Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 23, 2011

OWNING THE 'ROADMAP'.... When congressional Republicans tapped House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to delivered the GOP's response to the State of the Union, it probably struck the party as an uncontroversial move. The Wisconsin Republican is a mild-mannered lawmaker, adored by the media, who'll very likely avoid the Jindal-like embarrassment we saw two years ago.

But Ryan's selection carries a broader significance. He is, after all, the architect of a very radical budget "roadmap," and the more Republican leaders rally behind Ryan, the more they take ownership of his extremist blueprint.

Indeed, this morning, the perpetually-confused, House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.), said on "Meet the Press" that "the direction in which the roadmap goes is something we need to embrace."

The wording of that endorsement is obviously pretty awkward, but the sentiment is unmistakable. This strikes me as pretty important -- before the midterm elections, Eric Cantor notably refused to endorse Paul Ryan's roadmap. Now he thinks the budget blueprint is "something we need to embrace."

Ezra Klein noted the larger dangers the other day.

...The more they elevate Ryan, the more they elevate Ryan's Roadmap. And that document is a timebomb for them: It doesn't just privatize Medicare, but it holds costs down by giving seniors checks that won't keep up with the price of health care. It privatizes much of Social Security. It cuts taxes on the rich while raising them on many in the middle class. [...]

Putting Ryan up as the face of the party suggests they know how important it is to seem like they have a plan. Without one, however, they're going to end up answering for his.

Ezra wrote this on Friday, before Cantor told a national television audience he agreed with the "direction" of Ryan's radical plan.

In other words, we're entering the phase in which Republicans are no longer able to credibly distance themselves from Ryan's roadmap, and they're apparently prepared to stop even trying.

For Democrats, that's actually excellent news. For the better part of two years, the GOP hasn't offered Dems anything but vague targets to criticize, because Republicans didn't have a policy agenda with any meat on the bones. If, as Cantor sees it, it's time for his party to "embrace" the roadmap, then it changes the conversation.

And what a conversation it is. Every fair-minded analysis makes clear that Ryan's roadmap is a right-wing fantasy, slashing taxes on the rich while raising taxes for everyone else. The plan calls for privatizing Social Security and gutting Medicare, and fails miserably in its intended goal -- cutting the deficit. As Paul Krugman explained, the Ryan plan "is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America's fiscal future."

When Republican candidates embrace this plan to radically transform governmental institutions and Americans' way of life, they're endorsing a Republican vision of governing more extreme than anything we've seen in the modern political era.

And as of this morning, the House Majority Leader believes it's a vision the Republican Party needs "needs to embrace."

Let the debate begin. It's one the GOP will lose, whether Cantor realizes it or not.

Steve Benen 12:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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As I have previously posted, Dems need to act as though Ryan's Roadmap is the official GOP position. Enough leaders have endorsed it while the party has failed to officially put forth a plan of its own.

Attack the plan as the GOP "solution" and make leadership either defend or disown it. If they disown Ryan's "plan," make them articulate what their real position is (if they have one).

Ryan needs to be the first casualty of the year. His credibility needs to be thoroughly eviscerated.

Posted by: bdop4 on January 23, 2011 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Amongst my most significant contributions to the haruspex channel was a grinning confidence about the certain direction of a rising fiery orb . Right as usual , as I like to say without even dallying to check my teeth for stray spinach leaves ...
But what's this ?
Do we have a colossus of reason claiming sanguinity in a contest with the sons of , and equals to , con men and swindlers ?

Tell me it ain't so Steve !

Posted by: FRP on January 23, 2011 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

The Roadmap seems like an especially pernicious trap for Republicans because most of them probably don't know what's in it.

Posted by: Dan on January 23, 2011 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Let the debate begin. It's one the GOP will lose, whether Cantor realizes it or not.

Well, now, that all depends on whether the Democrats actually debate the road map, or whether they attempt to forge a bipartisan compromise with it.

The fact that Ryan is the one setting the terms of the debate in the first place suggests that the latter scenario is the more likely.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on January 23, 2011 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

With the power of the right to sway the stupid masses, don't be so sure of the win.

Posted by: Michael on January 23, 2011 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

At some point Democrats should drive the point home that Republicans want to shred the safety net, raise taxes on the middle classes, and cut them for the rich. The problem is that the very people this message should resonate with don't vote. And the ones who do have been assured by the GOP that they won't have to suffer any cuts or pay higher taxes. We can talk as if this is long-term losing strategy for Republicans but the problem is that Democrats have to bargain for votes among those who actually bother to go to the polls. Ergo, Democrats will probably take a pass and let the Roadmap become conventional wisdom.

Posted by: walt on January 23, 2011 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

During the 2 minutes I could stand him on MTP, he dodged Gregory's questions; told him 'the plan' was all in the book the three of us wrote- twice!

Posted by: DAY on January 23, 2011 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

One wonders whether it might be a good idea (apart from President Obama's wonted aversion to raw partisanship making it unlikely) to make specific reference to both Hon. Rep. Ryan and his roadmap's main points in the speech proper, as well as during the post-game spin sessions. It would make any response seem like an evasion unless he either doubled down or tried to soft-pedal (also an evasion, I guess).

Posted by: jhm on January 23, 2011 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

My fear is that voters will go for Ryan's plan simply because he is not a blatantly stupid jerkoff. If they compare him only to the new norm of Republicanism (Palin, Beck, Gohmert, Bachmann, et al), he looks like a statesman instead of a con man.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on January 23, 2011 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

hells littlest angel,
Ryan v. Palin, etc, is not an either/or proposition.
In other words, Ryan's still a blatantly stupid jerkoff.
The only thing remaining is to argue the degree to which he is a blatantly stupid jerkoff.
And he sure ain't a 180 degrees different from the rest of the blatantly stupid jerkoff's - maybe what, 2 degrees?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 23, 2011 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

In a country where Velveeta® has been successfully marketed as if it were actual cheese, I foresee no problem in selling what are in face massive reductions to social provision as actual increases.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on January 23, 2011 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Voters will never 'go for Ryan's plan' if they do not trust Republicans to put their best interests first, rather than that of the wealthy.

In California, Brown's proposals for cutting are doing well with the people because they do not believe that he is covertly working in behalf of the wealthy.

I'd bet that part of Obama's 'disapproval' rating comes from the constant implication by the media and the 'trolls' on the web that he is a 'corporatist.' (Did he ever work for a corporation, by the way?) And that he is only in favor of the rich (see HP for this one.)

The NYT calls his SOTU call for jobs a 'centrist' move. Excuse me, but when did any Republican president in the past three decades make job creation a centerpiece of HIS State of the Union? Bush created no jobs.

But somehow, according to the NYT, a very traditional Democratic/Liberal concern (jobs) is suddenly 'centrist.' In fact it is Democratic/Liberal position that pre-dates Clinton.

For Pete's sake. We should evaluate what Obama actually does, not some airy-fairy version of it promoted by the C of C, the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street.

Posted by: jjm on January 23, 2011 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'll believe Ryan's Roadmap is a problem for the GOP just as soon as I see some people from the mainstream media who understand what's in it, and don't just fall for Ryan's personable nature. You can almost hear them thinking, 'How could his plan be radical, when he seems like such a nice guy?'

If there's anything we have learned over the last several years, it's that policy substance and facts take a back seat to what the public is told about a bill, the GOP will lie, lie, lie, and the mainstream media figures are extraordinarily, painfully, bad at math and afraid of numbers, so will refuse to question any bullshit the GOP feeds them.

Seriously, folks, adopting Ryan's plan is no more insane that starting a second land war in Asia and attacking a country incapable of, and largely uninterested in, attacking us, and they ended up doing that.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 23, 2011 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the tea baggers I saw at the meetings (on TV) last summer did not look like the super wealthy, I wonder how they will react to taxes for them going up. Those people like taxes for others but not for themselves.

Posted by: js on January 23, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I'll never understand why the Donkeys have to wait until the GOP officially embraces stupidity. They should simply declare often and loudly that the Rethugs believe the tenants of Ryan's roadmap. When one claims otherwise, the response should simply be "in what respect, asshole?"

Posted by: chopin on January 23, 2011 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think the slipperiness of Cantor's phrasing kind of speaks (and spoke) for itself: despite repeated pestering from David Gregory, Cantor wouldn't actually back specific elements - raising the retirement age, cutting benefits - of the Social Security "reforms" in Ryan's Roadmap. And Cantor's "move in the direction of starting a discussion" phrasing was beyond obfuscation into genuine fog. The real question isn't what the GOP leadership favors... it's what Ryan will actually do now that he's in charge of the budgeting committee and whether his Roadmap can actually be implemented. Like many, including Ezra, I'm guessing no; and that, when pressed, Republicans will, as Cantor did, run away from the specifics. That's a political success.... but a practical problem for right and left, since Ryan, in fact, is about the only person who seems to have the math skills to notice that the only way to cut a budget is to actually cut something. If there's no political will to cut - and, really, there isn't - Republicans will crash on the shores of their own promises to get spending in hand. But I'm not sure that helps the left when they're not especially interested in making hard choices either. And the point is, still... something has to be cut. Spending has to come down. And until that reality sinks in, everyone, and our economy, is likely to lose.

Posted by: weboy on January 23, 2011 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

"...the perpetually-confused, House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.)..."
that should be typed out in full every time cantor is written about.

Posted by: mellowjohn on January 23, 2011 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

What's wrong with this picture:
"Paul Ryan ... adored by the media ... after all, the architect of a very radical budget "roadmap, ..." - ?
Note that Ryanites want the little people to pay more taxes (even as their earning more money to start with is topic unmentionable), so how will that play ...

Posted by: neil b on January 23, 2011 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

... Yet I disagree with your assessment that this is such good news for Democrats. The electorate has shown itself to be so monumentally stupid and easily hypnotized by sentiments and sloganeering, they could easily still elect destroyers of their own interests and strut around with the smug sniffings of how they "showed those liberal elitists..." (how ironic, such votes are just what the real media elitists behind the scenes want to see.) This is the disgraceful electorate and media elite we have, not the ones we wish for.

Posted by: neil b' on January 23, 2011 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Many wealthy folks are the progeny of a generation of folks who simply never put on airs , aside from Sundays go to church meetings . Judging a grassroots Coca Cola , or an improvisational 'Pfizer raising returns get together' as just another ordinary wholesome mixer , are among the tired PR strokes . Might be what makes it possible to see Teu Baggeurs as jes plain folks .
Soon the right will engage in an absurd attempt to claim cutting taxes for the wealthiest are a grassroots effort too . We all know that was a Reagan revolution .

Posted by: FRP on January 23, 2011 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

In theory, Democrats Ryan's roadmap would be a roadmap to a massive asswhooping by the Democratic party all over the GOP.

In reality, the WH appears crafting a SOTU address that will legitimize the basic principles that the social safety net is "on the table."

Like a Price Is Right contestant that simply bids $1 more than the other competitor, Obama has embraced a political strategy of simply appearing 1% better than Republicans rather than drawing strong contrasts. The WH CW is that liberals have nowhere to go, so Obama if can woo some disaffected center-right independents...Obama wins in 2012.

The truth is that liberals do have somewhere to go. They can stay home, as they did in 2010. And low-information voters will probably not be clued in enough to figure out the actual differences between Paul Ryan's roadmap and Barack Obama's "Grand Bargain."

The disconnect that deeply irritates me is that Steve Benen pounds on the idiocy of the GOP day after day while completely ignoring the fact that the Democratic Party either fails to capitalize on the idiocy or is complicit in spreading it.

Posted by: square1 on January 23, 2011 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Ryans budget plan is from AEI

Posted by: Kill Bill on January 23, 2011 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Just wanted to say that Huffington has a link to a website that says Keith Olberman left MSNBC to create his own media empire, and will start a site similar to Huffington Post where he will be in control of his message without any restrictions and he alone will be responsible for the content.
If true it will be great!!!!!!!

Posted by: JS on January 23, 2011 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

did you see Cantor squirm when asked to debunk the birthers....

Apparently he believes to gov't is stopping business investment, and rejects the idea that the gov't has to invest in America. I'm sure Roadway will build highways on it's own because it needs them for it's business, no need for any gov't. Walmart will build all the local roads so customers can get to it's stores. Indeed companies should be building their own towns for the workers, and manage the schooling too so they'll have people they want working for them--and pay them in script...

Not sure if Republicans are going for the mining town model or the RoboCop model of businesses running gov't.

Posted by: golack on January 23, 2011 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

SILLY WABBIT..Republicans don't LOOSE...they just up the lies they tell...and with our useless media to pick up their rhetoric and talking points how hard will it be to convince the braindead electorate that they will be doing what is best for them??? Not much, I'm thinking...

Posted by: Dancer on January 23, 2011 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

"the direction in which the roadmap goes is something we need to embrace."


Correct me if I'm wrong, but the key word in that is 'direction', meaning Ryan's plan as written is farther than Cantor wants to go, at least at this time. (Which is bad enough.)

The mistake Dems made was not touting the Roadmap as GOP doctrine ahead of the November elections.

Posted by: Seould on January 23, 2011 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ryan really wants to eliminate Medicare and Social Security, two ideas that are dead on arrival. Would it be too much to hope the mainstream media mentions this in passing.

Posted by: max on January 23, 2011 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

This may be the Democratic Parties last chance to get power back for quite a while. If they fail and are wishy-washy about clear resistance and solutions that serve their constituents, the middle and working class then it is done. There needs to be passion in the ranks so voters are rallied and show up next chance they get to cast a ballot.
The left has to fight the same way the right does, but better.

Posted by: jonthebru on January 23, 2011 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Completely in agreement with the sentiment here that this is the Democrats' game to lose...and they'll probably lose it.

Posted by: Big River Bandido on January 23, 2011 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Let the debate begin. It's one the GOP will lose, whether Cantor realizes it or not."

I'm with Michael (and practically everyone else) on this one. Don't underestimate the stupidity of the TPers. And don't underestimate their capacity for denial of reality. For them, opinion and facts are the same thing and if we present facts, and Cantor presents opinion, they'll just say that we are entitled to our opinion, but they believe Cantor. And when our facts are shown to be correct, it will just strengthen their faith in his opinion. That is what cognitive dissonance is all about.

There is a certain mindset that is not swayed by reality, and it seems to be the default setting for the human mind according to a summary of reports I've read in some of the popular science magazines. To be able to distinguish between reality and fantasy requires a WEIRD mind (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) and although the US as a country fits that category, many (most?) people in the US don't.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on January 23, 2011 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Walmart will build all the local roads so customers can get to it's stores."

It's absurd, really. Our small city avoided a Walmart Superstore because the city stood up to Walmart and told them if they wanted to build they had to spend megabucks to improve the intersection by the proposed store. Walmart said no thanks. So much for the "private industry will build infrastructure" theory.

Posted by: Hmmmmm on January 24, 2011 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

"I wonder how they will react to taxes for them going up."
Posted by: js on January 23, 2011 at 2:11 PM

These are the same people who have for two years been absolutely convinced that Obama / Congressional Dem's raised their taxes, when their taxes had actually been lowered.
Given this demonstrable record of reality, what in the world would make you think they will ever believe their taxes will have gone up, when they will be told they've gone down, and will believe what they've been told -- exactly as they have done these past two years?

Posted by: smartalek on January 24, 2011 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

Since Eric Cantor vowed to Bebe Netanyahu in November that the GOP would fight the Obama Administration's policies I wonder if Cantor will support cutting military aid to Israel in order to reduce the deficit.

And of course Israel's need for US military support would decline if Jewish settlers stopped expanding their settlements in Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Would Cantor at least call for a moratorium on the expansion of Jewish settlements? That wouldn't cost the US anything and could save us billions as well as defuse terrorist threats to Americans everywhere.

C'mon Eric, whaddya say?

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 24, 2011 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, nice article. Representative Ryan sure has come out of nowhere. I am interested to hear his speech to the State of the Union. Anyway, nice blog - I'm subscribed to your feed now so thanks again!

Posted by: Nectar Whey Protein Isolate on January 25, 2011 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK



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