On Tuesday, Rachel Maddow pushed back against the media myth of Paul Ryan as a deficit hawk. She noted that Ryan voted for the Iraq War, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, and the Wall Street, bailout, which together added trillions to the debt.
"None of those things were paid for," Maddow said. "All of it was added to the national charge card, asking future generations to pick up the tab. A fiscal conservative would not have made those votes during the Bush-Cheney era, but Mr. Ryan did."
But it looks like The Washington Post—at least the news section—hasn't gotten the message. Here's the lead of a story that appeared Wednesday, headlined "Campaigns' fierce rhetoric on Medicare dims hopes for a solution, experts say":
Many spending hawks in Washington had hoped that Mitt Romney’s selection of leading deficit warrior Paul Ryan as his running mate would open a more candid and sober debate about cutting federal spending.
First, the story uses the terms "spending hawks" and "deficit experts" interchangeably, as if the problem can only be fixed by cutting spending, rather than boosting revenue. It's not clear why those whose agenda is simply to cut federal spending—that is, small-government conservatives—deserve to have their concerns echoed uncritically by the Post.
But set that aside for a moment. The description of Ryan as a "leading deficit warrior" flies in the face not just of Ryan's votes to massively add to the federal tab during the Bush era, as Maddow enumerated. It also ignores several analyses covered by the Post itself, which have found that since Ryan hasn't detailed how he'd pay for the massive tax cuts in his budget, his plan appears more likely to expand the deficit than shrink it.
This matters, of course. Presenting themselves as credible messengers on the need to address the deficit is crucial to the success of the Romney-Ryan campaign. Right now, they're getting an undeserved assist from the news media.