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“A Deliberate Coyness”: The Farce Of Paul Ryan, Serious Man

Like a phoenix risen from the ashes of Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is back.

The conservative budget guru is once again being hailed as the Ideas Man who will lead the GOP to electoral salvation. But this time, he’s supposedly toning down his idealism a bit and, as is his party in general, putting on a softer, gentler face.

From Politico’s Jake Sherman, we hear that Ryan “is sifting through the lessons of his political past to shape a new persona” and, after trying to radically redraw the federal budget toward his conservative vision in the past, now “betting that incrementalism — legislative half-steps toward conservative solutions is the best look for Republicans.”

“The brand Ryan is cultivating is deliberate, serious, and aims to be inclusive of other political parties and voters who haven’t considered Republicans,” he adds.

Ah, there it is, the “S” word: Serious.

Ryan is often portrayed as the lone adult in the room, the man with serious ideas when the rest of Washington is embroiled in partisan sniping. Whether or not he’s truly offering sound policy — and there have been many questions on the front — he’s incessantly framed as being above-the-fray, concerned only with making Washington work right. In a word: Serious.

The trouble is that the mystique is largely media-crafted. A quick Lexis-Nexis search of U.S. newspapers for “Paul Ryan” and “serious” returned more than 3,000 results from the past year alone.

To be sure, Ryan does offer up a lot of policy proposals, an anomaly in D.C., and especially for a party that has voted to repeal ObamaCare more than 40 times without offering, until now, any semblance of an alternative. Yet his policy ideas don’t always hold water. Sometimes, they’re deeply flawed.

His previous budget plans were widely criticized for relying on highly suspect data, and for following a formula along the lines of: Cut spending + pixie dust = economic growth.

“If Obama tried to claim that his policies would achieve anything like this,” the liberal Paul Krugman wrote of Ryan’s 2011 budget plan, “he’d be laughed out of office.”

As for Ryan’s big new anti-poverty crusade, the details there, too, are suspect. His ideas — placing work requirements on safety-net programs, tax breaks, and so on — are “supply-side policies that don’t change the overall level of poverty” says Ryan Cooper in The Washington Post, making them no more than “vague rhetoric and window dressing.”

Other thorough assessments of his anti-poverty campaign have been similarly harsh. Meaning, it’s not so much that Ryan has changed, but rather that he’s tucked his old ideas into new packaging and — voila! — become the serious man once again.

Consider it the Republican rebrand writ small.

Part of Ryan’s enduring “seriousness” is actually deliberate coyness, which allows pundits to hang the simple narrative on him. He’s deflected questions about his political ambitions with a “Who, me?” shrug, while insisting he’s just trying to do his job. It’s an effective though farcical facade. Ryan has a knack for shrewdly self-promoting his supposed quiet humility and wonkish credentials. As the economist Jared Bernstein wrote, Ryan “is the classic example of the adage that if you’ve got a reputation for being an early riser, you can sleep til noon.”

To be sure, Ryan did help craft the mini budget compromise that passed earlier this year to avoid another government shutdown. But absolutely no one — okay, maybe Ted Cruz — wanted another shutdown, especially the GOP leadership, considering how badly the last one hurt the party. In that sense, Ryan was merely ensuring the GOP didn’t self-immolate once again.

Ryan’s big rebrand doesn’t prove that he’s a “serious” lawmaker. It does, however, prove he’s serious about looking serious.


By: Jon Terbush, The Week, January 30, 2014

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Politics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Battle For The Republican Party”: Just Another GOP Pity Party, Looking For Sympathy In All The Wrong Places

Imagine what would happen if:

•  The budget deal passes the Senate with a handful of Republicans;
•  Immigration reform passes the House and something is agreed upon by the Senate;
•  In 2014 the House lead expands;
•  All Senate incumbents defeat their right-wing challengers and the GOP takes the Senate;
•  If not a grand bargain, then a modest bargain with some entitlement reform is passed; and

•  One or more tea party favorites run in 2016 and lose decisively to a mainstream GOP nominee who wins the presidency.

Well, that would be a triumph of the center-right and the demise of the tea party, at least from an electoral and governance standpoint. It would reaffirm the GOP as a national, if not dominate, party. And it would move the national agenda significantly to the right since the GOP would hold both houses of Congress and the White House.

One can see, then, that what is of tremendous benefit to mainstream Republicans (and to the agenda of conservative reform) puts the tea party professionals  — those inside the Beltway right wingers who gain glory and make money by attacking Republicans and blocking legislative compromise — largely out of business. Sure, they remain active participants in electoral politics, even more active critics and occasional contributors to national policy debates, but they no longer have the influence to either elect or primary candidates. They become merely gadflies and kibitzers.

That is one possible scenario that plays out over the next few years. One can see how the interests of mainstream and tea party conservatives collide and why, for example, the recent budget deal was a threat to the latter. The enemy (not of conservatism) but of the right wingers who depend on controversy, resentment and defeat is center-right governance. Functional government of the center-right saps the interest in throwing the “traitors” out. It discourages primaries from the right. It dulls the interest of donors.

It is important to distinguish here between conservatives who largely embrace the modern Reagan and post-Reagan agenda (best exemplified these days by GOP governors) and right wingers, those whose volume is always turned to high, see politics as all-or-nothing, want to take the country back to the pre-New Deal or even pre-Progressive era, and aim to freeze the United States demographically by keeping immigrants out and socially by refusing to accept changed beliefs on topics like gay marriage. The entities and politicians (the Heritage Action, angry talk radio, Sen. Ted Cruz crowd) that populate the second group flourish when the GOP is in the minority, so defeat is their ally.

The contrast between the two groups is evident in the trajectory of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), pre- and post-shutdown. His ideology didn’t change, but his tone, outlook and purpose sure did after he saw the destruction wrought by the shutdown. He moved from the group that relishes defeat and delights in spreading resentment to the group that wants to govern. I’d suggest in the wake of the shutdown, and now the budget deal, we will see more conservatives follow Lee’s lead.

Now, there is another scenario, maybe less likely but certainly possible over the next few years:

•  The budget deal passes the Senate with no Republicans;
•  Immigration reform never passes the House and nothing is agreed upon with the Senate;
•  In 2014 the House GOP lead stays the same or shrinks;
•  Some Senate incumbents defeat their right-wing challengers, but others do not and the GOP doesn’t take the Senate;
•  No bargains are struck for the remainder of the Obama term; and
•  One or more tea party favorites runs in 2016, one wins the nomination and loses decisively to Hillary Clinton while the GOP House majority is lost as well.

In that case we return to an era of Democratic rule and the GOP becomes a marginal player on the national scene. It is impossible, I would suggest, for the country to be governed mostly, let alone entirely, by the GOP if the tea party contingent triumphs within the GOP. The people who brought us the shutdown do not reflect the desires, outlook and views of a majority of the country. When presented with that alternative, the lion share of the country will choose the Democrats time and time again.

Which one will it be? It’s up to GOP office holders, candidates and voters.

By: Jennifer Rubin, Opinion Blogger, Right Turn; The Washington Post, December 16, 2013

December 18, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nuttier By The Day”: The Right Wing Is Eating Its Own, Again

The nut jobs on the right are getting nuttier by the day.

A new national survey for the Wall Street Journal and NBC News indicates that only one in four Americans (24 percent) support the tea party. The events of the last week demonstrate why the wingnuts in the Republican Party are so unpopular.

Overnight, tea party poster boy Paul Ryan became a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Ryan negotiated the new budget deal with his Senate budget counterpart, Patty Murray, D-Wash., who has not been accused by liberals of being a DINO (Democrat in Name Only)

I don’t understand why the wing nuts have gored Ryan so hard for being a RINO. Ryan embodies everything the GOP is all about: indifference to the plight of the poor, insensitivity towards the rights of women and toadyism to the super rich. He is getting pilloried for supporting a budget that denies unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed, reduces nutrition assistance payments to almost 2 million Americans, preserves tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and restores billions of dollars to the bloated Pentagon budget. How dare he? The tea party should give this guy a medal.

Right-wing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Newt Gingrich, the spiritual grandfather of the wackjobs, are taking flack for praising the recently deceased former South African President Nelson Mandela. These two guys are giants of right-wing extremism, so the wacko birds are eating their own young. But I can understand why right-wing extremists are so upset. Mandela fought for universal human rights and suffrage for blacks, goals which the wacko birds completely disdain.

Will Ryan, Cruz and Gingrich be disinvited to the holiday – excuse me Christmas party – at the Heritage Foundation? Inquiring minds want to know.

Then the wingnuts went nuts when they saw President Obama shake hands with Cuban dictator Raul Castro. The right considers the greeting grounds for removing the president from office. But the wing nuts would demand his removal from office if he issued an executive order for the U.S. to celebrate Mother’s Day twice a year instead of once.

But the right clearly underestimated the power of social media. Immediately after the handshake went viral, the web was full of pictures of Republican leaders shaking hands and chatting with dictators. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was one of the first Republicans to pounce on the president. And sure enough, the next thing you know, reminders of the senator in a tote a tete with Libyan dictator Mohamar Gaddafi popped up on the web. Then the social media produced pictures of the first President Bush chatting with communist dictator Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Donald Rumsfeld glad handing Saddam Hussein.

Compared with Gaddafi and Saddam, Raul Castro is a joke as far as dictators are concerned. Cuba has been toothless since the Soviet Union went under a quarter of a century ago. And Obama’s handshake with Castro doesn’t even begin to compare with Ronald Reagan’s sale of missiles to the Islamic radicals running Iran. I’d take a handshake with a dictator over an arms sale to one any day.


By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, December 12, 2013

December 13, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Right Wing, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Tea Party Is Pissed And That’s A Good Sign”: Here’s The Real Story, The GOP Has Surrendered On Repealing Obamacare

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) both referred to the budget deal they announced on Tuesday evening as “historic.” They were correct — but not because of any of the cuts or fees in the modest deficit-reduction plan.

What’s historic about Ryan and Murray’s bipartisan deal, which eases the automatic sequester cuts, is that it quietly funds Obamacare for the next two years, rejecting the Tea Party argument to defund/repeal the president’s signature legislative accomplishment until at least 2017.

Yes, Republicans are giving in and accepting the Affordable Care Act, right as the law and the president are near all-time popularity lows.

Two months of severe problems with the website compounded confusion and frustration with an already complex law. Most of the problems have been fixed, but the public perception of the law will take months to heal, if it ever does. But Republicans have figured out, after their failed attempt to dive-bomb the law with a shutdown in October, that they have no hope of getting rid of it — at least until President Obama is out of office.

The Ryan-Murray agreement isn’t the only sign that many Republicans are nearing the “acceptance” phase of mourning the existence of Obamacare.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who repeatedly said that the president’s health reform was an abomination that compelled him to run for office, now says he can accept the law’s state insurance exchange system.

Five of the 25 Republican-led states that have rejected Medicaid expansion are edging toward accepting federal money to help insure millions who earn just a bit too much to qualify for Medicaid. Republican governors in the key swing states of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania are already working toward implementing expansion.

Another sign that most Republicans understand that they’re going to have to live with Obamacare is that the Tea Party is pissed.

Red State‘s Erick Erickson — one of the leading voices for primarying just about every incumbent Republican senator — put it this way:

Last month Republicans bailed on the Obamacare fight and declared sequestration their line in the sand. Now they are saying they’ll bail on sequestration, but they’ll hold the line on unemployment benefits.

Why should we believe them anymore? Is it any wonder that poll after poll shows Republican voters hate their Republican congressmen and senators?

Bend over America, here it comes again.

Republicans had two months of unity as they celebrated the miserable rollout of Now the GOP is back to where it was in October, stuck with a base that’s pretty much furious at its leadership for surrendering — again.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, December 11, 2013

December 12, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Coverage Could Get A Lot Worse”: Republicans Will Face Intense Pressure Over Unemployment Benefits

On the morning after lawmakers reached a budget deal that doesn’t include an extension in unemployment benefits, chief GOP budget architect Paul Ryan awoke to a raft of home-state headlines that were all about the nearly 100,000 Wisconsinites who stand to get cut off.

“99,000 unemployed Wisconsinites face cuts,” blared one front page. “Jobless benefits at risk for 99K in Wisconsin,” blared another. “99,000 state residents to lose benefits,” blared a third. You can see those and a lot more at this compilation of front pages put together by Dems on the Ways and Means Committee.

The imminent expiration of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for 1.3 million Americans is mostly being treated as a fait accompli in Washington. But it looks to be turning into a very resonant issue in local media in states where many thousands of residents will be directly impacted by it. (Dems have created an interactive map showing how many people in each state stand to lose benefits.)

This fact is central to the emerging Dem strategy to increase pressure on Republicans to agree to an extension. House Dems are working to drum up as much local press coverage of the issue as possible, because local coverage can focus directly on how many constituents in a lawmaker’s state stand to be hurt – making it hit home in a way Beltway media coverage can’t.

For instance, articles like this one in the Las Vegas Review-Journal dramatize the plight of a family set to lose benefits, after the mother was laid off last year from her job as a store manager. Headline: “With benefits on block, jobless Nevadans face uncertainty.” Dems hope such coverage pressures Republicans they deem getable, such as Nevada Senator Dean Heller and Rep. Joe Heck.

This strategy includes placing Op ed pieces by Democrats in papers that serve the districts of top Republicans, such as this one by Rep. Sander Levin in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the largest paper in John Boehner’s home state. The game plan is granular: One Democrat points out to me that stats are available on how many would lose benefits on the county level, and that Dems are trying to push these numbers into the coverage, because it is tangible for people in local communities. These numbers are already being reflected in local stories like this one.

Now, it’s fair to question whether Democrats did enough to get a UI extension in the budget deal. Perhaps they could have drawn a harder line on the issue and used their leverage (Republicans will need Dems to pass the deal out of the House) more effectively.

But beyond those legitimate points, it needs to be understood that Dems have not given up on getting Republicans to agree to the UI extension. This could either be accomplished through a stand alone bill or an add on during the budget process, and Democrats continue to press Republicans behind the scenes.

Will any of this matter to Republicans? It’s hard to say, since so many are cosseted away in such safe districts that tough headlines may not matter to them. But the public statements from GOP leaders on the extension have seemed tepid, suggesting their opposition isn’t really visceral. It seems like they’d love for this issue to go away. Boehner has said he’s willing to look at an extension if the White House offers a “plan,” which seems like he’s open to some kind of trade. Of course, conservatives who are already scorching GOP leaders over the deal will only get more outraged if they agree to a UI extension, making it that much harder.

Still, the coverage could get a lot worse, once the deadline looms and human interest stories multiply about folks facing the loss of benefits during the holiday season, at a time when reporters have little else to write about. I wouldn’t give up on Republicans agreeing to the extension just yet.


By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, December 11, 2013

December 12, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Unemployment Benefits | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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