A couple weeks ago (I'm rounding), Hugh Hewitt interviewed Paul Ryan. While talking about the marathons that he used to run, Ryan said that his personal best was "Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something."
The Fact-Checkers Who Shall Not Run the Campaign did a little research and discovered that this was, in fact, false. The one marathon that Ryan ran (at age 20) took him just over four hours to complete.
Ryan admitted that he misspoke and even added that: "my brother Tobin—who ran Boston last year—reminds me that he is the
owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a
sub-three. If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four
hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner
Many in the bloggosphere are calling this a clumsy, Palinesque lie (one that is self-aggrandizing and easily disproved). However, the Ryan campaign pointed out that the race was over 20 years ago, and the candidate spoke according to the best of his recollection.
In an episode of Seinfeld, serial liar George Costanza once explained how he beat the lie detector by saying: "It's not a lie if you believe it."
I am inclined to give Paul Ryan the benefit of the doubt regarding his marathon time. I think he has believed for decades that he ran a sub-three-hour marathon. He remembered it that way because it made him feel more important and accomplished, just as he remembers pulling himself up by his bootstraps rather than being born into privilege and going on the government dole after his father's death.
So the next time Paul Ryan says something outrageous and factually untrue, don't be so quick to call him a liar. Remember the words of George Costanza.