The Vacuous Article Template: Paul Ryan Something Something Medicare

I’m at a loss for words at the sheer emptiness of this Washington Post article. It’s like a journalism black hole, sucking facts and value out of every subject it touches until we’re left with unsubstantiated horse-race nothingness. And with that, let’s go on to the template.

1. The existence of a difficult-to-prove trend is proposed.

Apparently conservatives are unhappy because Paul Ryan is being tarnished by the Romney campaign.

Conservatives had hoped that Mitt Romney’s choice of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) as his running mate would make Romney act more like Ryan — bold, specific, confident.

Instead, in the six weeks since Ryan became the GOP vice presidential nominee — and particularly in the three weeks since the Republican National Convention — there has been mounting concern among Republicans that the pick has made Ryan look more like Romney — vague, cautious and limited to preset talking points.

This may be the worst opening sentence of any campaign article I’ve read this year. All it does is repeat unsubstantiated media narratives that have largely been de-bunked. Bold? Specific? Ryan’s convention speech is still being panned for its inaccuracies and lack of specifics, and he’s failed to specify politically troublesome spending cuts by hiding them in a budgeting gimmick. Was that Romney’s fault? Maybe, despite what all those articles said, Ryan just wasn’t all that bold, specific, and confident?

But fine, I’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt. Conservatives are angry the great Ryan is being made to look like the feeble Romney. On to the evidence!

2. The author quotes an expert in an attempt to support the existence of the trend, but the quote actually contains no real evidence. 

“I was wrong. When Paul Ryan was picked, I really thought this meant that the Romney campaign was shifting gears and was going to have a debate about big issues,” said Michael Tanner, an expert on health care and the budget at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Why do you pick somebody like Paul Ryan if you’re going to run a referendum, Obama’s-done-a-bad-job campaign?” Tanner asked.

Ok, time to find a REPUBLICAN to verify there is REPUBLICAN dissatisfaction with how Romney has affected Ryan. I know, let’s get somebody from a LIBERTARIAN think tank! Seriously. Almost any deviation from the Cato agenda — i.e. a large part of the Romney/Ryan campaign platform — would be criticized by Tanner. There’s not a very high degree of difficulty on extracting that quote.

3. One statistically insignificant person is introduced as evidence the proposed trend exists.

The dissatisfaction is not within Washington alone. Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) — who was so moved during Ryan’s GOP convention speech that he wept as his longtime ally spoke — told radio host Charlie Sykes that he thinks Ryan is not being used to his full potential.

“I just haven’t seen that kind of passion I know that Paul has transferred over to our nominee,” he said. He suggested that “pushback from some of the folks in the national campaign” might be restraining Ryan.

Hmm…where can we find an objective opinion on Ryan? I know, we’ll ask his “longtime ally” who he moves to tears!

4. Information is given that seemingly supports the hypothesis, but actually has nothing to do with it.

Part of Ryan’s predicament is the result of the strategic decisions of the Romney campaign, which some critics argue has been too cautious in its deployment of the seven-term Wisconsin Republican. There’s also the matter of some of Ryan’s self-inflicted wounds in recent weeks, as well as the substance of what he talks about on the campaign trail.

In his month-and-a-half as GOP vice presidential nominee, Ryan has not held a formal media availability with the dozen or so reporters that comprise his traveling press corps. He also did not hold any formal news conferences during his low-key return to Capitol Hill earlier this month or during his brief trip to Washington last week.

What Ryan has done is target local media outlets: He has sat down for more than 100 local TV or print interviews in 12 swing states, according to a Washington Post tally.

This is an interesting one. The implication is that spending time with local rather than national media is less of a “deployment,” and that formal media availability is the key way for a candidate to amplify his voice. It’s not surprising that Washington Post reporters think that, but I wonder if there’s any evidence that this is true. If there is, you won’t find any hint of it in the article.

Oddly, the writers manage to muddle their point and insult their own work in the next paragraph.

Some of those interviews have included tough questions. Last Tuesday, for instance, one reporter devoted an entire five-minute exchange to pressing Ryan on damaging remarks Romney made at a closed-door fundraiser in May. But many interviewers have lobbed softball questions at Ryan on issues that include his exercise routine and his affinity for health food.

Wait a second. The problem is that Ryan is sitting for tough local interviews when he should be be making his voice heard by answering not-tough and not-softball questions from the national media? In other words, his problem is that he’s not spending enough time giving talking-point answers to boilerplate questions from well-known reporters? Again, it’s not surprising that this is how the Washington Post views the campaign, but I’m not sure there’s much evidence one way or anther about how a vice presidential candidate should travel the country and work the media. Given that, you would think reporters would defer to the massive political organizations that have vast networks of polling and voter data on which they’re basing their candidate availability decisions.


All in all, the article is nothing more than a summary of previous coverage about Ryan — and by the way, because it’s 2012, all of that coverage still exists in easy-to-find places on the internet. If somebody can give me a good reason why this article was written — other than the fact that the Washington Post has politics reporters on its payroll and a print edition to fill — I’m all ears.

One Response to The Vacuous Article Template: Paul Ryan Something Something Medicare

  1. Pingback: The Washington Post Pretends Monday Never Happened - Peer-reviewed by my neurons | Peer-reviewed by my neurons

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