August 30th, 2012
10:57 AM ET
2 years ago

Romney campaign defends Ryan's speech

(CNN) – Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser for Mitt Romney's campaign, defended Paul Ryan against criticism of his speech, saying the vice presidential hopeful was not inaccurate when he blamed President Barack Obama for the failure of a General Motors plant in Wisconsin.

"He didn't talk about Obama closing the plant. He said that candidate Obama went there in 2008, and what he said was 'With government assistance, we can keep this plant open for another 100 years.' Here we are four years into his administration. That plant is still closed," Fehrnstrom said Thursday on CNN's "Starting Point."

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During his speech Wednesday night, Ryan told a story about then-presidential candidate Obama sharing with auto workers his hope that government could help keep their plant open. In his speech, Ryan quoted Obama as saying "if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years."

The plant, however, was shut down within a year–a decision made in June 2008, prior to Obama winning election to the White House.

"That plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day," Ryan said at the convention.

According to a CNN Fact Check, Ryan may have been misleading on the facts, as there is little evidence suggesting Obama actually promised workers the plant would remain open.

"I know how hard your governor has fought to keep jobs in this plant," he said according to an account kept by the Council on Foreign Relations. "But I also know how much progress you've made - how many hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles you're churning out. And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years."

While most of the plant's work had come to an end by December 2008, the Detroit News Gazette reported the plant didn't fully close until April 2009. CNN concluded in its research that while Ryan's statement was true-in the sense that the factory closed down while Obama was president-his speech was incomplete.

"To fairly evaluate Obama's statement, at least two pieces of context - missing from Ryan's account - would be useful: First, that Obama wasn't telling this plant that he'd save it from a pending closure. He wasn't addressing a plant that he knew to be closing, because the closure announcement didn't come until four months after his speech. Second, although the plant's last bit of production stopped early in Obama's presidency and the plant remains closed, the closure was planned before Obama became president."

Fehrnstrom also said Ryan wasn't arguing that Obama had closed the plant.

"What (Obama) said was with his recovery program, with government assistance, we can keep that plant open for 100 years. Four years later, it's still shuttered. I think it's a symbol of a broken economy under this president," Fehrnstrom said on CNN's "Starting Point."

The Romney campaign also stood by Ryan on claims that the congressman was misleading on his jab against the president over the so-called Simpson-Bowles plan.

"He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing," Ryan, who served on that panel, told the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.

Ryan, however, left out that he helped kill the proposed report that the commission produced nearly two years ago.

Ryan was one of eight Republicans on the 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which Obama established in 2010. The commission was led by Erskine Bowles, who served as White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration, and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson.

Bowles and Simpson proposed a sweeping program of spending cuts and a radical overhaul of the U.S. tax code, aimed at cutting projected budget deficits by a total of $4 trillion by 2020. The plan included changes to Social Security and substantial cuts in defense and discretionary spending.

But for their proposal to be adopted as official recommendations to Congress, the Bowles-Simpson commission needed 14 of the 18 votes. It failed on an 11-7 vote, with four Democrats and three Republicans, including Ryan, voting no.

Ryan was then the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, soon to be its chairman. He called the plan "serious and credible" - but said it relied too heavily on tax increases and failed to restructure federal health care programs like Medicare.

Obama never fully embraced the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. But he incorporated some of the recommendations the co-chairs made in a plan he sent to Congress the following April, one that called for a mix of spending reductions and tax hikes. And in August 2011, after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives balked at raising the federal debt ceiling, he signed a deficit-reduction plan that sets in motion $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts over the next decade. A congressional "supercommittee" that was supposed to find an alternative to those cuts failed to reach agreement in November.

The verdict:

Misleading. Obama didn't sign onto the Bowles-Simpson recommendations wholeheartedly, but he did take some of their suggestions to Congress in 2011. And Ryan ignores his own role in the failure of the Bowles-Simpson panel.

Defending Ryan, Fehrnstrom said the House Budget chairman "brought forth his own deficit reduction plan."

"That's not something this president did," he said. "Instead, he kicked the can down the road. This is why so many people have lost faith in this president."

Pressed further, Fehrnstrom added: "There's an obligation on the part of people in Congress if they reject Simpson-Bowles to talk about what they will put in its place. Paul Ryan did that. What this president did was what so many people before him have done, which is to form a commission."

– CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Paul Ryan
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. cali girl

    Seems interesting that all the posters here claiming President Obama went back on his word for the GM plants being saved. Got a news tip here: read the article, or go research the fact checkers and turn off your tv from the pundits yakking on Fox.
    The GM plant in Wisconsin was closed during the Dubya administration. Obama helped GM when he took the Presidency, some months after the plant closing.

    August 30, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Timmeh

    Ryan's speech was right on target. It shows the lofty rhetoric of Obama and how he was going save the world from itself and the reality that fluffy speeches don't fix much. Ryan was right that after Obama gave the speech I 2008, of keeping that plant open for 100 years, that it fully closed in 2009.
    ---------------
    Then Sen. Obama said "IF" the government helps, the plant would stay open. Guess what? GWB didn't help.

    August 30, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Mikey

    @Aiden – "GM Plant. Just another Obama broken promise. The plant closed – nothing to dispute."
    **************************************************************************
    It's negative about Obama, so you don't care if it's accurate or not. You're just going to run with it. This stuff really works with the bats-hit crazy base. The problem is that the mountain of lies is going to turn the rest of America off to Romney. So please, keep the lies coming.

    August 30, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. PJ

    If they can't tell the truth in a campaign, they won't tell the truth if they are in office. Ryan proved that last night.

    August 30, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Republican who supports President Obama

    The so-called speech was a fabrication and blurs facts with their fiction. The truth is our President has made some huge accomplishments for the people of this country but could have done more if there was not for the the hyperpartisanship and obstructionism.

    August 30, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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