A lot of the coverage of Republican vice presidential pick Paul Ryan talks about how handsome he is. How thoughtful. How serious and substantive and what a genuinely nice guy. After looking at his record, I’m going to have to agree with Jonathan Chait, who writes that Ryan’s “public persona is a giant scam” that marks him as a “skillful pol” — and also someone who ought not to be underestimated. But there’s a big difference between manners and character, between ideologically rigid political posturing and a substantive commitment to the difficult work of creating positive change within a pluralistic and diverse democratic society. If people can no longer tell the one from the other it’s because we now live in an age, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has so memorably noted, where “where counter-intuitive bullshitting is valorized, where the pose of argument is more important than the actual pursuit of truth, where clever answers take precedence over profound questions.