The argument that Paul Ryan "lied' or "misrepresented" the closing of the Janesville GM plant is not even colorable.
Here is what the President said:
"And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years. The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive. I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your president." (emphasis supplied.)
Here is what Ryan said:
"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.Let's make a few observations that seem to have eluded Ryan's critics.
"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." (emphasis supplied.)
First, Ryan does not "characterize" or "insinuate" anything about what the President said. He quoted him.
Second, while Ryan did not say that this constituted a "promise" to keep the plant open, the workers in Janesville might have reasonably understood it that way. The clear implication of Obama's words is that he would bring the government's resources to bear to retool plants like Janesville and that this would keep such plants - including this particular one - open.
Ryan's critics want to argue that the workers should have understand a jesuitical distinction. The President, they argue, only said that "if the government provided resources to the plant, then it would be open for a hundred years.'" He never said that he actually would do what he said he could do.
It was just a law professor's hypothetical, you see, an academic discussion with a group of people about to lost their jobs. Obama was saying that "we can help you" but bot that "you can expect that we will."
If that's what candidate Obama meant, then he is the one who misrepresented his intentions and mislead the Janesville workers. To suggest that Obama did not intend to imply anything about the Janesville plant beggars reality. That he has now been hoisted on his own petard is a product of his own doing.
But let's give him the benefit of what seems to be a rather infinitesimal doubt. Ryan did not say that Obama "promised" to keep the plant open, but only that he told voters that the resources of government could be used to keep plants like Janesville and keep them open. In Ryan's view (and he's got the numbers), that hasn't happened. The President has not brought those resources to bear or, if he has, it hasn't worked. The Janesville plant is closed as are many similarly situated plants across the country.
But what about the fact that this plant closure was announced before Obama took office? That is not relevant to Ryan's critique. Obama was arguing that government could retool plants and keep them operational. That didn't happen.
Beyond that, this criticism of Ryan's remarks is cynical and deceptive. Obama knew - everyone knew - the the Janesville plant was on the chopping block. That's why Obama made his remarks. If he thought it was too late to save this plant and keep it open for "a hundred years," why say anything at all?
The plant closed in April 2009. When that happened and for 18 months thereafter, the President of the United States, not only had strong majorities in the Congress. Not only that, the federal govenment run by the President, also soon came to own a controlling interest in GM. Couldn't the government have retooled the shuttered plant that it now owned as the candidate told the people of Janesville it could do?
Maybe not. Maybe it is unreasonable to think that the President should have worried about a GM plant in little Janesville, Wisconsin or recall the hope he tried to give its embattled workers. After all, someone who is causing the waters to recede and the sick to heal can't be bothered with the pedestrian problems of a small town in Wisconsin.
But even if you believe that, it doesn't undercut Ryan's argument. It was fair for him to use Janesville as a metaphor for a promise that unequivocally was made (the President did promise - many time and in many places - that he could use government resources to turn the economy around) and not kept.
Of course, you can argue that the President ought to be excused from the consequences of presiding over the weakest recovery in the post-WWII era. You can join him in what seems to be the theme of his campaign: It's not my fault, America. You can even believe that the only problem with the President's policies is that we haven't had enough of them.
But the fact that you disagree with the implications of Ryan's remarks - theat the President's policies have failed - doesn't make them false.
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.