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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Congressman Tim Ryan On The Need To Return Civility And Compromise To Congress

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The transcript:

HH: I’m so pleased to bring to you one of my favorite Democrats. For the last 14 years, Congressman Tim Ryan has served Northeastern Ohio, including Trumbull and Mahoning County in the United States Congress. He and I share in common John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio, which, by the way, is undefeated and I think in the semi-finals. I don’t know if you were there, Congressman Ryan, on Saturday night when they serenaded Gunner Gillen, John Gillen on his birthday, and they romped. Were you at the playoff game at Mollenkopf?

TR: I was not there. I was actually at The Ohio State game, which was…

HH: Well, that’s a tough trade-off. Okay. That’s a tough trade-off.

TR: Yeah.

HH: Well, congratulations anyway on what looks like an easy reelect to you in advance. I want to ask you, though, the biggest story, I keep telling people, is you’re going to win handily in deep blue Trumbull and Mahoning County, but I think Donald Trump’s going to win majorities in both counties. What is going on in the electorate, Tim Ryan?

TR: I don’t think he’s going to win the majority. I think he will probably take a few votes. He’ll run better than most Republicans have ever run in the valley in a long time. I don’t think there’s any question about that. But I think even in the suburbs in some of the counties in the Mahoning Valley, he’s probably going to lose some female vote. He’s going to lose some white college-educated male vote. And so it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. It’s really hard to tell. But I was down in Columbus on Saturday, and I was knocking on doors there, too. Same sentiment, I think, you know, he may pick up some of the white working-class male vote, but there’s going to be, certainly be some drop-off with the women.

HH: Well, let me put it this way. I was asked on MSNBC last night about this, and I said Lordstown is going to vote for Donald Trump. The UAW family is going to vote for Donald Trump. And that, you know, it’s unbelievable to me having grown up in Warren and seeing the Packard organization for Democrats. And you benefit from it. They like you. They’re going to turn out for you. What’s driving that? Why, you know, Marco Rubio just said, “They feel betrayed with the elected class.” Do you agree with that?

TR: Yeah, you know, he struck a couple of cords. I mean, you know, there’s no denying that him coming in to a place like this, Northeast Ohio, you know, talking about trade, talking about income inequality, and talking about it in a way that was very energetic and very passionate, and the bombast, and I think people, a lot of people were so frustrated with the current state of affairs for them economically that he initially engaged them. And I think that dropped off a little bit over time as the contrast piece came out with him buying steel in China, and talking about helping American steelworkers, but he didn’t do it when he had the chance in the private sector, same with his, you know, you’ve heard the whole routine, ties in Mexico, or ties in China, suits in Mexico and all of that stuff. So that took a little bit of the sting out of his argument. But there’s still people there that you know, let’s be honest, Hugh, they don’t think it could get any worse for them. You know…

HH: Well, they’re…yeah, Rob Portman, who I know you work with on key issues across the aisle, I’m talking with Congressman Tim Ryan, Democrat from Northeastern Ohio, he represents my brother. He would represent me if I was back in Warren, and he does a good job of it. He’s one of the good Democrats who works across the aisle. But I know you know about the opioid epidemic, and you know, it is a despairing situation. And that book, Hillbilly Elegy which I brought up on TV last night, it’s Middleton, Ohio, but it’s the same problem that you’ve got in Youngstown and Warren. There is a lack of opportunity out there, Congressman.

TR: Yeah, and I just started the book, White Trash, which is another kind of analysis of the long history of…

HH: Yes.

TR: …you know, poor, working-class people in the United States. And yeah, I mean, it’s just, there’s so many global trends that are cutting against the old way of doing things now – the technology, the globalization, and I really don’t think either party has completely figured out how to realign the government and the programs the government runs, or the programs that the education systems run, to align us all with an opportunity to compete in this new age. You know, the schools aren’t really doing it now. We need a whole new model for our schools. The workforce training programs aren’t aligned. We have many people who, or many jobs that are open, welders, for example, that we can’t get filled, but we have all this money we’re spending on workforce training programs that just aren’t aligned. So no one’s figured this out, yet, and it hasn’t been figured out for a while. And that’s the anxiety people are feeling. And my argument has always been you can go back to 2000, 2002, ’04, ’06, ’08, ’10, ’12, ’14 elections, they’re all economics, every single one of them. And that anxiety is still with us.

HH: You know, I tell people that if we put you and Paul Ryan in a room and we didn’t talk about votes or politics, you’d sound almost the same. You come from the same background, the same Catholicism. You’re about the same age. You have the same profile in your caucus. If we didn’t talk votes, you would sound the same. So I’m wondering, he’s going to be the Speaker again. I don’t buy into this four or five crazy Republicans out there that want to get rid of him. He’s going to, and we’re going to hold the Congress, we being the Republicans. Is anything going to get done?

TR: I don’t know. I don’t know if they’re able to, and I don’t mean this as a partisan shot. It’s just an analysis. There’s a real divide between certain members of his caucus. I mean, when you have the presidential candidate, Republican nominee’s campaign manager saying that he wants the current Speaker out by spring, you know, that speaks to a level of discord within their own caucus that makes it really hard. Now if he wanted to bring bills up and get Democrats like me to work with him and vote with him, we could pass a ton of compromise bills on immigration, on transportation, on education reform, on maybe even some elements of his poverty program that I would probably agree with. I haven’t really looked at it, but I probably agree with, and we would be able to do that. The problem is you’d had the outside groups come and run primaries against all of those Republicans who then were hugging Democrats, you know, the version of Barack Obama hugging Charlie Crist back in the day.

HH: But isn’t that the same problem for your caucus, though, the Bernie vote? Chuck Todd likes to argue that Bernie has a mortgage on the Clinton years, because he delivered the vote. And that prevents your caucus from saying okay, Obamacare was a mistake. You know, we screwed up these individual exchanges. They’re a nightmare. Here are some fixes. Are you guys held hostage in the same way?

TR: Well, not, I don’t think they’re equivalent, because we’re not in charge. Maybe some of those fractures would be exposed if we weren’t, if we were in charge, because we would have to then figure out how to deliver the votes. And that’s really the problem, Hugh. I mean, you know, we have both wings of the party are in complete control, and if you, we’ve made everybody the enemy. We’ve made the other side the enemy. They’re competitors. It’s not Kennedy playing in a high school football game. It’s not Ohio State against Nebraska where you shake hands before games, you try to kick each other’s butt during the game, you knock them down on the field. You pick them back up, slap them on the butt, they go back in the huddle, you go back in the huddle. You come back the next play, you do the same thing. And at the end of the game, you hear colleges talk all the time, what a great team they were. What a great coached team they are, great coaches. Sportsmanship. Now, Donald Trump’s the enemy, Hillary Clinton’s the enemy, and when you treat people like the enemy, then you can say and do things to them that almost make it impossible for you to then engage them afterwards. That’s really where we’re at.

HH: That is so true. In the world of media, if you follow Twitter feeds for any person who appears on television, they get flamed. My friends in the conservative movement who are Jewish have been subjected to more anti-Semitism than I have ever seen in my life as a result of this election, and I am kind of stunned by it. I think you were walking me up to say something nice about Howland High School. I’m not going to cross that bridge, Congressman. But do you, do you have any vehicle? Is there any caucus? Is there any kind of organization that allows, and I don’t mean moderates like Charlie, you know, I love Charlie Dent, but I’m not talking about Charlie Dent. I’m talking about Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy to sit down with the Tim Ryan’s of the caucus and say here is a plan to move forward, because I mean, Obamacare is killing people. We’ve got to fix this.

TR: Well, look, I’m all in, and I would tell you that I have 30 or 40 friends in Congress that would be up for figuring that out, and I think willing to explain to our constituents that look, I can’t agree with you on everything. I’m going to get half a loaf. But guess what? We’ve been getting no loaf for you in the last however many years. We’re not even passing budgets. So I think if guys like you, Hugh, would provide, and others, maybe, in the media, would provide some level of cover for Republicans to agree with Democrats on some things, that that would be very helpful, and the same with Bill Press and you know, the left-leaning media. The media’s got to say you know, start educating people, because we’re, now in both wings of the party, really feel like there’s these purity tests that if you’re not with us 100% of the time, that you’re somehow violating some oath, a blood oath that we have. And so the media’s got to help us, too, with that.

HH: I agree with that. You know, I actually think Speaker Ryan is the leader of the Republican Party, even if Donald Trump wins tomorrow. Speaker Ryan is the leader of the Republican Party, and maybe that has to be amplified. Tim Ryan, preemptory congratulations on tomorrow. I look forward to having you back often in the interregnum and in the new Congress. Thank you, Congressman.

End of interview.


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