The selection of Paul Ryan — chairman of the House Budget Committee — as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate has the potential to turn this dreary presidential campaign into a meaningful debate over the size and role of the federal government. It could also (sadly) litter the debate with so many exaggerations, distortions and falsehoods that Americans end up less informed and less able to make sensible choices.

Until now, the campaign has been a disheartening descent into a swamp of negative ads and personal character attacks that, if hardly unprecedented, seem unusual in that they’re increasingly made by the candidates themselves. Any semblance of a reasoned debate over the nation’s future has been conspicuously absent.

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