Paul Ryan has been the darling of the Beltway pundits for years now. Dazzled by his flashing blue eyes and chiseled physique, they simply melt into little puddles when he looks their way and they never bother to vet what he's saying to see whether it is actually true. To them, he is a Very Serious Person, an honest fella who is just trying to find long-term solutions to financial problems which he and his party say are about to swamp the country. Nobody ever checks to see whether his numbers actually add up, and nobody bothers to ask why, if he's so concerned about the deficit, so many of his votes in Congress over the years, particularly during the Bush years, have been votes for programs that added to the nation's deficit; e.g., two "unfunded" wars that were kept "off the books," a drug program for Medicare recipients that mainly benefited the drug companies and also was not paid for, disastrous tax cuts that provided the most benefits to the wealthiest among us and reduced the nation's revenue.
Not everyone was fooled. Some economists outside the Beltway saw Ryan for the flim-flam man that he was and called him out on it and often were excoriated for their efforts at telling the truth. But around Washington, the Ryan Cult grew. Until last week.
It seems that in his speech last week, which was essentially one lie after another from beginning to end, Ryan finally crossed some line that even his posse in the press corps wasn't willing to ignore. All of a sudden, the fact checkers got busy and started pointing out his lies and now, a few days later, he seems less of a sacred icon and more of a late-night comedian's punchline.
But what really happened? Ryan has been a liar all along. He didn't just start last week. And those reporters have been willing to suspend their disbelief up until now. I think what really did him in was when he lied about his athletic prowess.
In an interview last week, Ryan told a typically fawning conservative radio personality named Hugh Hewitt that he had run a marathon in less than three hours! He claimed a "two hour and fifty-something" time. That's very fast and real marathon runners were on the case as soon as the words were out of his mouth, checking to see what his actual time was, because these records are apparently kept as meticulously as those in baseball, where you can literally "look it up" no matter what "it" is! Well, it didn't take long to find out that Ryan had not run a sub-three-hour marathon. In fact, he hadn't run a sub-four-hour marathon. He had run one marathon in just over four hours! That's a heckuva long way from two hours and fifty minutes, just as giving elderly people vouchers to help pay for private insurance is a heckuva long way from "saving Medicare."
So, Runner's World broke the news that Ryan had lied about his marathon time and political fact checkers and Beltway reporters, who had already begun to be disenchanted with those blue eyes, piled on. Poor Paul! He must wonder where all his magic has gone. He just shouldn't have messed with those marathon runners. Those folks are serious about the truth.