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Looking Fair

Thomas Whitley

Before GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan's speech at the RNC was over last night the interwebs were exploding with claims of lies and extremely misleading points on the part of Ryan. These lies and deceptions are easy to spot and much of the media has been pointing them out all morning. Fox News even got into the game saying Ryan's speech was "deceiving" and that

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.

For some time now it has been clear that the Romney/Ryan ticket has had a facts-be-damned modus operandi. The campaign has continued to run a welfare ad that claims Obama is "gutting" the work requirements from welfare, this claim has been exposed as a flat out lie by numerous news and fact-checking organizations.

Ryan's speech last night attempted to blame President Obama for the closure of a GM plant in Janesville, OH - Ryan's hometown - which closed in December 2008, under President Bush. Compounding the Romney/Ryan campaign's belief that they can lie with impunity is the fact that many news organizations are squeamish about calling out all the lies. They have, instead, said that his speech took "factual shortcuts" and that it made "questionable claims."

I have said for some while that I was becoming quite disappointed with news organizations attempting to look fair by placing equal blame on both parties, whether equal blame was actually called for or not. Ezra Klein, though, in the most honest piece I've seen by a journalist examining Ryan's speech had this to say:

But Ryan’s claims weren’t even arguably true. You simply can’t say the president hasn’t released a deficit reduction plan. The plan is right here. You simply can’t say the president broke his promise to keep your GM plant open. The decision to close the plant was made before he entered office — and, by the way, the guy at the top of your ticket opposed the auto bailout. You simply can’t argue that the Affordable Care Act was a government takeover of the health-care system. My doctor still works for Kaiser Permanente, a private company that the government does not own. You simply can’t say that Obama, who was willing to follow historical precedent and sign a clean debt ceiling increase, caused the S&P downgrade, when S&P clearly said it was due to congressional gridlock and even wrote that it was partly due to the GOP’s dogmatic position on taxes.

And of his verdict that Ryan's speech had many more lies than truths and that "the Romney campaign isn’t adhering to the minimum standards required for a real policy conversation" he had this bit of reflection:

I don’t like that conclusion. It doesn’t look “fair” when you say that. We’ve been conditioned to want to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame, and the fact of the matter is, I would like to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame. I’d personally feel better if our coverage didn’t look so lopsided. But first the campaigns have to be relatively equal. So far in this campaign, you can look fair, or you can be fair, but you can’t be both.

Would that all journalists understood their job and their responsibility in the way that Klein does.