Paul Ryan’s dishpan hands panned

On the side

Obama critic: J.D. Williams, endorsed by the Trumbull County Democratic Party in 2010 in an unsuccessful Ohio House race, spoke at last Saturday’s Paul Ryan rally at Youngstown State University in support of Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee. Williams criticized President Barack Obama, a Democrat, for increasing the national debt and high unemployment.

“It’s not about being a Democrat or a Republican,” Williams said. “It’s about putting your country first.”

Williams lost by 4.2 percentage points to Sean J. O’Brien in the Ohio House 65th District’s Democratic primary. O’Brien won the general election.

GOP video: The National Republican Congressional Committee put out a video this week on four ex-House Democrats running this year for seats they lost in 2010, including Charlie Wilson in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District. Each gave money to staff members in their last days on the job in 2010, with Wilson giving $119,129. Wilson has said the money was for “weeks of vacation time they hadn’t used.”

I wasn’t supposed to work last Saturday.

But Paul Ryan and MS- NBC changed that.

What happened that day and the fallout became national news.

Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, had a town-hall meeting at Youngstown State University on Saturday morning with a crowd of about 1,400 people.

As with nearly every presidential-related event, the Ryan meeting started and ended late.

Ryan then headed to the St. Vincent de Paul Society Dining Hall for a visit. The campaign’s plan was to have Ryan serve breakfast to the poor. But breakfast time had passed.

His campaign asked dining hall volunteers to not clean a few clean pots and pans so the media could videotape and take pictures of Ryan and his family cleaning them.

On Monday, Brian J. Antal, president of Mahoning County’s St. Vincent de Paul Society, contacted me and a reporter from The Washington Post to express his shock and anger at Paul using the soup kitchen for a photo op.

The most amusing line — repeated on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” — came from Juanita Sherba, the soup kitchen’s Saturday coordinator, who told me: “It was the phoniest piece of baloney I’ve ever been associated with.”

There’s more to the story and we covered it fairly and accurately, despite the calls and emails we received about our “liberal bias.”

I heard from Democrats in July that we were showing our “conservative bias” when I wrote about the Poland man who introduced President Barack Obama at a rally who had improperly taken “trade secrets” from a previous employer and owes $515,218 to the company, according to a judge.

Now if people wanted to complain about how many national media organizations covered this issue, I’m with them.

Several focused on the incorrect assumption, stated as fact, that Ryan and his family washed dishes that were already clean. That was the main thrust of numerous stories, and likely lifted from The Washington Post article which stated the pots and pans “did not appear to be dirty.”

Like the Obama/Poland story, this was on our front page. When the president and the Republican candidate for vice president come to the Mahoning Valley, it’s front-page news. When they do something out of the ordinary occurs, it’s still front-page news.

As for MSNBC, the cable network was looking for a reporter from northeast Ohio to speak about the presidential race in the state, and chose me. I’ve done this before, but typically over the telephone because TV satellite locations are about an hour from the Youngstown area.

It’s cool to be on TV, but not if you’ve got to drive an hour each way to be on for a few minutes. But after they offered a Lincoln Town Car and a driver, who am I to say no?

The segment was short, but fun.

What was a bit of a chore was the drive; well, actually the driver.

When he found out what I was doing, all he wanted to talk about — when he wasn’t having violent coughing fits — was politics; extreme right-wing politics. He was more interested in talking than driving as he nearly missed two turns and swerved to get in the right lane.

I learned from experience. On the way back, I steered the conversation to famous people he’s met as a driver. Talking about Ron Wood was more interesting than hearing the latest from Glenn Beck.

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