News From Terre Haute, Indiana


September 16, 2012

READERS’ FORUM: Sept. 16, 2012


Is Estrich lying or ignorant?

In the Sept. 3 Tribune-Star, Susan Estrich finds fault with Paul Ryan’s convention speech in which he 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.

“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.”

Estrich writes, “But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single meaningful (and truthful) thing Paul Ryan said … Obama never made that promise. The plant closed in December 2008. George W. Bush was president then.”

Poor Susie, is she lying or merely ignorant? Either way, it’s unbecoming of a syndicated columnist to make such an egregious mistake. The Janesville auto plant continued producing vehicles through April 2009, as a contemporaneous article from the Janesville Gazette confirms: “General Motors will end medium-duty truck production in Janesville on April 23, four months to the day after the plant stopped building full-size sport utility vehicles.”

Perhaps Susie’s mistake was the result of her consulting one of the mainstream media’s ubiquitous “fact checkers.” You know how it works. One obscure and heavily biased blogger announces that “Ryan got it wrong!” and the rest of the herd quote him, without anyone bothering to confirm the date of the plant’s closing. One can overlook the myriad inaccuracies parroted by the various kooks and cranks who frequent this page, but one expects better from professional journalists.

Obama did promise the plant would not close down if he were elected. Here’s the pertinent portion of the transcript from Obama’s speech at the plant in Janesville on Feb. 13, 2008, in which Obama says precisely what Ryan quoted him as saying:

“I know that General Motors received some bad news yesterday, and I know how hard your Governor has fought to keep jobs in this plant. But I also know how much progress you’ve made — how many hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles you’re churning out. 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. 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.”

I should think it obvious to all but the most obtuse among us that Ryan’s passage is factually accurate (save for one minor detail, which I will address below). Admittedly, the Janesville plant was experiencing severe problems when Obama spoke there.

But he knew that, and explicitly promised to keep it open anyway, just as Ryan said.  

Ryan’s chief criticism of Obama in this matter isn’t that he failed to keep the plant open, but that he “promised” to keep it open. Obama made what he knew was an unrealistic promise to people who were desperate and hurting. That’s more than mere pandering — it’s cruel.

Ryan’s two salient points are indisputable: Obama promised the plant would remain open if he were placed in charge of the government, but it didn’t last a year beyond the beginning of his Administration.

For those parsing prostitutes on the Left who are reading this, a rigid analysis of Ryan’s remarks reveals that he was slightly off regarding the elapsed time between Obama “making” the promise to keep the Janesville plant open, and the precise day upon which it closed. Ryan said it “didn’t last another year.” Actually, it lasted 14 months and 10 days.  But if you annoy others by citing this as an example of Paul Ryan “lying,” normal people will correctly conclude that you are crazy.

Others on the left have attempted to frame Ryan’s remarks as “false” by noting that Obama said he only “believed” the plant could be kept open by a government run under his direction, so it really wasn’t a promise. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

However, Obama said this in June, 2008, after the notice went out that the plant would shut down over the next several months: “As president, I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and all across America.”

That reads like a promise to me.

— Reggie McConnell

Terre Haute

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    March 12, 2010