Despite spending most of his life on the government's payroll, the media continues to portray the Wisconsin representative as a modern-day Horatio Alger.
In politics and journalism, myth often passes as biography. For evidence, look no further than The New York Times and Washington Post's profiles of newly minted vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who by virtue of a few well-deployed anecdotes—told by his brother and by fellow congressman and confidant Jeff Flake—has been transformed into the apotheosis of the self-made man. The linchpin of this pull-yourself-up-by-you-bootstraps story is the death of his father when Ryan was 16. "It is remarkable that he chose a path of individual responsibility and maturity rather than letting grief take a different course," the candidate's brother tells the Times, which elaborates with an encomium worthy of an Anglo-Saxon epic: