August 30th, 2012
10:57 AM ET
6 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. rs

    dmayer- Turning Medicare into a voucher doesn't save it, it kills it. Instead of taking care of the health needs of the elderly, it is a free check to an unregulated health insurance company. It is literally, robbing the elderly for the corporations. It is sick and soul-less. I feel for you if you buy their drivel.
    The GOP has so lost its way.

    August 30, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    getaclue wrote:

    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. ....
    Nope, he had no part in closing that site. The decision to close the GM plant was made 5 months prior to election day 2008. The decision to shut down and relocate the Isuzu operations overseas was made two weeks before he arrived, which is what probably prompted the visit anyway.

    Besides, Sen. Obama did not and could not promise or guarantee government help, because he knew that conservatives would reject such help, which they in fact did.

    August 30, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  3. tee1227

    How can you defend something when you know it`s a lie and false.

    August 30, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  4. 1twinsfan

    My favorite part of Ryan's speech was when he said that Obama had campaigned in WI in 2008 and then the Packers lost to the NY Giants in the playoffs this year.

    August 30, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  5. 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. I wonder if the "unbiased 'Fact Checkers'" will be this diligent with Obama and Biden? Something tells me NO! The press, including CNN is showing who they're rooting for and it ain't objectivity.

    August 30, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  6. Anonymous

    Still haven't heard GOPers explain why Mr. Obama is being held accountable for those very policies that Paul Ryan voted yes on during his tenure in Congress which helped create the financial meltdown in 2007, and Mr. Paul Ryan is being held to a much lower standard of not being held accountable at all.

    August 30, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    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.
    This article has overlooked some critical facts about the Jaynesville, IA site The site was actually two major operations, one run under the GM brand and the other run under he Isuzu brand. The article correctly notes that the decision to shut down the GM operation was made in June 2008, and implemented in December of 2008.

    The article overlooks the fact that the operation that continued until April 2009 was in fact the Isuzu operations. The decision was announced to shut down the Isuzu plant was made two weeks PRIOR to then Sen. Obama's visit. Isuzu had announced that they were ceasing ALL north american manufacturing. An announcement that I would bet prompted the visit because the jobs were going back to Japan.

    August 30, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  8. Ugogirl

    Once again the Republican with their lies all over again. Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan will not be in our Whitehouse come this election. They are here to destroy what's left of the middle class folks. They don't care but no one but themselves, Cooche brothers and the top 1%. They want to take of back in time not forward like President Obama. If you guys have any sense whatsoever you will vote these rethugs out period. Paul Ryan lied to the American people on the plant closing that was closed under George W. Bush administration and President Obama didn't take office until January 2009. Those are the facts people. Ryan wants to destroy Medicare and turn it into a voucher program and have seniors to fend for themselve. My government contract job was terminated this month thanks to George W. Bush for signing the Medicare Reform Act back in 2003, 2 wars that wasn't paid for, Bush Tax Cuts, and last Medicare Prescription Drug Plan D. Everything mentioned was not paid for. Just like the Ryan Budge Plan along with the Medicare plan will no be paid for only on the backs of the middle class, minority and seniors!! I rest my case yall

    August 30, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. ghostriter

    “Do you know how much money he invested in so-called green energy companies?” Mr. Romney asked during a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., on Monday “Ninety billion. Ninety billion!”

    But is it true?

    Roughly, yes. In fact, the number appears in a document on the White House Web site and represents the financing available in the 2009 stimulus package. Not all that money has been spent; the Energy Department, for example, received $35 billion under the act but has spent only $26 billion thus far, according to Jen Stutsman, a spokeswoman.

    Yet not all of the money was for Obama administration projects.

    Some funds for green energy were appropriated during the administration of President George W. Bush, but not spent until Mr. Obama took office. And some of the stimulus money — for green energy — went to programs signed into law by Mr. Bush, but were not actually financed until Mr. Obama became president.

    August 30, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  10. kakaraka

    And the budget proposed by Paul Ryan as an alernative ends medicare with voucher system, cut food stamps, kids school nutrition, medicaid, housing assistance, pell grants and give huge tax breaks for millionares, billionaires under which Romney will pay less than 1% in taxes. Yeah right. Ridiculous this GOP ticket.

    August 30, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. ghostriter

    Tinmeh, are you really that new to politics? First off, he didn't say he would save it. Second, it was announced that it would close before his speech, let along before he took office.

    Ohh, the unbiased fact checkers have rated several claims from democrats, including Obama, as false. I know conservatives love the lame stream media card, but let's try to keep ourselves grounded in reality.

    Bottom line, you guys are lying yet again.

    August 30, 2012 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  12. Vic of New York

    There are ties when CNN does it's job. Calling out the falsehoods of the Ryan/Romney campaign is an important first step. Getting the word out to the general public who may not be paying attention and may be susceptible to the Republican lying machine is an even more patriotic duty.

    August 30, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Sam Osborne

    Now GOP spin doctors try to unravel the web of deceit with which Paul Ryan got his three biggest cheers at last night’s Republican’s national convention. Young Frank-and-Unkind Ryan was just saying what these Republicans wanted heard by the three age segments of the American people: workers trying to find or keep a job, retired seniors trying to keep body and soul together by affordable health care, and the younger generation trying to afford an education.

    In all of these, Ryan was neither frank nor kind.

    To mislead workers; Ryan tried to hold President Obama responsible for loss of jobs at a GM auto plant that closed down in eh year prior to Obama taking office. In follow up interviews after Ryan’s speech Wisconsin Gov. tried to flimflam the distortion by saying that the president should have taken Mitt Romney’s advice on GM going through a controlled bankruptcy—fine but the president that could have taken the advice was Bush.

    To mislead senior citizens; Ryan said that a Romney-Ryan administration would ensure that Medicare was there would be protected. Assuming that their administration will still be a part of government, this does not fit with what Ryan wants to do (and what Romney was praised) by privatizing health care out of government and into the hands of the private insurance industry.

    To mislead the younger generation: Ryan painted a picture of college students disappointed and sitting in their dorm rooms disappointed that nothing was being done to assure they could afford and education, and not mentioning that while college youth was worrying Ryan was leading Republicans to stall out the establishment of interest rates that would let them afford the cost of the room in which they were sitting.

    August 30, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. Dude in Colorado

    Aaaaah, the old GOP tradition of "spinning the lie". Goodness how I've missed it since Dubya left office!

    Jut remember GOP/TP people: If you like the sound of it – It must therefore be true!

    August 30, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. tee1227

    are they sure they want to defend Ryan ? Fox News' Sally Kohn: Paul Ryan's RNC Speech 'Was Attempt To Set World Record For Blatant Lies

    August 30, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  16. Beb99

    If they had a good message, they wouldn't need to lie and exaggerate. But the Republicans keep telling lies. Then when they get called on it claim the 'left-wing' media is picking on them. The party of 'Personal Responsibility' shouldn't be telling lies in the first place–unless–as I believe–lies are all they've got.

    August 30, 2012 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  17. Aiden

    GM Plant. Just another Obama broken promise. The plant closed – nothing to dispute.

    As far as the Simpson-Bowles plan. Obama did was he does best and that is publicize looking into a plan, talking about it and did absolutely nothing. This is what he does best – grand orator with no leadership to implement anything that is difficult.

    August 30, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. v_mag

    Everybody can get past all the complexity of this race by just answering 2 simple questions:

    1) How is Romney/Ryan any different from Bush/Cheney?
    2) If there is no difference, why would you want to trust the same people who crashed the economy and started unnecessary wars and trickled middle class money up to the 1%?

    For people who need politics simplified, it doesn't get much simpler than that.

    August 30, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. mdn

    Trying to blame Obama for GM plant closing during George Bush's 8 years of hell! Nice try but Americans are not as stupid as the the GOP would like them to be.

    August 30, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. Brian

    Of course if we had left it up to the Republicans ALL General Motors plants would be closed, but you'll never hear conservatives be honest about that

    August 30, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. Maxx

    Off to a good start Ryan, lying just like Romney and only 2 years of tax returns to boot!

    August 30, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. ghostriter

    Rick Santorum blames President Barack Obama for “a nightmare of dependency with almost half of America receiving some sort of government assistance.” But the same could have been said of George W. Bush. In fact, the Census Bureau reported that in the third quarter of 2008, under Bush, “nearly half of U.S. residents live in households receiving government benefits.”

    Back then, Census reported that 44.4 percent of Americans received some sort of government benefits. That has risen to 49 percent under Obama as of the most recent figures available, and much of that modest increase is due to the aging Baby Boom generation reaching retirement age.

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

    ryan should be at the top of the ticket

    August 30, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. Voice Crying In the Wilderness

    When you build your hold platform on a lie, what do you expect? You cannot get truth out of lie or reality out of fantasy. The republicans have many followers who are uneducated and ignorant, and so their strategy is to lie hoping those followers will believe every thing they say, or that no one catches them.

    August 30, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. NickAnast

    What about this LIE by Ryan: "We won't duck the hard issues."

    Really? Just a few weeks ago, Ryan showed up at the Iowa State Fair to campaign. A woman asked him what he and Rmoney would do to help the farmers negatively impacted by the severe drought. Ryan's response: "I'm here to enjoy the fair. We can talk policy later."

    So much for not ducking the hard issues.

    August 30, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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