If asked, how might you describe Paul Ryan's role and level of involvement within the national conversation about Washington's budget process and the looming debt crisis? If you were the Washington Post, you'd attempt to capture it with this surreal headline:
"Amid Debt Crisis, Paul Ryan Sat on Sidelines"
Welcome to Bizarro World. Of all the potential attacks on Paul Ryan "journalist" Lori Montgomery had at her disposal, she decided to run with the preposterous-on-its-face "he just sits in the corner and does nothing" angle. Where to begin? Keith Hennessey has an outstanding and comprehensive piece deconstructing Montgomery's, ahem, "reportage" over at Real Clear Politics. He begins by listing the article's core assertions (that Ryan's a disengaged, take-no-action, hardcore partisan) and taking note of some strangely absent facts:
[Montgomery] writes that Mr. Ryan “did draft a blueprint for wiping out deficits by 2040,” but she fails to mention that he passed that plan through the House. She does not report that Mr. Ryan’s staff were providing behind-the-scenes technical assistance to Speaker Boehner during the Grand Bargain negotiation. She doesn’t report that Mr. Ryan loaned his budget committee staff director to Mr. Hensarling on the super committee. She doesn’t mention that Mr. Ryan’s prediction that the super committee would fail came true, or that the Obama White House was AWOL during the super committee negotiations. She doesn’t mention that he voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011, for the tax rate extensions at the end of 2010, and for the FY 2012 Omnibus Appropriations Act, three major bipartisan fiscal laws that deeply split House Republicans.
Next, Hennessey reviews actual recent history, which flies in the face of Montgomery's version of events. He demonstrates that she is engaged in what can only be described as fantasy journalism. "Tendentious" doesn't even come close to doing it justice:
Did Chairman Ryan sit on the sidelines over the past two years? On April 15, 2011, the House passed the FY 2012 budget resolution. On March 29, 2012, the House passed the FY 2013 budget resolution. Both were written by Mr. Ryan, passed by him out of his Budget Committee, and he managed the floor debate for each. It is true that Mr. Ryan never reached a bipartisan conference agreement on either of his two budget resolutions, but that’s because the Senate never did its work. Mr. Ryan’s Senate counterpart, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D), did not pass a Senate budget resolution for any of the last three years. It is unfair to criticize Mr. Ryan for failing to reach a bipartisan compromise when his Democratic counterpart didn’t even show up or do his job. More importantly, Mr. Ryan acted. His job as Budget Committee Chairman is to pass a budget resolution, and he did his job both years. Ms. Montgomery criticizes Mr. Ryan for failing to cut bipartisan deals in ad hoc negotiating forums. Yet he was not a member of two of the three, and she fails to give him credit for doing his job by passing legislation. As Budget Committee Chairman Mr. Ryan produced more concrete legislative progress than the Bowles-Simpson Commission and the super committee combined.
This is wild. The Washington Post has decided to criticize a politician for inaction on the budget, and it's not any of the Senate Democrats, who haven't voted in favor of a single budget -- not the president's, not Paul Ryan's, and not their non-existent own version -- for more than three years running. No, sir. The Post's going guns-blazing after the guy who's done his job, written and passed two budgets (after doing the hard work of educating his own caucus on the particulars), and held numerous hearings on the debt crisis. Incredible. Hennessey moves on to addressing the charge that Ryan is hyper-partisan, unwilling to flinch or adjust to make his plans for palatable to Democrats:
Ms. Montgomery fails to mention Mr. Ryan’s two bipartisan Medicare plans. He developed the first with former Clinton Budget Director Alice Rivlin during the Bowles-Simpson Commission and negotiated the second with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. Rivlin-Ryan (which can point to the bipartisan Breaux-Frist-Thomas as its intellectual forefather) and Ryan-Wyden are major bipartisan structural Medicare reforms. Ryan-Wyden is the Medicare policy assumed in the budget resolution passed by the House this year, even though it moved a big step left from the all-Republican plan assumed last year. Medicare is one of the biggest fiscal challenges America faces. Mr. Ryan is the only one who has made concrete legislative progress on a bipartisan Medicare plan since 2003. It is easy to write that someone is not bipartisan when you ignore his bipartisan work. In this case the premise is incorrect and Ms. Montgomery knows it’s incorrect.
As evidence to back up that last claim, Hennessey links to an article about Paul Ryan's bipartisan Medicare solution written by -- ta-da! --Lori Montgomery. In case you're keeping score, Ryan's FY 2012 budget contained a Medicare plan that was a flashpoint for controversy. In order to help form a consensus, Ryan partnered with a liberal Democratic Senator to craft a new proposal on that front for FY 2013. This reporter wrote about it. Democrats rejected it out of hand. None of this is mentioned in the very same reporter's screed against Ryan's unbending partisanship. Finally, in my favorite bit of exposure, Hennessey highlights Montgomery's praise of Joe Biden as the genuine leader and consensus-loving man of action in all of this:
Ms. Montgomery contrasts Mr. Ryan with VP Biden: "Democrats say he would make a very different sort of vice president than Joseph Biden, a natural glad-hander who has taken the lead for Obama in negotiations with Republicans over taxes and deficit reduction." We don’t know who are the Democrats who make this comparison, but we do know that VP Biden’s Communications Director, Shailagh Murray, co-authored at least six stories with Ms. Montgomery when she worked at the Post.
Surprise! Montgomery jumps into Biden boosterism without disclosing that Biden's current Communications Director is a former Washington Post reporter, with whom she worked closely. The MSM-Democrat revolving door spins and spins and spins. Read Hennessey's full piece. It's packed with evidence and important observations that I haven't included here, for purposes of brevity. Be sure to read the bit about Montgomery's Obama-friendly rendition of the events leading up to the infamous GWU budget speech and how it contradicts Bob Woodward's thorough inside account. Liberal activist Lori Montgomery's story is one of the worst pieces of journalism I have ever encountered. Its premise is laughable, its evidence is shoddy and woefully incomplete, and its purpose is transparent: Damage the Republican ticket. An oft-heard political axiom calls for seizing on one's opponent's greatest strength and trying to turn it into a liability. That is precisely what the Washington Post has attempted here -- except Republicans aren't officially their "opponents." Meanwhile, I've been told Ms. Montgomery may have some additional investigative pieces in the works:
Inside Mitt Romney's Failed 2002 Olympics
Mitt Romney: Failed Businessman, Stingy on Charity
Paul Ryan's Sedintary Lifestyle, Obesity Send Dangerous Message to America's Youth
Why Ann Romney Actually Supports Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis
I'll leave you with this headline from Washington Post-owned "news" site The Root: "Will Romney Reach Out to Racists In Debate?" Make no mistake: Republicans are running against both Democrats and most of the media -- explicit and insidious partisans, respectively.