Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How Fast Can Paul Ryan Run a Marathon – Not As Fast As He Can Run Away From the Truth and the Facts

As Republicans Used to Say – Character Matters – But Apparently Not Anymore

In one of the minor sideshows of the campaign Paul Ryan has bragged that he ran an under 3 hour marathon,

Last week, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, Paul Ryan said that he had run a marathon in under three hours, or, more precisely, “I had a two hour and fifty-something.”

Now exactly why he said it, or why it is even an issue in the Presidential race is unclear.  What is clear is that it takes superb athletic conditioning to do such a thing, and as it turned out no one could find the record of Mr. Ryan doing such a thing.

The Internet bears no trace of the run, and Ryan doesn’t have the extremely lean frame of your typical fast marathoner. Also, people who run that quickly are generally neurotic about their times. Shouldn’t Ryan remember his exactly? “He is too intense and driven to just forget something like that,” one commentator wrote

But it turns out Mr. Ryan has run a marathon, just not an under three hour one.  And not recently.

This evening, the terrific running journalist Scott Douglas figured out that Ryan had actually run a 4:01 in the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1990, when he was a college student. This is not quite so fast. A 2:55 would have put Ryan in a hundred and thirtieth place, out of the thirty-two hundred and seventy-seven men in that race. A 4:01 put him in nineteen hundred and ninetieth place. It’s the difference between racing and running.

And the explanation of the campaign for the discrepancy between fact and statement.

Ryan, through a spokesman, responded that he’d just mixed things up: “The race was more than 20 years ago, but my brother Tobin—who ran Boston last year—reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight.”

Now none of this would be even a tiny bit of interest in the campaign, except that Mr. Ryan’s statements on real policy issues are challenged as factually inaccurate, like his blaming of President Obama for a closed auto plant that actually closed under President Bush, or his condemnation of Mr. Obama for not supporting Simpson Bowles when Mr. Ryan himself, a member of the commission voted against it.

As Paul Krugman points out, character matters when it comes to policy prescriptions, but more importantly the media needs to understand the character of Mr. Ryan whom the media has anointed as a sincere and serious person.

If you go back to my original piece, more than two years ago, I was already pointing out that his alleged deficit reduction came from unspecified offsets to his tax cuts and huge but unspecified cuts in discretionary spending, that the actual described policies would increase the budget gap. But the response from the Beltway was that it can’t be true, because he comes across as such an honest, sincere fellow. So little things indicating that this character judgment was all wrong do matter.

I don’t know why the usual suspects continue to have such faith in their ability to sense character, although I can guess: it privileges those who can actually have one-on-one conversations over those who just, um, actually analyze policy proposals. I mean, any old blogger can analyze policy.

But the reality is that insiders are just terrible at judging character. I don’t claim to be any better; but then, I do look at those policy things …

So if Mr. Ryan is not telling the truth about something like running a marathon, what else does he embellish?  Oh, we don't know, maybe things like his policies.

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