Paul Ryan: The Burnishing


Mention the name Paul Ryan to many Democrats and you’re likely to get either a chuckle or a snarl. Some will be remembering the 2012 Vice-Presidential debates between Ryan and Joe Biden, a moment of political farce if ever there was one; the others will still be stinging from the Ryan budget plans that earned him the nickname The Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver from Charlie Pierce.

But step across the aisle, this week, and you’ll hear some Ryan acclaim that may startle and amaze, especially since his latest feat is hammering out a bipartisan budget deal that raises spending and taxes [aka “fees”] and forgives and forgets the debt.  Paul Ryan, all of a sudden, walks on water. 

Literally . . .

“Paul Ryan is the Jesus of our conference. If Paul gives something his blessing, it brings the votes,” a senior Republican leadership aide said of the Wisconsin lawmaker.

Maybe Republicans are suffering from obstruction fatigue and just want to be home for Christmas but, for 24 hours the media has been awash in such over-the-top assessments of Paul Ryan that are all the more outrageous for being so easily refuted.

Ryan has been sitting in the House, theoretically doing the People’s Business, for 14 years now and despite having embarrassingly little to show for that time, in the way of actual legislative product, he is perceived as some sort of legislative genius.

Halfway through his first term, Ryan passed his first bill which renamed a Post Office in his hometown henceforward known as the Les Aspin Post Office.  Les Aspin the Democrat, no less.

Four years after that, Ryan passed another important bill cutting the excise tax on arrow parts because . . . .


That’s it.  That’s Ryan’s total legislative contribution over 14 years in office.  But that doesn’t stop his even less productive colleagues from gushing things like:

“I think he has unquestionably been our intellectual leader, not just in the House of Representatives on our side of the aisle but in the Republican Party on these types of issues. So he really is the smartest guy we have who has shaped our thinking, and he’s come back and said, ‘This is a good deal,’” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who said he expected a majority of House Republicans to support the deal.

Or this:

Ryan did it, Mulvaney said, by demonstrating that he had deep knowledge of budget issues, and a passion to begin undoing Congress’s past mistakes. “This is not just another politician who’s decided to take an issue and pretend like he knows a bunch about it,” Mulvaney said. “Paul really is the leading expert on this.”

Even this:

“I do think there is a high regard for Paul. He is the budget guru and I think he does bring a lot of credibility with it,” said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.

And how did Paul Ryan become “the budget guru”?  It certainly wasn’t his education which is a BS in marketing from Ohio’s Miami University.  Nor his work experience which consisted of a very brief stint in the family business and a now famous gig driving the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

As with so many charismatic leaders, Ryan became the House budget wonk by wishing it so.  And talking the talk.  And since the Republican Congressional contingent is not awash in real-world economics experts, he got away with it.

Ryan scored a seat on the House Budget Committee, whose job is to produce theoretical policy statements, rather than actual legislation—more up Ryan’s alley—and a star was born.

Ryan’s main claim to fame, before losing the White House with Mitt Romney in 2012, was his famous Path To Prosperity budget plan a muscle-flexing piece of conservative wishful thinking riding the coattails of the 2010 Republican wave that took back the House.  This was Paul Ryan’s “If I Ruled the World” manifesto which couldn’t possibly ever be enacted as long as Democrats held the White House and Senate.

Critics pointed out that the plan had no substance, was purely theoretical and based on pretty faulty theory at that.  But the important thing, for Paul Ryan at least, was that it made a name for him among rock-ribbed fiscal conservatives, without his ever having to preside over an actual implementation.

When it comes to Paul Ryan’s visions translated into bipartisan legislation that might actually be enacted, the core-principles bar goes waaaay down and the budget guru is only able to cough up a mini-deal.

The most baffling bit of Paul Ryan acclaim that has surfaced over the past week, though, is the Legend of Paul Ryan, Man of Principles that is utterly bewildering to me on the heels of the well-documented Romney/Ryan Assault on Truth of 2012.

Here’s a sample:

“There’s nobody better than Paul Ryan. There’s nobody more knowledgeable and nobody more principled that Paul Ryan. So that gives me a lot of confidence just knowing that it’s him. The trust is high. I think everybody knows him and he’s one of the most respected individuals in Congress period. By both sides,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said Tuesday, just hours before Ryan and Murray announced their deal.

“The thing about him is that everyone knows he’s a straight shooter, he’s not going to play games. And that’s what it takes,” Diaz-Balart said. “Everyone understands what he says is real, whether you agree with Paul Ryan or not everybody understands that his word is truthful. In this process, he’s among the most trusted.”

On what PLANET? Rep. Diaz-Balart . . .

Google “Paul Ryan Lies” and you get 3 million hits including these:

Lies, Damned Lies and Paul Ryan Lies from The Nation

Paul Ryan Lies Again from Salon January, 2013

Worst Lies in Paul Ryan’s Speech from Think Progress August 30, 2012

Top Ten Repeated Paul Ryan Lies from Juan Cole August 2012

Paul Ryan’s Biggest Gaffes, Lies and Misstatements from Times Union August 2012

Paul Ryan’s 6 Biggest Lies From the Ryan RNC Speech from PolicyMic

Paul Ryan’s 5 Biggest Lies From the Vice-Presidential Debate

None of which, to the best of my knowledge have been successfully refuted.  PolitiFact scores Ryan at 73% of his statements falling into the Half-True to Pants-on-Fire range.  Do they honestly think that we’ve all forgotten?  Paul Ryan is either a terrible liar, deluded or can’t be bothered with facts.  No matter which it is, far from aspiring to the White House, Paul Ryan ought to shoot for a nicely appointed office at the Heritage Foundation where other-worldly policy fantasies are truly appreciated and actual work isn’t a requirement.

Posted by Bette Noir on 12/12/13 at 12:26 PM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsBqhatevwrElection '16

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What with Congress doing precisely fuck-all these days, no one judges Senators or Reps on their actual achievements. Rather, we go by how often their sound bites are quoted on cable news, how many bloggers swoon at the sound of their names, and the production value on the ridiculous ads and videos they release. That’s how Paul Ryan becomes a power broker despite having done very little actual brokering.

Welcome to the 21st Century media culture. We have all the time in the world to have serious discussions but we can’t be arsed to do it.

I heard Ryan making the necessary face-saving excuses and putting lipstick on the budget deal on NPR on the way home from work today.  My main impression?  He’s decided he’s well enough known now that its time to dial back the batshit stuff so he can make with the ‘higher office’ seeking, meaning I think the little twerp is just egotistical enough to think he’s ready for the top spot on a presidential ticket in 2016.

I think that Diaz-Balart’s statement reflects the fact that most Congresspeople are actually so low on the totem pole and so badly informed about how things like budgets work that they are simply desperate to choose someone to follow so they don’t have to take responsibility for whatever happens. Boehner is a weak leader and has broken his word and followed his caucus so many times that he’s not worthy of being a fantasy leader right now. And Ryan is tall, I’ll give him that, and got himself built up by his VP run and appearing briefly on the big stage.  So its easy for the pygmies in the repubclian bull pen to just prefer to build him up in order to follow him than to keep following—who? Ted Cruz? they know they can’t afford that and he’s in the Senate. The tea party tempest is temporarily cooling down, to mix my metaphors.

@StringOnAStick: It’s a little early for Ryan to be playing to the center. That’s what you do after the primary, especially given the current state of the GOP. He’d be ripped apart by Cruz or (insert flash-in-the-pan conservative savior here) if he tried that.

This might have been Ryan being the face of the party than any personal move. The Republican attempt to pin the government shutdown on the President never really took root - hard to shift the blame when you were just bragging about your misdeeds, even with our wonderful newsmedia. Any more shutdowns would land harder on the right than the left, and they don’t need that. So they send out their most likable figure (I know, but who else would it be?) to polish that turd.

Great, thoughtful and thought-provoking commentary, folks.

I suppose so, D. Johnston, I suspect you are right.  But there was something in the way he was speaking in that interview that made me think, hmm, this guy’s slippery enough that I suspect he has a longer term plan in mind. It is a theory, and for now I’m keeping it in my duffle bag of ideas.

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