JANESVILLE PLANT
The General Motors assembly plant in Janesville closed in late 2008, part of an exodus of auto-related jobs from the area. RICK WOOD – AP archives

Paul Ryan began the most anticipated address of the Republican National Convention with a biographical soliloquy that referenced his factory-town roots in Janesville.

“President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two. Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account. 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,” Ryan told the convention.

“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,” continued Ryan. “Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.”

True. Obama spoke the words that Ryan quoted. But Ryan’s clear suggestion that Obama — or his policies — had something to do with the plant closure was a lie.

The government that was not there to support the Janesville workers was the administration of George W. Bush. GM announced and implemented the closure of the plant during Bush’s presidency.

When a newly elected President Obama rushed to save the domestic auto industry, and perhaps to renew the prospects of shuttered plants like the one in Janesville, the man whose campaign Ryan is now propping up wrote an op-ed titled: “Let Detroit (and, presumably Janesville) Go Bankrupt.”

And since we’re on the subject of government failing the workers in Paul Ryan’s hometown, surely it is relevant to bring up the congressman’s repeated votes for free-trade agreements that members of Janesville’s United Auto Workers Local 95 warned would undermine and ultimately shutter their workplace.

A man who would use his hometown as a prop and then try to deceive the country about the causes of its circumstance has a certain appeal to Republican delegates who cut their political teeth making the case for trickle-down economics and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But Wisconsinites, at least those who can remember 2008, will not believe him.

Nor should discerning voters in the rest of the republic.

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