The Meaning (or Not) of Ryan's Marathon Mistake

Attention Los Angeles Times political reporters, New York Times columnists, MSNBC hosts and Democrat super PACs: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), running mate to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and chair of the House budget committee, told a radio host that he had run “marathons” in less than three hours, when in fact he has only run one, in just over four hours. Therefore he is a liar, and ineligible for the office of Vice President.

The mainstream media have been so eager to turn this little pebble of a news story into confirmation of their wishful-thinking “liar” meme that they are even trawling the anonymous trolls on message boards for proof: 

Runners commenting on the Runner’s World online bulletin board gave a mixed verdict: 

“The Romney campaign has already stated  ‘We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,’” said one. “Anyone who believes Ryan without documented proof should have their voting privileges revoked.”

Ryan quickly admitted his error, but it is being treated more seriously than President Barack Obama’s extensive lies about himself and his families in his memoir, Dreams from My Father --including a lie about his sporting prowess. Barry Obama, biographer David Maraniss informs us, was simply not a very good player, and could not dunk. Yet Obama claimed in his memoir that he was made to ride the bench because of his race.

And Vice President Joe Biden--Ryan’s opposing number--is a virtual fibbing machine, and always has been, faking his way through law school and the Senate, and telling tall tales on the campaign trail. Biden lied in his biography, Promises to Keep, about talking tough with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic; in 2008, he lied about being “shot down” in a helicopter over Afghanistan--a lie that attracted far less media attention than Hillary Clinton’s famous “Tuzla Dash,” which helped Obama seal his primary victory.

The failing meme that Ryan is dishonest is important to the Obama campaign and its media allies precisely because Ryan’s great strength is his honesty--specifically, his unique courage in telling voters the truth about the country’s dire financial straits and what we can do about them. That honesty carries over into his political persona, which is sincere and straightforward--and successful, judging by his positive poll numbers.

The mainstream media’s comical rush to “fact-check” assertions in Ryan’s speech to the Republican National Convention that were entirely true failed to dent Ryan’s appeal but succeeded in exposing the left-wing bias of these self-appointed referees. That is why Obama’s fans are over-compensating, treating Ryan’s marathon flub as big news.

If there is a weakness that the marathon error reveals, it is not about Ryan’s honesty but about his confidence in himself. Ryan said he had run a fast marathon because he likely believed it to be true. He made a similar mistake when he claimed he had not written to request stimulus funds for his congressional district, only to be confronted later with the evidence that he had done so. A wiser response to the question would have been to say that he simply did not know, and would check. But he thought he knew--and was wrong.

These are the mistakes of a politician with a justifiably high estimation of his abilities--a self-belief that is necessary for the job, but which can be an obstacle. The lesson, for Ryan, is that he should be less eager to impress and more eager to relate. The lesson for the rest of us is that the carping mainstream media should continue to be ignored.


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