HH: We begin today’s show with Congressman Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and as of today, backer of Mitt Romney for president. Congressman, great to have you.
PR: Hey, good to be with you, Hugh. How are you doing today?
HH: I’m terrific. I want to talk to you about your endorsement of Governor Romney. When did you make the decision to endorse him?
PR: You know, basically I had to make a decision before the Tuesday primary in Wisconsin, which we have our vote here. A lot of friends, and you know, supporters have been asking me what I’m going to do. I finished as the chair of the Republican Trust about a week ago. And so over the course of the week, you know, it just became clear to me after all the various meetings I’ve had with Mitt and his staff about where the country’s headed, what we need to do to get it back on track, it just became very clear to me that he understands the moment we are in, in America, that he understands what it’s going to take to get us back on track, and that he has the conviction, the courage and the tenacity to do it.
HH: Let me talk to you about…
PR: And so I knew I was going to vote for him all along. I decided to make it official, announce it today, because you know, we have a relevant primary here in Wisconsin on Tuesday.
HH: Let me talk to you about those, the four things I look to when I assess presidential candidates – capacity, character, courage and the Constitution. You mentioned courage, but I want to start with capacity. It’s a remarkably difficult job. It’s extraordinarily complicated. In your opinion, having wrestled with this budget in all of its complexities, does Governor Romney have the capacity to dig in and understand where the government is hemorrhaging and how to fix it?
PR: Absolutely. That’s his greatest strong suit, I would say. You know, I’ve spent a great deal of time digging into the federal budget and seeing where it’s headed. Of all the candidates, he has a masterful command of that. And you know, he didn’t serve as a Senator or a Congressman. He has a masterful command of the budget, but more importantly, economics and of where we’re headed and what we need to do to prevent us from having a debt crisis. But also the principles, and so to me, it’s really important what do you believe in, what kind of person are you, and how do you apply those lessons to the problems of the time. Our founders equipped us with the American idea, which is a series of principles based on natural rights, limited government, individual freedom, free enterprise. And if we reapplied those principles to the problems of the time, we can save this country. The question is, do you know how to do that? Do you have the courage to do that? Are you willing to do it in the face of amazing adversity such as we have it today with the kind of Senate and president we have? And I’m just convinced that he’s the guy to do that. Now to me, there was two things I was looking at. Who’s the best person for the job based on what I just said, and who has the best chance at winning, and I clearly think that he is clearly that candidate.
HH: Now let’s go to the courage issue, because obviously, seeing what to do and getting it done are very different, and mostly it depends upon whether or not you’re willing to run a one-term presidency strategy.
HH: You’ve talked to him now. Do you think he will stand and deliver when the time comes next January to submit a budget?
PR: I do, and that’s why I made this endorsement, from just talking to him in great detail about literally what 2013 has to look like, what kind of things we have to do to prevent a debt crisis to get our country back on track. And you know, he and I have had fairly detailed conversations about exactly what 2013 is going to have to look like. And not only was there no flinch, there was, you know, he had passion and excitement to move forward with this kind of an agenda. And so you know, based on those conversations, and based upon my read of his understanding of all of this, I think you know, he’s ready. We need a partner. We don’t have a partner in the Senate, and we don’t have a partner in the White House. We have anything but. And it’s just clear to me that we’re going to have a strong team if we get, if Governor Romney becomes our president, and we have a majority in the Senate with people like Ron Johnson and Marco Rubio over there, and the kind of House we have, and make it better? We can win this thing, we can turn the country around, and we can reclaim the American idea, and we can take and choose a country, a very clear choice of two futures, and let the country decide. I respect the American people enough so that we can let them decide. What do you want? Do you want the opportunity society with a safety net? Or do you want the Obama social democracy, the welfare state, the debt crisis, the nation in decline? Those are the choices, and we’re going to give that to the country. I’m optimistic, because I think the country wants the American idea. They want the American dream. And I’m convinced he’s the right guy to get us there.
HH: I want to talk about character. This is the third C. We had the president of the United States whispering to the president of Russia this week that after the election, he could be more flexible. Peggy Noonan wrote a piece today that talks quite candidly about the level of duplicity involved in that comment. Do you trust Mitt Romney on a level of character to not do that to us in any way, shape or form?
PR: I do, and you know, I’ve always withheld endorsements in the past, you know, whether it was McCain or others. I didn’t this time, because I think this moment calls for a unique moment. We’ve never had an election cycle like this before, because we’ve never had an election with the stakes as high as this one. And so I do think he has that courage, I do think he has that conviction. But more importantly, that moral principle you’re talking about, that grounding in truth, that if you say you’re going to do something, you actually follow through on it? Look, I come from Wisconsin. That’s what we have with Scott Walker. That’s what I’ve been doing. I mean, what we wan to do is say to the country here’s specifically what we think we need to do to turn this country around and get us back on track. We want to run on that, and we want to have an affirming election. We don’t want to just go to the country, run against Obama, and hopefully win by default without a mandate. We want an affirming election so that we have the moral authority, obligation to actually put these reforms in place. You know, the worst thing that can happen is Obama wins. The second worst thing that could happen is we win without an affirming mandate, and we act like the Republicans we were earlier in the decade. We need an affirming election where the country gives us the opportunity and the obligation to restore those founding principles to get America back on track. And the way I look at this thing is we don’t have a lot of time left before that window of opportunity closes, and we’re finding ourselves in a European-style debt crisis.
HH: Now Paul Ryan, the Constitution has been front and center all week with these three days of amazing arguments, the Paul Clement opening and closing. People have been talking about separation of powers and about seriousness of federal power versus state power in a way I just frankly haven’t heard in twelve years on the radio. And it’s great. Do you think Mitt Romney will do it the right way? There are ways to solve problems that are not Constitutional – the president doing recess appointments…
HH: …when the Senate isn’t in recess, for example. Do you…
HH: In your conversations with Mitt Romney, get the sense that he will live within his authorities as outlined in the Constitution?
PR: I do believe that, because I believe he’s a person who believes in the rule of law, who believes in the moral underpinnings of the rule of law. And you know, if you read our budget that we passed, the first chapter of our budget is a statement of Constitutional purpose, the statement of Constitutional relevancy, of principles. And to me, that is what it starts with, and that’s what it ends with at the end of the day. And what’s exciting about this moment we are in is we’re finally talking about actual rights versus, you know, all these government-granted rights. I’ve been in Congress 14 years, and we’ve never had the kinds of debates we’re having today. And from my read of Governor Romney, my discussions with him, I think he clearly understands the moment we are in, and the need to reassert the Constitution, the Constitutional principles, and as executive, to respect those separation of powers. I come from the legislative branch. So to me, it’s extremely important to respect the rule of law. And I think if you look at the kinds of comments he made when those kinds of recess appointments were done, when you take a look at you know, how Obamacare tramples on not just our liberties with respect to the mandate, but our religious liberties, our 1st Amendment rights, that to me shows what we’re seeing is a resurgence of the Constitution, and its understanding, and America’s adherence to it. I feel that this whole entire debate, probably been going on for about 100 years in this country, is kind of coming to a crescendo. And it’s whether or not we’re going to reassert the natural rights of the Constitution, the idea that the role of government is to protect those rights and to promote equal opportunity versus you know, this progressive idea of government-granted rights, of equalizing the results of our lives, and whether we reassert the notion of limited government, with enumerated powers, that are enshrined in the Constitution. And I really think he believes this, and is going to act like that as president, not to mention the fact that we in Congress, we have a resurgence of this understanding. We have 87 new freshmen in Congress. We’ve got new ones in the Senate. And we’re going to get new ones next year if this goes the right way. And I feel really good about how we’re going to restore the American idea.
HH: Last question with about a minute and a half, Congressman Paul Ryan. I’ll add the fifth C, which is campaign ability. You’ve been out on the campaign trail with Mitt Romney today in the towns of Wisconsin, and the suburbs of Wisconsin, and he’s been in restaurants with you, etc. Does he have what it takes? You know, the left wing media likes to say he doesn’t connect with people. What do you see on the campaign trail?
PR: Not in the least. Not at all. Warmth, charisma, affection. I see a tender touch, a kindness. We just went to Shriners, which my mom’s from Fond Du Lac, and I used to go to that restaurant all the time as a kid. It’s right up the street from Mercury Marine, which we just drove by. Shriners is a famous restaurant in Fond Du Lac. I introduced him to my Aunt Claire who came out to meet us. And I think he has a very, very nice personal touch, a gift, a natural in that sense. So you know, there’s these narratives that people like to portray, but when you actually meet the person, and you meet him yourself, and you spend some time with him, it’s a different story.
HH: Paul Ryan, thanks for spending time with us on a Friday. Good luck campaigning all week long, and we look forward to talking to you more about the budget and the campaign as the weeks roll along.
End of interview.