The list of falsehoods Paul Ryan told at the Republican National Convention last night isn't short, but there's one, in particular, that seems to be generating the most attention.
"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."
For regular readers, the anecdote may have sounded familiar -- Ryan has incorporated the anecdote into his speeches before, I took it apart two weeks ago.
To their credit, plenty of campaign reporters immediately recognized one of the major flaws in Ryan's attack -- the GM plant in Janesville was shut down before Obama took office. Take a look at that photo included above, and then notice the date on the banner. GM's press release announcing the closing of the plant was issued in June 2008. One of the local papers ran this headline in December 2008, the month before Obama's inauguration: "Hugs, tears as GM workers leave Janesville plant for last time."
Republicans are going to great lengths to argue that Ryan didn't actually mislead the country. They're wrong; Ryan's argument was obviously and deliberately deceptive. The truth matters, and Ryan's version of reality isn't it.
But the closer one looks at Ryan's attack, the more bizarre it appears.
At the surface, there's just no reason to suggest Obama is responsible for a plant closing initiated under Bush. But even beyond the surface-level lie, the ideological disconnect is almost as striking.
President Obama, as you may have heard, rescued the American auto industry in 2009, over Republican objections. In the process, Obama not only saved GM, he rescued plants, workers, and communities.
Ryan, unwilling to respect Americans enough to talk to us like adults, is trying to make a child-like appeal: the plant is closed, Obama is president, ergo blame Obama for the plant closing.
But that's ridiculous. If it weren't for the president's policy, the Janesville plant wouldn't have been the only one closed. Indeed, Ryan's running mate would have allowed all the GM plants to close as part of his "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" policy.
Does Ryan seriously want us to believe Obama's policy wasn't big enough? He wanted an even more ambitious government response? Is the new Republican argument, "Sure, Obama rescued the industry, but he only saved most of the GM plants, not all of them"?
Postscript: Given Romney's work at Bain Capital, Ryan probably ought to shy away from the whole subject of plant closings.
Update: Greg Sargent talked to a Ryan supporter in Janesville who offered a helpful perspective and isn't willing to blame Obama for the fate of the plant.