Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Ryan does hometown proud

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Greg Peck
Thursday, August 30, 2012

Janesville residents had many reasons to bubble with pride Wednesday night.

Native son Paul Ryan delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention that showed the world the sort of character, drive and spirit of those back home.

I think Ryan exhibited confidence. This 42-year-old looks like he just crossed a stage to accept a college diploma, yet he showed enough self-assurance to convince listeners that, yes, he could lead our country if elected vice president and he had to suddenly move into the Oval Office.

Ryan needed to introduce himself to those who knew little about him. He also had to indict President Obama for a lack of leadership and explain why voters should elect Mitt Romney as president.

Missions accomplished.

Ryan mentioned Janesville three times. He said he lives on the same block where he grew up and that his family still attends St. John Vianney Catholic Church, where he was baptized. In introducing his family, he called his mother Betty, who started a small business as a widow, his role model. Ryan used her example to talk about the hard work of business people and poke at Obama’s recent words.

“After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit,” Ryan said. “What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.”

Ryan recently drew appropriate criticism for suggesting Obama was at fault for Janesville’s GM factory closing when in truth GM announced its decision and halted work before Obama was elected and only modest Isuzu production continued after he took office.

On Wednesday, Ryan provided clarity in pointing out that while campaigning here in 2008, Obama suggested that with government support, the plant would be here another 100 years.

“Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.”

Ryan said Romney would repeal Obamacare and vowed to save Medicare.

“Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program and raiding it,” Ryan said. “Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate.”

I was impressed that Ryan showed no jitters and spoke with good cadence and appropriate pauses. He repeated phrases we’ve heard previously—about reapplying our country’s founding principles and how his late father told him he could be part of the problem or part of the solution. Yet speechwriters Matt Scully and Bayfield’s John McConnell helped craft simple yet memorable lines.

For example: “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.”

In criticizing the Obama campaign’s attack ads, Ryan said “the president is just throwing away money—and he’s pretty experienced at that.”

Ryan also chided Obama for suggesting he hadn’t communicated enough and that his job is to “tell a story to the American people.”

Said Ryan: “As if that’s the whole problem here? … Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years, we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What’s missing is leadership in the White House.”

Here, suggested Ryan, is the key question: “Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?”

Ryan used humor in explaining that he’s a generation younger than Romney. He noted he has heard some of Romney’s favorite music on elevators. Yet Ryan said they’re not different in anything that matters.

“Mitt Romney and I both grew up in the Heartland, and we know what places like Wisconsin and Michigan look like when times are good, when people are working, when families are doing more than just getting by. And we both know it can be that way again.”

Obama has blamed our economic ills on the George W. Bush administration.

“The man assumed office almost four years ago,” Ryan said. “Isn’t it about time he assumed responsibility?”

Ryan often appeared to look straight at viewers at home to come across as honest and truthful when emphasizing key points.

“We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead,” he said. “We will not spend four years blaming others, we will take responsibility.”

You can disagree with his politics, and many in Janesville do. Others are raising questions about some of Ryan’s other “facts,” and we’ll report more about that Friday. Expect similar questions after Democrats have their convention. Politicians on both sides spend too much time distorting the truth.

Still, I believe Ryan helped raise the stature of his hometown Wednesday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Last updated: 10:04 am Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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