Paul Ryan didn’t used to scare me.
When Mitt Romney first announced his running mate choice, my initial reaction was “who?” followed by “oh yeah, the guy with the road map”. There followed the usual reactionary blather from both left, right, and right pretending to be middle about how scary Ryan was for the Obama campaign. All of the things that made him so supposedly dangerous for the democrats in 2012 were part of a song and dance we had heard before: he’s good looking, in touch with the common people, etc, etc. It all seemed part of the usual Republican playbook.
It wasn’t long before the blogosphere had started digging up dirt on Ryan, or at lest spreading around the dirt that was already in full view: his views on gay marriage and women’s health (read: abortion and birth control) were correctly identified as liabilities in a political climate that, despite the economic situation in the U.S., is quickly becoming a culture war.
But today, something happened that chilled me to the bone, and made me think, for the first time, that maybe the Ryan-bandwaggoners are onto something. It started, like most horrible things, when I was looking through my facebook news feed, a tried and true method of antagonizing your intellect by bombarding it with poorly researched hyperbole. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless posted a link to a HuffingtonPost (go figure) story that quoted Ryan as referring to rape as a “method of conception”. The woman in question was of course dutifully horrified, as were several other commenters.
I was not. Mainly because nothing anybody on the right side of the aisle said would faze me at this point, but more to the point: Ryan didn’t actually say this. This quote, taken from an interview, began circulating in its appropriate context a few days ago. In the full video of the interview–which dishearteningly enough, HuffPo embedded with the commentary (a move that directly contradicted the site’s own commentary)–a journalist asks Ryan about Todd Akin and his now infamous blather concerning women’s bodies being able to shut down pregnancy resulting from rape.
Ryan reiterates that he and several other party members encouraged Akin to resign, as the comments were so damaging that he felt Akin’s running would do a disservice to the GOP (or something to that effect). The journalist then asks Ryan if he is pro-life, to which Ryan gives an enthusiastically affirmative response. The journalist then asks Ryan how he feels about abortion in instances of pregnancy resulting from rape. Here’s an unedited quote from Ryan’s response:
“I’ve always adopted the idea–the position–that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life. But let’s remember, I’m joining the Romney/Ryan ticket, and the President makes policy. And the President, in this case, the future President, Mitt Romney, has exceptions for rape and exceptions for the life of the mother, which is a vast improvement over where we are now.”
So, clearly, what Ryan is saying is that he is pro-life, meaning he believes that life begins at conception, and therefore, in his eyes, a life that begins at conception, regardless of the method of that conception, consensual or forced, is still a life that society has an obligation to protect. Within the framework of the pro-life view, this is a logical stance. Ryan then goes on to emphasize that he is not running for President, and the policy of the Romney White House would be to make exceptions and allow abortions in instances of rape and in order to save the life of the mother.
To clarify: I do NOT agree with Ryan or Romney on this issue, and I am decidedly pro-choice. However, the spin this clip of video has received from the hard-left blogosphere is mind-boggling, with commentators saying Ryan considers rape “just another form of conception” and alleging that the VP nominee makes no distinction between forced and consensual sex.
This is A)terrible journalism B)intellectually dishonest C)ethically reprehensible and, most importanlty, D)counterproductive to the cause of Dems and progressives everywhere.
If you’re going to attack Ryan, and lord knows, the man needs some attacking, on so many issues, attack the viewpoint he actually holds, which is that we can’t let women have control over their own bodies because the Bible says so. Don’t move the goalposts and pretend that he said or implied something that he clearly did not using a view out-of-context quotations.
This kind of move only adds ammunition for the Republican talking point that the mainstream media in this country can’t be trusted on ANYTHING related to radical-right insanity because they will constantly spin the hell out of anything a Republican says. The consequence of ACTUALLY spinning the hell out of something a Republican says is that they get a free pass on that particular quote, and in many ways, that particular issue.
One of the commentators on said facebook post actually said they were unnerved by the “casualness” with which Ryan responded to the question. It has to be said: I’m a registered Democrat, I voted for Kerry in 2004, Obama in 2008, and will vote for Obama again in 2012. However, if the left is going to start trying to play the neo-con-patented, spin-the-news card in order to keep an incumbent in office, they will fail, and miserably. This move never works out for Democrats, mainly because when they do they not only piss off undecided voters and Republicans, they piss off intelligent members of their base who don’t appreciate having bullshit shoved down their throats. Ryan, for all his flaws, has thus far impressed me with his poise and his remarkably articulate responses in interviews. His answer to the question about rape, pregnancy, and abortion was honest, clear, and completely lacking in any fire-and-brimstone rhetoric. I don’t agree with the guts of his argument, but his method of communication is sound.
If the Dems are already running scared and trying to make Ryan into the bogeyman, then we’re clearly in trouble. As far as veeps go, Joe Biden isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, and he’s not too great on the mic either. I still think this race belongs to Obama, and as it comes down to the wire, social issues that used to be radioactive are going to be the final shove over the hill (I’m predicting Obama making a big push on gay rights, women’s rights, and gun control). But please, the-rest-of-the-left: as one of your own, I’m begging you, stop this foolish chicanery and nonsense. Stop stooping to the level of a party that is so bereft of good people they have to ask THEIR OWN SENATORS TO SUSPEND CAMPAIGNS OUT OF EMBARRASSMENT. Facts are important, and becoming even more important in an age where talk is as cheap as it is in the age of non-vetted “news”.