Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

All week, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party sought to convince us that Romney is a wise decision-maker and a good manager, and that Paul Ryan is someone we can trust.

But two unlikely events in the past week revealed the truths behind the Romney campaign's carefully constructed narrative.

The first event was, of course, Clint Eastwood's appearance at the Republican National Convention, in which he gave a rambling presentation to the audience, then turned to his left to berate an empty chair.

The performance was remarkable for its dream-like quality, which was only heightened by its off-color tone, and then there was the way it transported the convention to another place -- a lonely place, a place of fear, familiar to us all, where we are exposed for having very little to say and no idea how to say it.

Eastwood may have creatively tapped into the free-floating, unspoken fear driving Republican politics this year, but it's pretty clear that putting him on stage with no idea what he would say was a terrible idea.

Whose idea was it? Today we learn it was the idea of none other than that supposedly great decision-maker and manager himself, Mitt Romney.

According to the New York Times, Romney invited Eastwood to speak at the convention after seeing Eastwood's endorsement speech at a Sun Valley fund-raiser earlier this summer. Romney said at the time, "He just made my day. What a guy." After that, Romney privately invited Eastwood to speak at the convention, and Romney's aides set the surprise appearance in motion.

Let's all make a note and try to remember this come November:

Mitt Romney: Not Really That Great of a Decision-Maker, Manager, or Delegator of Important Tasks.

The second incident is less zany, and has received less attention. During a radio interview last week with political blogger Hugh Hewitt, Paul Ryan claimed to have once run a marathon in under three hours. Ryan said he used to run marathons, and when Hewitt asked him what his personal best was, Ryan said, "Under three, high twos. I had a two-hour and fifty something." In response to Hewitt's praise, Ryan added, "I was fast when I was younger, yeah."

But, as Runner's World reported yesterday, Ryan apparently ran only one marathon in his life, when he was 20, and his time was 4 hours, 1 minute, and 25 seconds.

As Nicholas Thompson writes on the New Yorker blog today, Ryan's mistake is not the kind a runner would make. The difference between a three hour marathon time and four hour marathon time is huge, and runners remember their times. It's also not the kind of mistake an honest person would make. Also: who goes around bragging about the marathon times he ran as a college student?

As the bearded genius (and national treasure) Paul Krugman points out, on its own, Ryan's fib wouldn't matter. But Ryan has been lying for years about his budget proposals. The lies in his convention speech were breathtaking. His casual lie about his marathon time fits a pattern, and seems to reveal something characteristic about him, namely that he lies to advance his own interests, whether he is promoting his reputation on Capitol Hill or seeking to impress a blogger in a radio interview.

And so here is the takeaway from last week's saturation-level political activity, revealed not by the carefully-staged theater we witnessed, but by the moments in which the actors went off-script and the truth was accidentally revealed:

Mitt Romney is not a particularly great decision-maker, and Paul Ryan is a liar.