Towards the end of last night's debate, Martha Raddatz asked the candidates, "If you are elected, what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?" The very first word out of Paul Ryan's mouth was, "Honesty."
It was an unfortunate choice of characteristics. When the congressman realizes this or not, the "Lyin' Ryan" moniker was never intended to be ironic.
Of particular interest to me, though, was the congressman's take on the economy. Ryan noted the economic difficulties in Scranton, Pennsylvania -- where Vice President Biden was born -- and the fact that the unemployment rate has gone up there in recent years. "That's how it's going all around America," Ryan said.
Biden pounced, explaining, "You don't read the statistics. That's not how [the unemployment rate is] going. It's going down," but Ryan made his pitch anyway.
"Look, did they come in and inherit a tough situation? Absolutely. But we're going in the wrong direction.... We're heading in the wrong direction."
Now, this would ordinarily be the time that I point out how backwards this is. Every relevant metric -- job creation, economic growth, the stock market, the manufacturing sector, even the deficit -- is vastly improved as compared to four years ago. If improving economic conditions, in Ryan's mind, are "the wrong direction," he probably ought to define "wrong." Just last week, the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low -- is Ryan going to argue that a falling jobless rate is bad news?
But event putting these details aside, another problem with Ryan's take is that even Mitt Romney has said the opposite.
The Republican presidential candidate has said, more than once, that "the economy is getting better." Indeed, remember this incredible clip?
If Ryan wants to argue that conditions haven't improved enough, fine. If he wants to argue that conditions have improved, but Obama shouldn't get credit, fine. If he wants to say conditions would be even better if we'd tried a different course, we can at least have the debate.
But to say a growing economy that's adding jobs is worse than a shrinking economy that's losing jobs is ridiculous. When Romney and his own running mate are making competing claims about the nation's number-one issue, you know there's a problem.