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Forgetting about it

| Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, 8:51 p.m.

What can explain Paul Ryan's failure to correctly recall big moments in his life or benchmarks in his political career?

Let's start with something that no one ever forgets.

Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, laudably ran a marathon — a great accomplishment for any athlete — but mysteriously misremembered his time as being far better than official records show.

In the world of marathoners, that is akin to overstating your military service, since every successful runner religiously remembers his finish times in fractions of seconds.

But Ryan forgot, claiming an impressive “two-hour and fifty something” personal best, instead of the 4:01 reported by Runner's World.

If that seems like an insignificant bloviation, Ryan's recent reversals about important public matters are more troubling. Memory lapses on defense cuts, plant closings, Medicare and his anti-abortion proposals show that Ryan is scrambling to remember what he stands for.

When CBS News' Norah O'Donnell recently asked Ryan how he could criticize President Obama for bipartisan defense spending cuts that Ryan himself voted for, the poor guy lost his footing. Ryan originally called the cuts a “victory” but now, in spite of his vigorous support, says, “The goal was never that these defense cuts actually occur.”

In Ryan's big Republican convention speech, he set out to be the tough talker on the ticket but he got all tangled up again. He attacked President Obama for closing a General Motors plant in Wisconsin. But he apparently forgot that the plant closed while George W. Bush was president.

Ryan, who once declared that he is “as pro-life as a person gets,” has repeatedly proposed legislation with no exception for rape. Ryan's “personhood” legislation would give fetuses “all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges.”

Unless he lost his memory, how could Ryan now agree with Romney that their administration “would not oppose abortion in cases of rape”?

And when President Obama proposed $716 billion in Medicare cuts, reducing wasteful payments to insurance companies and hospitals, Ryan criticized the plan, forgetting that he proposed exactly the same cuts in his own 2013 budget proposal.

We all could use a personal neuralyzer (that pen-shaped gadget used by Agent K in “Men in Black”) to help cleanse the memory of painful events or previous beliefs that are now untenable. For candidates, however, these memory lapses are vexing, especially with fact-obsessed reporters cross-checking everything.

But still, Paul Ryan might be the lucky one.

As philosopher and physician Albert Schweitzer said, “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”

Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (

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