June 21, 2004
Throughout this period Ryan maintained, and in my opinion, exploited the position that he was doing this all in an effort to protect his innocent son. Well, now we find out that none of this was true. Information directly about his son has in my understand been redacted from the files and all that is left are allegations made by his ex-wife that he pressured her to go to numerous sex clubs.
As shown in this evening press conference, it appears that Jack is now trying to morph his original position of protecting his son into these new circumstances. He's now trying to claim that his aim all along has been to protect his son from information about his messy divorce--this is not the same as protecting his son from information about the young boy in the files. Just as Zorn suggested a few days ago, this is the most vile of offensives. Hiding behind your son for political gain is utterly distasteful, and I can't imagine how he is going to pull this off in front of the electorate. The press needs to nail him to the wall with this hypocrisy and slimy maneuvering. From the grumbling reaction of the press at the news conference at Ryan's attempts to confuse them with rhetorical Fujitsu, I would guess that they are going to have a field day with this for a few days.
Ryan's strategy seems to be to avoid admitting that he mislead voters and party leaders when he gambled in March that these files would not be unsealed. Thus the maneuver to pretend that he has had continuity in his arguments about the contents of the files. He is also trying to avoid denying or affirming the allegation made by his ex-wife about the sex club visits. He's in a pickle with this because if he admits that there is some truth to the allegations he both looks like a liar (from his earlier position about the contents of the files) and he faces the embarrassment of being a pro-family candidate who has a strange sexual past (and potential present). He can't deny the allegations outright, I would guess, because then he by extension charges his ex-wife with lying. We saw a similar situation with Blair Hull's ex-wife. When he tried to deny the charges that he hit her, she came out and defended herself which pushed the issue back on Hull more intensely. Ryan is obviously trying to avoid this and from the letter of support that his ex-wife released this evening that communicated continued support but didn't address the sex club allegations it appears that she isn't willing to concede that she lied or exaggerated in her original claims.
The problem with this strategy is the same as it was for Hull. By not admitting that the allegations are partially or fully true, Ryan keeps this issue in play. People want to know whether it was true or false and the press won't move on until they get a straight answer. But because Ryan already lied about there being anything bad in the files during the primaries and not being able to sell out his wife, he can't do that. He's painted himself in a tight corner for sure.
This all goes back to lesson one in politics, get your dirty laundry out early and fast. Sure attending sex clubs with your wife is embarrassing, but people accept a lot more than that out of their politicians. What's more embarrassing is dragging your party through the mud five months before the general election because you tried to pull one over on them and the electorate. We'll see how the press plays this but if it does come off as as bad as I think it will and should, Republicans should start warming up another candidate.
[Note to whatever god Ryan kept evoking during the press conference: can you think up some especially brutal punishment for him in your hell that can be inflicted on him for every time he made reference to his son in that press conference? I lost count at 56.]