What were these monstrous lies? Top of the list was Ryan’s mention of an auto plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, that shut down during Obama’s presidency the year after candidate Obama had vowed that the facility would be there for another century. “The plant was closed in December 2008, before Obama was sworn in,” Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler wrote. But Kessler and the chorus of fact checkers turned out to be wrong; the plant did close down in 2009. Other alleged lies included Ryan’s 100-percent-accurate assertion that Obama’s presidency “began with a perfect AAA credit rating for the United States” but led to a “downgraded America” (fact checkers objected to the implied blame) and the would-be veep’s failure to disclose his own participation in a bipartisan debt-reduction committee mentioned in his speech.
After such an absurd display of overreach, the fact-checking enterprise started drawing some snickers on Twitter and in various corners of the political press, but by then the participants had dug in their heels. “Quite simply, the Romney campaign isn’t adhering to the minimum standards required for a real policy conversation,” popular Washington Post commentator Ezra Klein wrote after Ryan’s speech. “I don’t like that conclusion. It doesn’t look‘fair’ when you say that. We’ve been conditioned to want to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame, and the fact of the matter is, I would like to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame.…But first the campaigns have to be relatively equal.”
Klein, editor of the Post’s Wonkblog, is the leading exemplar of a new breed of media progressive in Washington and New York: self-consciously “wonky” on policy (“nerd” is another favored appellation), fond of boiling issues down into single everything-you-need-to-know charts, and pledged to a high-minded fairness even while rejecting hoary journalistic objectivity. The leftist media’s nerd squad wins plaudits for thoroughness and dedication to facts, even while producing journalism that overwhelmingly supports Democrats and slams Republicans. It’s a project that overlaps significantly with both the new fact checking and the older partisan bomb throwing.