The Hagiography of Paul Ryan

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Matt Miller has gotten a lot of kudos this morning for his column pointing out that “The House Republican budget adds $6 trillion to the debt in the next decade yet the GOP is balking at raising the debt limit.” I don’t really read Miller much or know anything about him, but I gather that the reason he’s getting a lot of attention for this unremarkable observation is that (a) he’s normally a “a mellow, straight-laced guy,” but (b) today’s column is evidence that “the budget debate has driven him stark, raving mad.” (That’s Jon Cohn’s take.)

Bob Somerby likes the column, but he’s annoyed that Miller says he doesn’t understand why the rest of the press corps keeps giving Paul Ryan and his congressional colleagues a pass on this. The problem, Somerby says, is that “it’s fairly clear that he does understand”:

Early in his column, Miller says he doesn’t understand why the press corps won’t criticize Republicans on this point. He doesn’t understand why they present Ryan as “courageous,” as “visionary.” And then, a mere six paragraphs later, Miller shows that he does understand! He says there’s a “meme,” a hunk of “conventional wisdom,” driving the press corps’ conduct. Miller doesn’t explain just what this “meme” is, nor does he explain how it got “established” as conventional wisdom. But presumably, he is referring to the Standard Press Novel in which Republican budget cutters like Ryan are inevitably said to be “courageous,” “bold” and “honest”—in which their contradictions and errors, no matter how severe, end up on the cutting-room floor.

These “memes” have been ruling much of our “journalism” for a good many years. To see this Standard Press Novel at work, just read through Jeff Zeleny’s “Political Memo” in today’s New York Times.

Hmmm. Yes. The Zeleny hagiography is worth reading. If you don’t feel like instantly canonizing Ryan after you’re done, you just haven’t read it closely enough. You’d barely know the guy is even a politician, let alone a standard issue conservative ideologue pandering to his base at every opportunity and waving around all the usual bogus Heritage Foundation crap that all the rest of them do. That piece of the Paul Ryan Story just isn’t part of the narrative.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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