Political Animal


April 02, 2012 8:30 AM Ryan Misspeaking

By Ed Kilgore

It was a fine moment when Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey called out Rep. Paul Ryan for essentially calling the military brass liars last week. Ryan was trying to explain why his budget, despite its allegedly relentless focus on deficit reduction and its undeniably large cuts in the social safety along with fat new tax cuts for businesses and wealthy individuals, demanded close to a half trillion dollars more than the Pentagon said it needed over the next ten years.

On CNN yesterday, Ryan said he had “misspoke” by saying the generals were lying to him, and even called Dempsey to apologize. But then he backtracked:

“What I was attempting to say is, President Obama put out his budget number for the Pentagon first, $500 billion cut, and then they began the strategy review to conform the budget to meet that number,” Ryan said. “We think it should have been the other way around.”

Well, um, Gen. Dempsey’s original objection to Ryan’s characterization of the Pentagon’s “advice” kind of addressed this argument:

“There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus … calling us, collectively, liars,” Gen. Dempsey told reporters aboard a U.S. military aircraft after a four day visit to Latin America. ”My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget.”

Ryan’s idea of strategery, it seems, consists of the two words “More Money.” If he’s going to question whether the Pentagon was following a “strategy-driven” process to arrive at its numbers, he needs to put on his toy helmet and get specific. Otherwise he’s doing exactly what Dempsey complained of: not disagreeing, but asserting dishonesty.

In the meantime, if Ryan’s in the mood for apologies, he might consider a retraction of his insufferable comments about the too-generous nature of the safety net, and his claims the poor would be better off if freed from “dependence” on any sort of public assistance.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Danp on April 02, 2012 8:44 AM:

    and then they began the strategy review to conform the budget to meet that number,” Ryan said. “We think it should have been the other way around.”

    Ryan's plan to "rescue" medicare is a budget driven plan. In fact, other than the military, the entire Ryan budget fails to solve any problems aside from budgetary ones. And those solutions are phony as well.

  • Hedda Peraz on April 02, 2012 8:48 AM:

    It would be interesting to know just how much defense spending takes place in Ryan's district.

  • Ron Byers on April 02, 2012 8:49 AM:

    Ryan is full of himself. Nobody in the media calls this self important tool out. Instead the say he is serious. He is serious alright. He seriously wants to play Robinhood in reverse. He wants to steal from the poor and give to the rich.

  • Ron Byers on April 02, 2012 8:52 AM:

    Danp, Ryan doesn't solve any budgetary problems that he doesn't create by lowering taxes on the rich.

  • AtlasMugged on April 02, 2012 8:53 AM:

    America needs more $10 million toilet seats if we're going to beat the Chinese and Russia.

    Conservatives love to come up with kitschy examples of federal spending on arts and sciences ("look at all this money on the mating habits of mice or some silly play!") This is a case where they need a taste of that same treatment.

  • J on April 02, 2012 9:01 AM:

    Ryan did not misspeak - he lied!

  • stormskies on April 02, 2012 9:11 AM:

    We all know here that all's he, and all other Repiglicans, do is lie. That's all they do. And they lie in order to conceal their actual agendas, their actual realities. And, of course, the corporate media serves as a megaphone for those lies because they are never stated as lies. So the purposeful propaganda manifested in all these lies is then repeated so often that the lies them become the truth to many of our fellow citizens because they themselves need to 'believe' in those lies.

    And of course the reason that the likes of corporate cum sluts like Brian Williams, David "I am not a used corporate condom" Gregory, and all the rest of these corrupted souls do not expose the lies is because they are paid the millions that they are by the corporation like General Electric not too.

    So pig shits like Ryan know they can lie which is exactly why they do.

  • Kathryn on April 02, 2012 9:15 AM:

    Ron Byers has it right. As far as the media goes, All they are is stenographers, as has been pointed out by many who comment here. Jay Leno ask more challenging questions of Mitt Romney than any tv journalist has.

    Even interviews on non political stories are simple recitations by the interviewee as the interviewer sits passively by. Recent examples, local Fox interview with George Zimmerman's father and Pierce whatshisname on CNN with Zimmerman's brother. One wonders if a Republican politician or a father defending his son with questionable facts could charge the president of the United States with murder or treason and still receive no challenge from a comatose " professional" journalist.

  • esaud on April 02, 2012 9:26 AM:

    Remember when all of Washington took to the fainting couch over MoveON's Paetraus Betray Us ad?

    On a related note, it is truly stunning how The Budget for All gets zero attention in the media. Mr. Kilgore, how about contacting some of the big blogs (like Wonkbook or Plumline) and make a big deal over Raul Grijavla one of these days? There is such a ridiculous imbalance in what gets to be news these days, and progressive blogs should not just be taking cues from what ABC or WaPo says is news.

  • zandru on April 02, 2012 9:33 AM:

    Lost in All the Shouting...

    is that the United States Constitution clearly specifies civilian control of the military. The President, being the Commander in Chief, can order the Pentagon desk jockeys to adjust their strategies, set different goals, decrease their spending, whatever.

    It's part of his Constitutional duty. The military, every member of which swears to uphold the Constitution, is required to obey. They can argue, using their best judgement, but it really isn't up to them.

    When Repubs like Ryan argue that "the Generals" should set their own spending requirements without political interference, that "the Generals" should handle all strategic concerns without involvement by the White House - or Congress - they're supporting military control of the US Government.

    I'd invoke the "t" word, but really, the "stupid and ignorant" word is probably more appropriate in this case.

  • Celui on April 02, 2012 9:47 AM:

    Ed: this is one of your best-worded entries, and so clear and to the point. It demonstrates how clearly Ryan is once again mindlessly pandering to the 'budget-cutting' mindset, oblivious to the fact that many do know how government does work and how decisions are to be made. (good job, zandru) Share the story, readers!

  • bcinaz on April 02, 2012 10:30 AM:

    Paul Ryan is the worst kind of person; it seems his mission in Congress is to use the power of his position to render moral decisions on Americans who rely on the safety net for some of their most basic needs. Without knowing the circumstances of those who rely on food stamps for nutrition or Planned Parenthood and Medicaid for healthcare, he's just decided to declare moral hazard and render judgement on the lives of millions of Americans.

    And please don't get too caught up in his tiff with the Joint Chiefs. Given the close relationship Washington has with the Military Industrial Complex; Ryan's disrespect is probably rooted in his campaign fundraising.

  • Texas Aggie on April 02, 2012 11:38 AM:

    I seem to remember that it was the republicans who wanted the Pentagon budget cut as much as social services if their bipartisan committee couldn't come to some sort of agreement. Now Ryan wants to back out of the agreement? They were the ones who put up the bargaining chip in the first place. Now he claims "backsies?"

  • T2 on April 02, 2012 12:11 PM:

    What is Ryan's background in Economics? Does he actually know what he's talking about, or is he simply faking it (badly)?

  • Mimikatz on April 02, 2012 12:12 PM:

    It's not about what the generals want but what the defense contractors want. They are Ryan's constituents.

    Please, please, please let Mitt pick him for VP.

  • TCinLA on April 02, 2012 12:15 PM:

    Typical Republican non-apology "apology": "I apologize if anyone was offended by my mis-speaking, but the truth is the facts are still on my side and I'm right and you're still wrong, but I'm sorry if that fact offends you."

  • Daniel Kim on April 02, 2012 12:48 PM:

    Since adequate and reliable infrastructure is a known national security issue, as demonstrated by the need for a national defense interstate highway system, the Pentagon could take all of that money and use it to fix American's bridges, dams, levees and other physical plant. It doesn't all have to go to fighters and bombers.

  • John Sully on April 02, 2012 1:03 PM:

    Workhouses and debtor's prison for everyone!

  • Drew P on April 02, 2012 1:06 PM:

    As for retracting his other "insufferable" comments, Ryan will tell us he was merely attempting to say that the poor would be better off if freed from their "dependence" on food and shelter (both of which are overrated as necessary for survival).

    Do you think Ryan wants to be the first president of Panem?

  • R on April 02, 2012 3:01 PM:

    Yesterday on NPR, Don Gonyea (I think) referred to Ryan as an "intellectual." By what evidence, other than Republican party hype? (And why oh why do I keep expecting NPR to do better?)