Paul Ryan is a strong-willed guy. By the strength of his willpower, he is able to transcend the constraints of time and place and enter into the rarified air of a fact-free zone where things are so if he says they're so.
A couple of days ago, Ryan was being interviewed by conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt. They were talking about Ryan's physical fitness regimen, and Hewitt asked Ryan if he had run a marathon and, if so, what was his personal best time. Ryan's response, "Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty something."
Hewitt's response was, "Holy smokes." Ryan basked in the approval. "I was fast when I was younger, yeah."
Actually, not that fast. A little research by the running community and New Yorker Magazine discovered that Ryan had, indeed, run a marathon in Duluth, MN, and that his time was four hours and one minute, which placed him 1,990th out of 3,277 male runners; bottom third.
If Ryan had indeed run a high two, say the two hours and fifty five minutes he indicated, he would have placed 130th … top five percent. Quite a difference, indeed.
I've been trying to put Paul Ryan's running adventure in a context that fits in my own life. Back in the day, I played quite a bit of golf. I caddied a pro tournament when I was 14, and I thought the coolest thing a person could do was play golf for a living. Unfortunately, I never reached the point where that was a remote possibility.
In my 30s, I played a bit at Congressional Country Club outside of Washington. My typical score was 85, and my personal best 77, which probably put me somewhere in the middle of the bell curve of weekend golfers in their 30s.
If I were to exaggerate my personal best by 15% (as opposed to Ryan's 25% fraud), I would claim a personal best at Congressional of 66 … makes me laugh writing it.
If I had walked into the men's locker room and announced that I had just shot a 66, I would have been escorted off the premises, and advised that it's OK to lie about sex or money, but that golf was different. Golf was important. I have to believe that runners feel an even greater insult given the price they pay to train for and finish a marathon.
So far, Ryan's fraud has been mostly fodder for late-night comics and cable TV political jousting. Personally, I think it's the reddest of all possible red flags. It demonstrates three things about Ryan. First, he's stupid. Second, he's dishonest. Third, he's dangerous.
He's stupid because he didn't recognize that the honest answer was the best answer, politically. If he had said, "I finished; back of the pack; four hours," he'd have been in great shape. Jane and Joe Runner would have thought, "Good for him, he's one of us."
He's dishonest on an elemental level. With Ryan, it's more than just a little exaggeration; he wants to put on a whole new persona. He's an elite athlete, top 5% in anything he does, complete with aw shucks, "I was pretty fast when I was young" garbage.
He's dangerous because in his mind, facts are for other people. They're way too confining. He's the clean-cut guy from the Midwest. Who's ever going to suspect that he's not the real thing. He's shown he's capable of some mid-level sleaze on the campaign trail, and now we've seen that he's willing to assume a larger-than-life persona that he hasn't earned if he can get away with it. Can you imagine what he'd be capable of if he held real power?
It's going to end badly for Paul "Runner" Ryan. Best for the country that it be sooner rather than later.