(CBS News) The Obama campaign and the White House delivered scathing reviews of Rep. Paul Ryan's acceptance speech at the Republican convention, saying he stretched the truth or outright lied about both his record and the president's.
"He lied about Medicare. He lied about the Recovery Act. He lied about the deficit and debt," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina asserted in a fundraising email to supporters early Thursday morning, adding that "the consensus among journalists and independent observers is that it was ... factually challenged."
Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod told CBS News that Ryan's half-hour long address was a "good speech for the room" but "audacious in its dishonesty, and totally bereft of solutions."
Ryan's much-anticipated speech was partially autobiographical, but Ryan also unleashed a series of withering criticisms of President Obama and his administration. He argued that a lack of presidential leadership had caused the loss of the country's AAA credit rating. He said the President did "exactly nothing" with the recommendations of a bipartisan debt commission he created, the so-called Simpson Bowles commission. He argued that the President's health care law cut Medicare funding "at the expense of the elderly." And he called the $800 billion dollar stimulus package "corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst" in which working men and women "were cut out of the deal."
The White House took issue with all those assertions Thursday. "When facts aren't on your side, you ignore the facts," argued White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
On the credit downgrade, Carney said the blame lay squarely at the feet of House Republicans like Ryan. "The only group of people in Washington who were cheering on the prospect of default, who were gleefully embracing a strategy of holding the full faith and credit of the United States government hostage to a political agenda were House Republicans."
Asked about the President's failure to reach a deal with Republicans on long term deficit reduction, Carney noted: "Mitt Romney's running mate was on the Simpson-Bowles commission. He voted against the Simpson-Bowles report. He also...played a role in the debt ceiling negotiations, and based on reporting from your colleagues, did not support reaching a compromise with the president."
The Obama campaign also mocked Ryan's promise that a Romney administration would seek to generate 12 million new jobs over the next four years. "The 12 million he just mentioned? Economists have already forecasted that we'll create 12 million on the path we're on. Really courageous," said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, who also called the Ryan speech "a fact checker's dream...or nightmare."
Romney campaign senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom defended Ryan's speech in an interview on CNN, saying Ryan, as House Budget chairman "brought forth his own deficit reduction plan" when he voted against the Simpson Bowles commission report. "That's not something this president did," he said. "Instead, he kicked the can down the road. This is why so many people have lost faith in this president."
It's not surprising that the Obama campaign would criticize a major speech by an opponent, but the especially harsh judgment they rendered today is a sign that they intend to make much of a stray comment by Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, who responded to questions about the truthfulness of the Romney campaign's welfare ads by saying "we're not going let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."
The Obama campaign has seized on that comment as proof that the Romney team is willing to playing fast and loose with the truth. Today, Carney called the comment an "important moment." And in today's fundraising email to supporters, Messina tied the Newhouse remark to Ryan's convention address: "The fact that this speech, on this huge stage, is this blatantly false represents a huge bet by the Romney campaign -- they've decided that facts, truth and reality will not be a brake on their campaign message."