First, let me apologize for that terrible, terrible pun in the title. I am, of course, drawing attention to the ejection of two attendees from the Republican National Convention for throwing nuts at a black CNN camerawoman.
According to witnesses, the individuals told her “this is how we feed animals” as they threw the nuts. Needless to say this kind of disgraceful behavior was quickly condemned by the convention organizers and rightly so. After ejecting the pair, organizers said:
Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.
Former Bush White House press secretary and CNN commentator Ari Fleischer told the BBC: “If it’s what has been reported to have been their motive it’s reprehensible. They have no place being at this convention.”
Of course Republicans have been going nuts in a more traditional and less overtly racist way for the last few days, swooning over their would-be heroes down in Tampa. In many ways it has been Paul Ryan who has stolen the show, leaving poor old Mitt to stand in his increasingly large shadow. I do feel genuinely sorry for Mitt Romney; he is basically what the Republicans have ended up with despite their clamor for seemingly anybody else. Perry, Gingrich, Santorum… All have briefly shone brightly, only to fade away, leaving Romney to be crowned as knight in shining armor ready to do battle with the “evil socialist” currently occupying the White House. It speaks volumes that as soon as he announced Paul Ryan as his running mate, focus immediately shifted to Ryan. I will admit that parts of Ryan’s speech were expertly delivered, with some fantastic lines, my favorite being his evoking Obama as the figure head of a failed dream:
College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.
At least Ryan has ideas, ideas all his own (with a little help from Ayn Rand). If some of the other keynote speeches were anything to go by all they want to do is trash Obama. Devoid of anything to truly celebrate, some speakers launched into the convention equivalent of the glass-half-empty idiom: Let’s not offer anything constructive — just complain about stuff.
Not Ryan though, he was bold and visionary. He made several references to Obama, but at least he offered an alternative vision. Yes that vision is probably a road to ruin, but it is a vision. However, beneath the gloss and the image he presented to the world during his speech, there are a catalogue of half-truths, misrepresentations, and outright lies. And beneath those layers of deception lie ideas of great danger to 95% of the US population, especially the very poor and the middle classes.
Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare. Wrong. The amount is actually savings in Medicare reimbursement rates, savings rates Ryan himself supported in his budget plan.
Ryan attempted to pin the blame for Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the US credit rating from AAA to AA+ on Obama. Wrong. Standard & Poor explicitly stated that the games of political brinkmanship during efforts to raise the debt ceiling were behind its decision to adjust the rating. It was the Republicans who threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.
Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a General Motors plant in Wisconsin. Wrong. The plant was closed while George W. Bush was in office.
The plans Ryan has for the federal budget have been highlighted to make life even tougher for the lower and middle classes, allowing for sweeping tax cuts for multi-millionaires. Those plans have been criticized by the leaders of his own faith, Catholicism. Ryan has championed his faith, much to the delight of his captive Republican audience. Father Thomas J. Reese, a priest at Georgetown University has previously been critical of Ryan:
I am afraid that Chairman Ryan’s budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher Ayn Rand rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Survival of the fittest may be okay for Social Darwinists but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love.
Additionally, 90 faculty members at the university went on to accuse Ryan’s budget of violating Catholic social teaching.
To the extent that Catholicism informs Ryan in his day to day decisions, I don’t think there is much cause for alarm. Certainly not when set against the backdrop of Romney’s Mormonism. Like a great many Catholics, Ryan simply ignores the bits that don’t square with the rest of his philosophy. He may play to the crowd and tell them it is central to his philosophies and political actions, but his actions don’t bear that out. He still votes for things the Catholic hierarchy cares about; abortion, contraception — the list goes on, but I’m not sure how much of that voting pattern is down to his faith. I think its more a case of his being a conservative than him being a Catholic. He could just as easily be a Baptist, for example, and have a very similar voting record.
Ryan may be lumbered with vast numbers of gormless idiots in his party, but — make no mistake — he is a very bright and attentive politician. He represents Obama’s biggest threat in the lead up to November, far more so than even Romney himself. Defeating the likes of Palin, Bachmann, and Perry would have been easy, but now Obama has a real fight on his hands.