Biden and Ryan — whose whoppers are bigger?

If I were President Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, I wouldn’t be mass emailing today asking for “$5 or more” and urging vigilance during tonight’s VP debate about whether “Congressman Ryan tells the truth — about himself, his record, or his and Mitt Romney’s actual plans for where they’d take our country.”

The Messina email contains a link to a video enumerating Ryan’s “misleading ways,” titled “The 7 habits of highly misleading people.”

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The least important from a public policy point of view, but the most embarrassing, is the video’s leadoff lie: asked soon after he was selected as Romney’s VP by talk-show host Hugh Hewitt for his personal best marathon time, Ryan claimed 2 hours and 50-something minutes, when in reality, his time was more than four hours. The six that follow would certainly matter more to the well-being of the average voter, but they’re harder to relate to — among them Ryan’s claim that Obama wants to remove the work requirement from welfare; his denial that he had requested stimulus money; his blaming the closing of a factory in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis., on Obama when it was closed during the George W. Bush administration; his wrongly disputing the estimate that Romney’s proposed tax cuts would cost almost $5 trillion over 10 years.

If I were Messina — and if I were the Obama people coaching Joe Biden — I’d emphasize the alleged policy lies but steer clear of the personal. At this point, the evidence table is stacked higher with examples of the vice president’s tendency to inflate his credentials.

Why Ryan, in tip-top shape, feels he has to exaggerate his marathon time is a question that can be answered, perhaps, only by those who study the peculiar personality traits of men who decide to run for office.

If someone wants to take that on — it might make a good Ph.D. thesis — he or she should also look at the man who will be sharing the debate stage tonight with Ryan. Biden has inflated not his athletic but his academic performance — his college (University of Delaware) and law school (Syracuse University College of Law) grades, honors and class rank, etc. — not to mention serious charges of plagiarism in 1987 (one of which likely caused him to drop out of that year’s race for the Democratic nomination for president).

On Ryan’s side, his phony marathon numbers can be classified as stupid macho posturing. Biden’s exaggerations, although older — one plagiarism charge goes back to law school — and not repeated recently, are the sort that can cost people, in the private sector at least, their jobs.

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