“Reality? What’s That?” asks National Review Online

Paul Ryan interviewed in the Weekly Standard, March 17, 2003: I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.

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Paul Ryan quoted in the JS online, 2009: The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and ‘The Fountainhead.’

And today in National Review Online, in an article entitled “Ryan Shrugged: Paul Ryan Debunks an Urban Legend: ‘You know you’ve arrived in politics when you have an urban legend about you, and this one is mine,’ chuckles Representative Paul Ryan, the Budget Committee chairman, as we discuss his purported obsession with author and philosopher Ayn Rand….

It seems to me that if you’re going to write a piece denying the importance of Paul Ryan’s fondness for Ayn Rand, you’d at least address little things like his speech at a 2005 Rand celebration in which he credited the writings of Ayn Rand for his going into public service. Was he not at that conference and did he not make that speech? Is NRO claiming that speech just an “urban legend” Paul Krugman tells at slumber parties?

To give writer Bob Costas credit, he does briefly mention that “New York magazine once alleged that Ryan ‘requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged,’ Rand’s gospel of capitalism.” Which is technically true, that is to say, it’s true if you sort of squint your eyes and look at it sideways. Yes, in fact, New York Magazine did once “allege” Ryan said that — possibly because Ryan said, in a 2003 interview for the Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.”

As I’ve observed, reality online is not quite like reality offline. Writers seem to feel they have an infinitely broader scope for fibbing. I’m curious, however. Is National Review Online counting on its readers not being aware of Ryan’s speech at the Ayn Rand celebration or his interview with the Weekly Standard? Or is NRO counting on them pretending they don’t and just playing along?

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