Stephen Hayes on Paul Ryan

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 12, 2012

His article from last month is worth reading. Some interesting snippets–this one from a town hall meeting that was infiltrated by anti-Ryan agitators:

The town hall in Kenosha is Ryan’s third public meeting of the day. He begins his comments by urging those in the crowd to treat each other with respect in order to facilitate a good conversation based on an exchange of ideas. As he says this, supporters of Rob Zerban, the Democrat who will lose to Ryan in November, hold up bumper stickers in front of their faces and begin talking loudly amongst themselves. When a security guard asks them to stop, several of them, led by a woman who looked to be in her 50s, affix the bumper stickers to their foreheads, an act of defiance that they evidently find quite hilarious.

[. . .]

Ryan’s efforts to keep things civil are not reciprocated. As he takes questions from the crowd, his opponents get louder. Finally, perhaps in an effort to mollify the Zerban supporters, Ryan calls on one of them. After a brief speech about the value of wind as an energy source and its benefits in Europe, she asks why state legislators aren’t doing more to produce wind. “Why aren’t we in Wisconsin getting on the bandwagon in this instead of blocking it?” Ryan temporarily resists the temptation to embarrass her, choosing instead to point out that there are federal incentives for alternative energy. “There is a wind production tax credit in the law, and it’s the only way to make it actually economically viable,” he begins, before the questioner shouts back at him.

“I understand—I’m talking about Wisconsin! How about in Wisconsin?!”

“I’m your federal representative. I don’t know what to tell you about your state government rules.”

A man from the anti-Ryan group tries to help her. “You’re the state representative!” he shouts over Ryan’s answer.

Ryan remains calm. “I’m not your state representative. I’m your federal representative.” He ticks off a list of the state representatives and state senators who represent people in his district. The crowd isn’t having it.

“You represent us in Washington, and this is about jobs!!” the original questioner shouts, to applause from her friends.

Ryan tries again to satisfy them. “There is a federal policy for wind turbine production,” he begins.

“Not as big as the tax cuts for oil!!!” another woman shouts.

The scary thing is that if you give the Zerban people some computers and let them blog, they would represent an improvement over the vast majority of the port-side blogosphere.

And then there is the description of his confrontations with the president:

On January 27, 2010, the day President Obama would deliver his State of the Union address, Ryan re-introduced an updated version of the Roadmap and explained his effort in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:

The difference between the Roadmap and the Democrats’ approach could not be more clear. From the enactment of a $1 trillion “stimulus” last February to the current pass-at-all-costs government takeover of health care, the Democratic leadership has followed a “progressive” strategy that will take us closer to a tipping point past which most Americans receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes—a European-style welfare state where double-digit unemployment becomes a way of life.

Americans don’t have to settle for this path of decline. There’s still time to choose a different future. That is what the Roadmap offers. It is based on a fundamentally different vision from the one now prevailing in Washington. It focuses the government on its proper role. It restrains government spending, and hence limits the size of government itself.

These contrasting visions would be on display two days later, when the president accepted an invitation from House Republicans to address their retreat in Baltimore. Ryan took the opportunity to confront Obama directly on his promise to freeze discretionary spending.

“Mr. President, first off, thanks for agreeing to accept our invitation here. It is a real pleasure and honor to have you with us here today,” Ryan said before introducing his wife and children to the president. He moved quickly to substance, inviting the president to endorse a constitutional line-item veto he’d proposed with then-senator Russ Feingold before getting specific on the budget.

I serve as the ranking member of the Budget Committee, so I want to talk a little budget, if you don’t mind. The spending bills that you have signed into law, the domestic and discretionary spending has been increased by 84 percent. You now want to freeze spending at this elevated level beginning next year. This means that total spending in your budget would grow at three hundredths of 1 percent less than otherwise. I would simply submit that we could do more and start now.

Obama responded directly:

I want to just push back a little bit on the underlying premise, about us increasing spending by 84 percent. Now, look, I talked to Peter Orszag right before I came here, because I suspected I’d be hearing this—I’d be hearing this argument. The fact of the matter is that most of the increases in this year’s budget, this past year’s budget, were not as a consequence of policies that we initiated, but instead were built in as a consequence of the automatic stabilizers that kick in because of this enormous recession. So the increase in the budget for this past year was actually predicted before I was even sworn into office and had initiated any policies.

Obama went on to claim that anyone who had occupied the White House “would have seen those same increases” and that “a lot of these things happened automatically.”

He was wrong. Ryan gently corrected the president.

“I would simply say that automatic stabilizer spending is mandatory spending. The discretionary spending, the bills that Congress signs—that you sign into law—that has increased 84 percent. So .  .  .”

Obama, having been bested, moved quickly to end the exchange. “We’ll have a—we’ll have a longer debate on
the budget numbers there, all right?”

[. . .]

A month later the two men went at it again at the White House’s Health Care Summit at Blair House. Ryan challenged the Obama administration’s claim that the Democrats’ health care proposal would reduce the deficit. “This bill does not control costs,” he said. “This bill does not reduce deficits. Instead this bill adds a new health care entitlement at a time when we have no idea how to pay for the entitlements we already have.”

Ryan argued that the Congressional Budget Office, which scored the bill, could only judge what is put in front of it. “And what has been placed in front of them is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors. Now, what do I mean when I say that? Well, first off, the bill has 10 years
of tax increases, about half a trillion dollars, with 10 years of Medicare cuts, about half a trillion dollars, to pay for 6 years of spending. Now, what’s the true 10-year cost of this bill in 10 years? That’s $2.3 trillion.”

“There really is a difference between us,” Ryan said. “And it’s basically this: We don’t think the government should be in control of all of this. We want people to be in control. And that, at the end of the day, is the big difference.”

Obama glared at Ryan throughout his remarks and didn’t answer Ryan’s specific challenges, saying he didn’t “want to get too bogged down,” before changing the subject.

Something tells me that Paul Ryan has some very good tips for Mitt Romney on how to debate the president.

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