That Soup Kitchen Photo Op

October 16, 2012

I know it pulled at my heart strings when vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan stopped off at a Youngstown soup kitchen last week after appearing at a local university. The widely reprinted picture of the Wisconsin congressman in shirtsleeves standing over a stainless steel counter apparently serving hot food to the needy was meant as a rebuke to liberals who consider the Republican ticket a threat to the nation’s safety net. They don’t need your stinkin’ food stamps. There’s always charity.

It turns out that no one was eating when Ryan showed up. In fact, he didn’t even have permission to be there. According to this morning’s Washington Post, the head of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society said no one from the Romney or Ryan campaigns contacted the charity before they stopped by. After a local volunteer let them in — long after the day’s meal had been served and the premises cleaned — Ryan stayed 15 minutes to have his picture taken and then moved on. “He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”

The word “lie” has become verboten in politics and in commentary. Yet the level of mendacity reached in this year’s campaign is in many ways unprecedented. Certainly not since Richard Nixon promised “a secret plan” to achieve “peace with honor” has deliberate public mendacity and obfuscation been this successful. Another example: Today’s Wall Street Journal, which can be trusted to act as a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, has an op-ed assuring the “wavering” public that Romney has no intention of allowing states to end abortion, going to war in Iran (he’d just bomb them) or cutting taxes by 20 percent. Pay no attention to what the candidate has been saying on the stump for the last 18 months. For the low-information voter, the Romney campaign has become reincarnated as Gilda Radner’s Emily Latellah . . . “never mind.”

Will the American people buy this? Sadly, President Obama is just one more bad debate performance away from delivering a crushing defeat for everyone who believes our public life and discourse should be based on reality and truth.

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