was careful with his words. He didn't specify who was president when the plant was ordered to cease production. He described it as "locked up and empty," rather than "closed." But by any reasonable standard, Ryan was being deceptive. He wanted his listeners to believe something that simply is not true.

Note that Robinson does not contradict a single thing that Ryan said but Robinson still called Ryan a liar. There are some serious omissions with Robinson's account. To be fair, he got his facts from the fact-checkers. I made the same mistake yesterday. The fact-checkers only covered half the story.

It turns out that Obama made not one but two visits to the Janesville plant in 2008. In the second one he promised to fight to keep the plant open.

The plant hosted not one but two production lines. The first was shut down December, 2008 (under the Bush administration). The other one was not shut down until April, 2009 (under the Obama administration). GM considered three plants for retooling and reopening. The Janesville plant was one of these but was passed over. Apparently Obama did not fight very hard to keep the plant open.

Why is the left jumping on Ryan so hard over this? Because it destroys the Obama campaign's most effective ads, the ones with the plants closed by Bain. If plants that Obama promised to save were still closed then he can't complain about Romney closing plants (or plants that Romney was once associated with being closed years after he left Bain).

The Left sees the danger to Obama and is trying to defend him by hysterically attacking Ryan. It will not work because they are quibbling over details when Ryan's real point is that the plant remains closed because the Obama recovery has been so pathetic. There is no answer for that.

No comments: