Important campaign story of the day: Did Paul Ryan wash clean dishes or dirty dishes in his photo op at a soup kitchen?

Via Newsbusters, a little taste of liberal desperation as the left tries to jumpstart another trivial gravity-defying attack-pander on Romney for the benefit of middle-class voters. (Alas, poor Big Bird, we knew ye well.) On Saturday, Paul Ryan swung by a soup kitchen in Youngstown, Ohio after a campaign event; the event had run long, past the time when the kitchen was serving breakfast, so he ended up washing dishes for them instead. Except — the dishes were already clean. The whole thing was a fraud, just like Mitt Romney and the GOP and their pretensions to relate in any way to the working-class voters who are poised to throw Barack Obama out of office. Why, I bet those aren’t even real arrows that Paul Ryan uses when he goes hunting.

Essentially, this dumb meme was a variation of the equally dumb attack on Bush 41 for supposedly being amazed when he saw a supermarket scanner in action. In both cases, the point was to show the Republican “out of touch” with average Americans. And in both cases, it was based on a lie. Bush 41 had seen supermarket scanners before, and Paul Ryan was indeed washing dirty dishes:

The question of whether the Wisconsin congressman cleaned dishes that were actually dirty – as opposed to re-washing already clean dishes so as to get a good photo opportunity — Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society President Brian Antal clarified that Ryan did clean soiled dishes. This differs from what Antal had told The Washington Post Monday.

Speaking Tuesday morning with NBC News, Antal said he was not on-site when Ryan was at the soup kitchen and attributes his earlier comments that the dishes were clean when Ryan washed them to hearing the details second-hand from a volunteer…

In response to questions about Antal’s comments to the Washington Post that Ryan “did nothing” while at the soup kitchen, Antal said his words were mischaracterized. He told NBC News in that Ryan did very little work only compared to the larger context of Saturday morning, when the kitchen fed 180 homeless people breakfast. Antal conceded that Ryan did wash several dirty dishes.

WaPo reported today that Antal, a self-described independent, has chosen to vote in Democratic primaries since the mid-90s. The secondary complaint here is that the campaign “barged in” to the building, which is supposed to be apolitical, without formally requesting approval. But a Romney campaign spokesperson says they followed standard procedure in setting it up, and they didn’t “barge in” but were let in by volunteers who were there at the time. (Antal wasn’t.)

And no, to answer your inevitable question, I can’t quite believe that this is a “news” story on the eve of a presidential debate either. But here you go; fresh from this morning’s “Today” show. At the rate Obama’s polls are going, they’ll be doing half-hour segments with Big Bird on PBS funding during the first week of November.

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