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Roll Call

Obama Campaign Blasts Paul Ryan

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Updated: 1:04 p.m.

Rep. Paul Ryan's speech had Republicans on their feet Wednesday evening in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, but Democrats quickly countered, accusing the newly minted vice presidential nominee of repeatedly lying about President Barack Obama's record.

"He lied about Medicare. He lied about the Recovery Act. He lied about the deficit and debt," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a fundraising appeal. "He even dishonestly attacked Barack Obama for the closing of a GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin - a plant that closed in December 2008 under George W. Bush."

Indeed, the Wisconsin Republican's speech was peppered with rhetorical stretches that gave Democrats instant ammunition for a clean rebuttal.

The GM anecdote is perhaps the oddest.

The larger arc of the speech was an indictment of government interference in private industry, and yet Ryan's attack on Obama for not preventing the closure of the factory in his hometown suggests the president didn't bail out the company enough.

Fact-checkers had already ripped Ryan for using this attack line on the stump, given that the plant's closure was announced on Bush's watch, but he barreled ahead in the speech. Obama adviser David Axelrod on Twitter noted Ryan's remark came days after a Romney adviser told the press that they wouldn't let fact-checkers run their campaign.

But Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck strongly defended the veracity of Ryan's speech Thursday.

"It's President Obama who needs to explain his words. The facts are clear: when the GM plant went on standby the President told the people of Wisconsin he would 'lead an effort to retool' it and restart production. But when the bailout's winners and losers were decided, Janesville ended up losing. The people of Wisconsin, like so many Americans, are still waiting for the President's imaginary recovery."

It's true that Obama issued a press release in October 2008 talking about the Janesville plant.

"As president, I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and all across America," Obama said then. Earlier that year, he had talked about the plant being open for another 100 years, just as Ryan said in his speech.

The Obama campaign also attacked Ryan for repeatedly charging that Obama had done "nothing" to face the soaring national debt on his watch and of ignoring his own fiscal commission's plan. But he failed to note his own key role in sinking that commission deal. He served on the commission and, together with the other House Republicans on the panel, voted it down.

Buck noted that Ryan voted against the Simpson-Bowles plan because it didn't include the health care reforms he and former Bill Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin had worked together on. Ryan had said those changes would be needed to deal with the core driver of the nation's deficits.

Buck pointed out that Ryan followed up with his own budget blueprint and subsequently worked with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on a bipartisan health care plan.

"It's hard to criticize Paul Ryan for not addressing deficits," he said.

Ryan also failed to mention that House Republicans repeatedly walked away from debt talks with the president - not the other way around.

Obama and his administration engaged in months of talks with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) last year - and each time, the GOP walked away from the table, refusing to accept a tax increase on the wealthy alongside trims in entitlements and other spending.

Obama did, however, sign a $2.1 trillion deficit-cutting package last year in the end, with no tax hikes attached, and he proposed his own $4 trillion plan last September.

Ryan also repeatedly blasted Obama for cutting $716 billion from Medicare without noting that his own budgets, the ones that made his name as a bold budget-cutter, had even greater Medicare cuts before much steeper trims would take effect in 2022. Romney has rejected those cuts but embraced Ryan's larger remaking of the program for future retirees.

"Ryan, who wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program and tried to raid it to pay for tax cuts for wealthy, masquerades as its protector," Axelrod tweeted.

Buck said Ryan didn't cut Medicare to pay for a new entitlement program like Obama did, and he noted that Romney has vowed to reverse the cuts.

"Paul Ryan joined the Romney ticket, not the other way around, and Romney is going to restore those cuts," Buck said.

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