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."

Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker, catch the latest updates from the GOP convention on CNN's 2012 Conventions Live Blog, and check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator to game out your own strategy for November.

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. rs

    Reality gentlemen, let's stick to reality.

    August 30, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. Shawn Mayer

    This is nit-picking at its finest. I haven't heard a political speech ever in which parts could not be read as misleading. Our President is the best at it. Unfortunately, the press always leans the other way when it is Obama or Biden. Let's see if CNN is as critical of Biden and Obama next week.

    August 30, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  3. maf

    I don't care how fiscally responsible you are . . . if your whole plan is to cut spending and programs, the situation simply gets worse! More people unemployed, less discretionary income to be used by consumers, less trade on the street. The Republicans have started something that will have no end no matter which party is in the White House. There will be no quarter given by the Democrats should Romney win in November. Nothing has been accomplished by the three branches of government in the past almost 3 years. It will not get any better regardless of the election results as both parties will dig in their heels and claim it is the other's fault. What happens when the US dollar isn't worth the paper it is printed on?
    Civil war and anarchy! Those with will have to protect themselves from those without . . .

    August 30, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. Debbie

    So in other words Romney and Ryan who claim to be Christians are fact checked by several groups and proven to be lies and they defend the lie. That's following the Deceiver. That's the leadership Romney is offering. Lies from day one and then defends the lies.

    August 30, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. Wake up People!

    Of course they stick by the story, that's their M.O. Double down on lies and continue feeding red meat to their illiterate followers. Look how they are sticking to the welfare lie. It would be nice to see MSM call them out each and every time.

    OBAMA 2012!

    August 30, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. DCEngineer

    When an entire campaign is built on "trust us we will make things better" there is a reasonable expectation that the candidates will be truthful and actually say how they are going to make things better. Instead of blaming the press why not do your own fact check? Don't you want the whole truth?

    August 30, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  7. California Gary

    I frankly don't know how Ryan could say some of those things with a straight face. He lied on several points........but my favorite part was when he blamed Obama for our credit rating drop. The credit rating was lowered specifically due to the GOP holding the raising of the debt ceiling hostage and the uncertainty that came as a result of their political ploy......and I believe Ryan was right in the middle of it. Hypocracy? Not much..........!

    August 30, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. carlos

    CONS and REPUGS are suffering from a worst case of QUERULOUS PARANOIA.....exagerating to the highest point of PREVARICATION and FALSEHOODS, well, we know they are HOODS both the willard and ryand, and the imbeciles in the Forum, completely clueless. go figure, UGH, ICK and PHEW

    August 30, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. getaclue

    So, Obama is credited for saving GM in Detroit, BUT had no part in the failure of this plant even though he said the government would help. With a Democratic house and a Democratic Senate, it was more important to get gays in the military then to save workers in Wisconsin. Great job Obama, America deserves a better president.

    August 30, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  10. The Other Dale

    Romney's campaign has been set Day One with advisors having to come out the next day to explain the INTENT of a speech instead of what was actually said. Why should the American People give the power of government and especially the button to someone who has to have one of his peons the next day say, "What he MEANT to say was ...."

    Terrible. Simply terrible.

    August 30, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  11. rs

    The party that claims to have what it takes to undo what they did to America under Bush can't even go 24 hours without having to fix their messaging. These guys are pathetic. Say it if you mean it and then live with the results!

    August 30, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  12. NameBill

    Eric Ferhstrom is the master off deception and lies. (see. KrazyKhazei )

    August 30, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  13. frespech

    My Presidential Platform-If elected I will cut education funding and let the States fund it. I will reduce capital gains,and do away with inheritance taxes as well as reducing tax rates for the rich to 20%.I will undo the healthcare that was passed for 30 million more Americans and give everything back to the fairminded Insurance companies.I will then increase military spending by 600 billion dollars which will be necessary once I get us involved with a war in Syria or Iran as my good friend John McCain is proposing. With respect to full disclosure I lied, this isn;t my platform it is Romneys platform. So make your choice.

    August 30, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  14. Woman In California

    They can defend Ryan all they want but those of us with brains know his speech was totally written on lies and carefully calculated to mislead independent voters about this record and his idealogies.

    To hear Ryan speak – you wouldn't know he was a BIG part of Congress when our credit was downgraded (but he intentionally left that part out), he also lied about the plant closing under the president's promises, and his NON acknowledgement of his reading materials, made no mention of Ayn Rand (yes, I noticed). I'm sure he thought he was real cute and funny with the ipod jokes, and the faded Obama posters, etc., but he won't be able to get away with the lies and cheap shots on the national stage, when he debates the vice president and has to answer some real policy questions. There will be no cheers and his mother won't be able to front for him. Paul Ryan offers nothing but a Path to Poverty and the American people won't accept that in November.

    August 30, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  15. Frank Lee

    Jay Dave, from your "extreme" comment about what the Tea Party stands for, maybe you"d find good company among the nut throwers. If people only took a moment to really listen, with empathy, to what the opposition is saying, civil discourse would return, and maybe then "we" - not Big Government - could actually find solutions together to move the country out of the rut it's in, but constantly demonizing the opposition just makes the speaker sound like a Fasicst or a Nazi (something BOTH SIDES are guilty of these days, to varying degrees).

    August 30, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  16. 1crusader

    This speech, overall was very dishonest, and the GM plant issue, even according to a story on this website, is very convoluted;.Ryan leaves central elements out of his version of what the president said .

    August 30, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  17. Mikey

    The Romney-Ryan campaign is almost entirely built on mischaracterizations, innuendo, and outright lies. You can't belive a thing that comes out of Mitt Romney's mouth.

    With Mitt, it's a noun, a verb, and a LIE.

    August 30, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  18. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Wow. Really? I'm just going to start calling the GOP Rebubbacans. They actually think we're all stupid.

    August 30, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  19. Chris

    The straight lies need to stop. Amercian people are so about the pretty boy and they believe it because it rolled out of his mouth. I just hope this crap comes up during a debate so that they can stubble over themselfs and double speak. Romney will say anything to get elected. He did it during the primary and the American people believed it.

    August 30, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  20. Annie

    More lies and deception from the GOP! Guess you'll try anything to win, huh? Can't get the country's support that way, Dummies.

    August 30, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  21. L

    Once again the Republicans think they can change history and lie their way back into the White House. If they had cared at all about this nation or it's recovery they would have worked with the POTUS instead of spend four years just trying to block everything so they could have a shot at winning the White House this year. This is not Democracy! I found it very interesting that Ryan dared to bring up the Credit Rating/Debt Ceiling Crisis created by the T/GOP! They held the economy hostage like no other Congress ever had and they did it so he could lie about Pres. Obama in his speech last night. I am counting on anyone who considers themselves a Journalist, to hold Ryan and Company accountable for it's lies and bad deeds. Obama's turn next week, and it will make RNC look like the amature hour that it is. Obama '12!

    August 30, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  22. Rudy NYC

    That site in Jaynesville, IA had a GM plant and an Isuzu plant. The decision to close the GM plant was announced 6 months prior to its' closing in December 2008. The Isuzu plant continued operations until it, too, closed a few months later in 2009 shutting down the entire site.

    Guess why no one is making a big stink about the Isuzu operations which shut down a few months AFTER the GM operations were halted. GM and Isuzu had announced about two weeks prior to Sen. Obama's visit that ALL Isuzu manufacturing operations in North American were being shut down.

    August 30, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  23. dmayer

    Why can't we have a conversation about cutting the budget without all the lefties coming on glued. Ryan does ot what to take food from Gramda's and babies, he is the one that will save these programs so they dont goaway in the future. Lets have a onest debate and stop the name calling and everyone grow up.

    August 30, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  24. PAW

    All they have to do is tell voters is wasn't a lie three times, and gullible voters will believe it.

    August 30, 2012 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  25. ghostriter

    How many examples do we need? I especially love the debt commission report he accused Obama of ignoring, but leaving out that he voted against it while the president included many provisions in his debt deal that Republicans again voted against.

    But what else should we expect from the group that includes birthers, Fake and Frivilous (nice one Rudy), Solyndra, welfare issue, contraception issue, pretty much most of the issues conservatives have spoken out on.

    August 30, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
1 2 3