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“The Challenge Of Being Paul Ryan”: He’s Been Anointed As A Savior, And Saviors Often Meet A Bad End

Paul Ryan had excellent reasons for not wanting to be speaker of the House. He’s a smart guy and knows that the Republican caucus he is about to lead is nearly ungovernable. He’s been anointed as a savior, and saviors often meet a bad end.

Moreover, the Wisconsin native (and ardent Packers fan) is still very much a work in progress. He was happy to stay away from the center stage as he mapped out the next steps of his life and the direction of his thinking. As chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he could pick his fights and choose the issues he wanted to highlight. As speaker, the issues will often pick him and he may well have to wage battles he might prefer to avoid.

Ryan has always wanted to be several things at the same time, and they have not been easy to keep in balance.

On the one hand, he is, from my experience, a genuinely nice and warm person who wants to be seen as thoughtful, wonkish and willing to delve deeply into policy details. He’s a religious man who knows that his faith teaches the imperative of compassion and the urgency of justice. He has repeatedly given speeches declaring his determination to alleviate poverty.

But he is also an ideologue — one reason the right-wingers in the House could accept him as speaker. He has said that the unforgiving libertarianism of Ayn Rand — whose books include one called “The Virtue of Selfishness” — inspired him to enter politics. In a speech before the Heritage Foundation in 2011, he divided the world between “takers” and “makers” and spoke of government programs as creating “a hammock that ends up lulling people into lives of dependency and complacency.” I doubt that poor people think they spend their lives swaying gently between the trees.

The budgets he has proposed over the years are his signature. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal group that is very careful about its numbers, repeatedly found that roughly two-thirds of the cuts in Ryan’s budgets came from programs for low- and moderate-income people. Take that, you takers!

Had Ryan not been pushed toward the speakership, he would have more room to refine his views and would not face constant pressure to appease the right. That pressure led him to criticize the process that outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) used to save Ryan from having to deal with impossible problems around the budget and the debt ceiling. Being Paul Ryan has just gotten even harder.

But let’s give Ryan a brief respite by focusing on his virtues. When he insisted that he would not take the speaker’s job unless he could protect his “family time,” he showed what kind of person he is and made a statement that could transform the debate about work and family.

I personally identify with Ryan because we were both 16 when our dads died and, like him, I have three kids. Time with my family has been a treasure for me, too. Good for Ryan for placing his family at the heart of his life.

Yet his statement brought him immediate and sharp criticism because he had voted against mandatory paid family leave. Rather than resenting his critics, he should take them very seriously by admitting that he enjoys a degree of bargaining power that so many Americans lack. And he should not pretend that the “flex time” proposals he has endorsed are the answer. They would merely undermine employees’ existing rights to overtime.

Ryan might take a look at a 2006 essay in the Weekly Standard by Yuval Levin, a conservative thinker I am sure he admires, acknowledging the tension between the market and the family. Levin noted that the market “values risk-taking and creative destruction that can be very bad for family life” and that “the libertarian and the traditionalist are not natural allies.”

Sometimes, despite what Ayn Rand says, government action is essential to preserving individual rights in the marketplace and protecting the integrity of family life. Many families are under severe economic pressures. There are times when only government is in a position to relieve them, often through the programs Ryan would cut.

Thus a hope: Ryan could use the first days of his speakership to signal his intention of bridging at least some of the great ideological gaps in our country. A man who so honorably values his own family could start by changing his mind on family leave.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 28, 2015

October 31, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Ideologues, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Right’s Political Correctness”: Conservatives Who Condemn Political Correctness Need To Start Calling Out Their Own

Scott Walker insists that when he changes his positions, he is not engaged in “flips.”

“A flip would be someone who voted on something and did something different,” the Wisconsin governor explained last week on Fox News. His altered views on immigration don’t count because he is not a legislator. “These are not votes,” he helpfully pointed out.

Sheer brilliance! Other than former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Walker’s major rivals at the moment are Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). They have all cast lots of votes. So Walker can accuse them of flip-flopping while claiming blanket immunity for himself.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party and the country, Walker’s careful parsing of shape-shifting counts as one of the cerebral high points of the debate among the party’s 2016 presidential candidates.

The shortage of philosophical adventure and the eagerness of GOP hopefuls to alter their positions to make them more conservative have the same cause: a Republican primary electorate that has moved so far right that it brooks no deviation. What makes it even harder for the candidates to break new ground is that the imperatives of orthodoxy are constraining even the thinkers who are trying to create a “reform conservatism.”

The fall-in-line-or-fall-in-the-polls rule means that Walker has gone from supporting to opposing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, as has New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie . Rubio got much praise for his work in negotiating a bipartisan bill that would have allowed the undocumented to become citizens — and then, faced with hostility from tea partyers, he turned against it.

Paul, the most daring of the lot because of his libertarian convictions, deserves kudos for being true to his small-state ideology by standing up — literally, for nearly 11 hours on the Senate floor — against the Patriot Act. But even Paul has recast his foreign policy positions to make them sound more hawkish and thus more in keeping with prevailing Republican views.

Accommodating right-wing primary voters poses real risks to the party in next year’s elections. Its candidates’ messages on immigration and gay marriage could hurt the GOP with, respectively, Latinos and the young.

But the greater loss is that none of the leading Republicans is willing to offer a more fundamental challenge to the party’s rightward lurch over the past decade. L. Brent Bozell III, a prominent activist on the right, could thus legitimately claim to The Post: “The conservative agenda is what is winning the field.”

Where, for example, is the candidate willing to acknowledge that, like it or not, there’s no way that anywhere close to all Americans will be able to get health insurance unless government plays a very large role? Where is the Republican who will admit that if the party had its way on further tax cuts, many programs Americans like would fall by the wayside?

The reform conservatives were supposed to remedy this shortcoming, and they have issued some detailed proposals. But their efforts remain largely reactive. Last week, Yuval Levin, the intellectual leader of the movement, joined a symposium in Reason, the sprightly libertarian magazine, to reassure others on the right that reform conservatives are — honest and true! — no less committed than they are to “limited government,” to rolling back “the liberal welfare state ” and to reducing government’s “size and scope.”

It’s not surprising that Levin’s fervently anti-statist Reason interlocutors were not fully persuaded. What’s disappointing to those outside conservatism’s ranks is that the reformicons are so often defensive.

With occasional exceptions, they have been far more interested in proving their faithfulness to today’s hard-line right than in declaring, as conservatives in so many other democracies have been willing to do, that sprawling market economies need a rather large dose of government. Conservatives, Levin says, are “eager to build on the longstanding institutions of our society to improve things.” Good idea. But somehow, the successes of decades-old governmental institutions in areas such as retirement security, health-care provision and environmental protection are rarely acknowledged.

Many Republicans, especially reform conservatives, know that most Americans who criticize government in the abstract still welcome many of its activities. Yet stating this obvious fact is now politically incorrect on the right. Conservatives who condemn political correctness in others need to start calling it out on their own side. Otherwise, Scott Walker’s artful redefinition of flip-flopping could become the 2016 Republican debate’s most creative intellectual contribution.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 24, 2015

May 25, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates, Political Correctness | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Defcon 1 Alert: Debt Ceiling Crisis Reveals GOP’s Suicide Bomber Wing

In  retrospect, the emergence of a suicide-bomber wing of the Republican Party  should’ve seemed obvious.

Why  use such an inflammatory term? What I mean by it is this: They would blow up  the economy to fulfill a mission of otherworldly righteousness.

Their  first attempt to blow up the economy arrived with the defeat  TARP. It was a  reckless subversion of the leadership of both parties  and, at least for a day,  brought equity markets to their knees.

With  ideological bravado to match their breathtaking economic  illiteracy, they  positively relished the impact they could have on our  national life.

Since  then, they’ve become still more emboldened, knocking off an  incumbent  senator in Utah and propping up a  bad joke of a senate  candidate in Delaware.

Last  year’s wave election infested the party with additional scores of suicide  bombers.

In  a repeat of the TARP fiasco, the bomber boys and (and, lest we  forget  bomber-in-chief Michele Bachmann, girls) have, once again, made  it impossible  for congressional leaders to do the right thing. A grand  bargain was in sight—but the itch for destruction overmatched the  desire for reasonable compromise.

We  may yet stumble toward some cobbled-together agreement that staves off a  catastrophe. But  the bombers will be emboldened again.

And  why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got a cheering section among Washington pundits.

The  normally thoughtful Yuval  Levin calls this suboptimal state of affairs, in which Republicans will secure  far less  in deficit reduction than they could have, a “stunning victory.” New  York Post columnist  Michael  Walsh compares the debt ceiling showdown to the Union’s victory at Gettysburg. Most  depressing of all is my former hero George  Will, who calls the Tea Party “the most welcome political development since the  Goldwater insurgency.”

Will  is dead wrong: Ronald Reagan’s election—or rather his  administration—did not  simply bring the “Goldwater impulse” to  “fruition.” It signaled that the  Goldwater impulse had matured into a  governing philosophy—a governing  philosophy that could accept  compromise, could acknowledge reality.

The  Tea Party’s triumph has reversed that process of maturation; a governing  philosophy has degraded back into mere impulse.

Enjoy  your ascendancy while it lasts, Tea Partyers.

But  know this: You are not legislators. You are vandals.

By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, July 26, 2011

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Disasters, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Lawmakers, Politics, Press, Public, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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