Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 26, 2011

PAUL RYAN'S MISSED OPPORTUNITY.... The point of an opposition response to the State of the Union is to take issue with the president's agenda and recommend a better alternative. To that extent, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was at least a marginally reasonable choice -- his vision may be radical, but at least it exists.

But that's what made the official Republican response last night so odd. The one guy in the House GOP majority who appears to have given some thought to the party's vision on spending, entitlements, and debt spoke for more than 10 minutes without discussing his plan at all.

Ross Douthat noticed:

Ryan's rejoinder was more urgent and more focused: America's crippling debt was an organizing theme, and there were warnings of "painful austerity measures" and a looming "day of reckoning." But his remarks, while rhetorically effective, were even more vague about the details of that reckoning than the president's address. Ryan owes his prominence, in part, to his willingness to propose a very specific blueprint for addressing the entitlement system's fiscal woes. But in his first big moment on the national stage, the words "Medicare" and "Social Security" did not pass the Wisconsin congressman's lips.

What's the point of giving the spotlight to the Republican with a plan and then having him avoid any mention of his plan? The answer is one GOP leaders probably know, but don't want to talk about -- the Ryan roadmap, encapsulating the Republican vision on the budget, is a radical mess. If Americans fully appreciated its contents, the electoral backlash would be severe.

As a consequence, we were left with a rather shallow GOP response. To be sure, it wasn't as grating as Bobby Jindal's speech in 2009, but that's a fairly low bar to clear.

But it quickly became a pointless exercise. Paul Ryan is worried about the debt, but he offered literally nothing in the way of cuts. He's terrified of spending, but didn't even try to explain how he and his party would be fiscally responsible.

I'm not even sure who the intended audience was. President Obama's speech seemed intended to appeal to the center, but Paul repeated tired Republican talking points, as if to reassure the GOP base that their party leaders haven't changed at all.

And in case that wasn't quite enough, the Budget Committee chairman not only offered a vague and evasive response, he also delivered a breathtakingly dishonest one, repeating obvious falsehoods that were so offensive, one can only assume the goal was deliberate deception.

If this was Paul Ryan's first meaningful chance to shine on the national stage, it was a flop. The Ayn Rand acolyte had an opportunity, but he's clearly not ready for prime time.

Steve Benen 9:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Ryan spoke about economic issues like a guy who is very concerned about his workout regimen.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on January 26, 2011 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Paul who? Unfortunately - or maybe fortunately for him - five minutes later his colleague Bachmann upstaged him and this morning no one remembers him, all they think of are her crazy eyes.

Posted by: g on January 26, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

What did Bachmann use on her eyes?
Was it a Sharpie, or a larger permanent marker?

Also, she never looked into CNN's camera, preferring to stare at the one for the internet broadcast, which gave her a weird, haunted and crazy look on the news network.
I listened to it last night, but watched it this morning.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 26, 2011 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

So Ryan wimped out. That probably was to be expected, but what did the Crazy Lady have to say?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on January 26, 2011 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

It's too bad the President didn't mention Paul Ryan's corporate tax reform (essentially a value added tax) during the speech. It would have knocked the Congressman for a loop ("Uh----what President Obama said.") and driven the rest of the GOP caucus crazy since they think of consumption taxes as "European socialist style job killing value added taxes."

And it would have gotten people to look at Ryan's Medicare and Social Security proposals which are probably not real popular.

Posted by: Art Hackett on January 26, 2011 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

No mistake on Ryan's part. He well knows that the implementation of his Contract on America depends upon making sure that no one really understands what it involves.

Posted by: dr. bloor on January 26, 2011 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Full disclosure: I didn't watch the SOTU or anyone's reply. But I imagne that Fox, et al, is gushing over his response and him. Remember, he's "highly respected". As long as he was better than Jindal, they're gonna love him.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on January 26, 2011 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

On what possible basis can you accuse either Ryan or Bachmann of dishonesty in their speeches?

The very, very liberal Associated Press has presented a REAL FACT CHECKING of last night's speeches. They find that Obama was the dishonest, misleading one! The AP acknowledged the accuracy of the Ryan and Bachmann speeches by not needing to publish an article about any inaccurate facts in them.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on January 26, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Who is Paul Ryan? Is he that guy that tried to bore everyone to sleep before the real response?

He's finished after that flop.

The SOTU response is serious career wrecker for aspiring Republicans. Maybe Obama should give one every week.

Posted by: doubtful on January 26, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

"one can only assume the goal was deliberate deception"

I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

Posted by: Joey Maloney on January 26, 2011 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I didn't watch any of the three speeches (Ms.T2 preferred a movie) but did catch a few seconds of Bachmann....enough to understand it was a high-school level production at best. The TeaParty apparently could use a Director and stage manager. She was a joke, staring off into space like Little Stevie Wonder, and prattling on about this and that with Zero actual proposals to fix any of the things she complained about. In that way, she and Ryan were the same. Lots of gripes, no solutions.

Posted by: T2 on January 26, 2011 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, we had the Liberal Republican President give the SOTU speech, followed by the Loonie Toon response from the Queen of Deluded Hearts, then, downward to the mumbling of Ryan. So, when, will we have a Prgressive Democratic SOTU response? Or, does that part of the Party exist at the moment?

Posted by: berttheclock on January 26, 2011 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Ryan not dishonest? I am so sick of "failed stimulus." Repeat it enough and folks will believe it--despite what the non-politician experts say. (But what do your "so-called" experts know? Let me tell you my opinion ...) I just wish those in the know who also happen to be honest would push back every time an irresponsible ideologue uses the phrase.

Posted by: David on January 26, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Too bad the citizenry can't put two and two together and realize that Ryan's lack of explanation of his "roadmap" is because specifics are horrifying, no taxes for the filthy rich from libertarian Paul, tax increases for the rest of us. Sen. Sanders stated on MSNBC yesterday his intent to bring the measures proposed by Ryan up for a vote in the Senate, hope he's able to do so.

Bachmann had a weird, haunted and crazy look according to c u n d gulag, that's her normal look isn't it? The alternate universe of the Tea Party with their alternate "facts" is beginning to spook me.

Posted by: Kathryn on January 26, 2011 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

What's the point of giving the spotlight to the Republican with a plan and then having him avoid any mention of his plan?

It spotlights the facts that:

1) The Ryan plan won't work, and the Republicans likely know it,
2) The Ryan plan would be deeply unpopular among voters, and the Republicans likely know it, and
3) The so-called "liberal media" will fail to draw these obvious conclusions -- or point out Ryan's numerous falsehoods -- and the same Republicans that complain about the SCLM to the rubes are flat-out counting on it.

Posted by: Gregory on January 26, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Ryan's talk reminded me of a angry accountant talking to the old man who shakes his fist at the sky.

I am not sure i want to live in the world Ryan envisions.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 26, 2011 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

There's that "To be sure," again.

Posted by: anonymouss on January 26, 2011 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Ryan is a bought-and-paid-for corporate stooge who plays a "libertarian" on TV to bamboozle gullible rubes with bullshit.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 26, 2011 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

The one guy in the House GOP majority who appears to have given some thought to the party's vision on spending, entitlements, and debt spoke for more than 10 minutes without discussing his plan at all.

Hate to say I told you so, but (see the last paragraph here) I kinda did, didn't I?

Posted by: Steve M. on January 26, 2011 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Ryan: 10 minutes of platitudes and lectures about debt and big government. The solution: we're about to do what they did to Greece--painful austerity measures, cuts in retirement benefits, crippling taxes. Where do I sign up??

Posted by: bruce k on January 26, 2011 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

On Fox broadcast tv last night Chris Wallace stated that Ryan was "scary smart." Oh yea.
Ryan was like a youngish mega-church preacher. We must repent. We will be punished for our transgressions. Follow Me. I am the way.
It works on the 30%ers.

Posted by: reduced on January 26, 2011 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Paul Ryan was in the House for the duration of Bush's presidency, and there is no record whatsoever of him raising concerns about the deficit, let alone voting against any Republican-supported budget buster (including the Medicare prescription-drug benefit). He's just an enormous fraud, as is any Republican who complains about deficits and was around for the Bush years.

Posted by: kth on January 26, 2011 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

When I heard Ryan's reference to the problems in Greece last night I thought, "really, our situation is as bad as Greece." Then I remembered that the Greek economy is smaller than several of our 50 states. It has been spending way beyond it's means for decades. It isn't a world power. It is simply not a good example. Better examples might be Germany, or China, or even India. The economies of countries close to ours in size are hurting, but they are still investing in infrastructure and education.

Winning the future isn't going to be accomplished by austerity. The British tried that after WWII and it didn't work. The British are trying the same measures today because they tend to forget the lessons they should have learned 50 years ago.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 26, 2011 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, can we quit calling people who want to cut spending "fiscally responsible"? Balancing the budget -- indeed, paying down the debt -- is very responsible during good economic times. (Which is why Democrats do it and Republicans don't.) But cutting spending during a huge recession is utterly irresponsible. It only prolongs the recession (and thereby increases the debt, if you insist on using that as a metric.)

Posted by: Tom Allen on January 26, 2011 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

What was with all the sighing and grimacing??? Every single time he had to mention Obama or 'the Left' he gave a heavy sigh and pursed his lips. FU! I don't need to be lectured by a grinch I need facts!

Posted by: SYSPROG on January 26, 2011 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Watching Paul Ryan's response, I thought I was seeing a high school debate video. Let's see - a repetitive stream of shallow cliches, misleading statements without offering any kind of substantive evidence to back them, and the usual litany of lame Republican talking points. Earth to Ryan (and the rest of the national Republicans), come in please. All the problems he alluded to and laid at the feet of a big, out-of-control government are really the inevitable result of Republican policies hatched by Ronald Reagan and reconstituted by Boy George.

Posted by: David Martin on January 26, 2011 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

DU has an article about Ayn Rand...she collected Social Security and was using Medicare in later life along with her husband. The hypocrisy loomed large when it became personal...just like if Lyin Ryan became disabled it'd be SS and Medicare and no spending cuts.

Posted by: bjobotts on January 26, 2011 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK



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