House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan was my guest in the first hour of Wednesday’s show. We talked through the baffling choices made by the House Leadership on communications strategy, his reaction to being slammed by the president as Ryan sat as an invited guest ten feet in front of him, and of course at length about the budget and the plan’s proposal’s for Medicare.
Here’s an excerpt, this one on the president’s speech on the deficit which slammed Ryan:
HH: Now Congressman, the President called you to the White House.
HH: And he put you in the front row, or pretty close to the front row, and he proceeded to flay you. It was so graceless.
PR: It was, yeah, I was in the front row. I was about ten yards away from him.
HH: What were you thinking when that happened?
PR: Basically what you just said. I’d never seen that kind of demagoguery from a president before. What I was thinking, literally, is he is bigger than this. This speech is beneath his office, it’s beneath him. He should be above this. When you hear that kind of rank demagoguery, you know, we don’t want to help kids with autism and Down Syndrome, and we’re out to hurt people’s grandparents, maybe your grandparents, or something to that effect, that kind of demagoguery tells me he’s in campaign mode. He is not in governing mode. He is turning on the demagoguery. And the message that he’s going to give is basically a caricature description of his political adversaries, almost kind of like a cartoon-like description of your political adversaries. And it’s the laziest intellectual argument I’ve ever seen, which is it’s beyond a straw man argument, to affix motives and ideas to your political adversary that are just outlandish, and then just knock them down and win the argument by default. We’ve seen this a lot from the President, but I’ve never seen this kind of a level. And what I really think we got out of that speech was more of a vision of what I would call shared scarcity. I’m doing a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago spelling this out in great detail on Monday. But what I would basically say is the President, I think, is going to go to the country and say if you want any security in your life, you’re going to have to stick with me. I will give you full security. That’s more or less the progressive sort of idea. But if you go with Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves. It’s going to be a Hobbesian, dog eat dog society, and it’s going to be miserable. And so I think he’s going to try and give sort of that caricatured argument, whereas what we’re actually talking about, and the choice we have an obligation to show the country in 2012, is an opportunity society with a safety net, which is the historic American idea, reclaiming American exceptionalism. We want that opportunity society with a safety net, which means a welfare system not geared to keeping people on welfare, but to getting them back on their feet. We want this country to be defined by its traditional characteristics of equal opportunity, upward mobility and prosperity, and really what I think he’s peddling is an agenda that will lead us down sort of a European social democracy route, of basically a cradle to grave social welfare state where we end up managing our decline, where the goal and role of government is not to promote equal opportunity, but equal outcomes, you know, shared scarcity. And I think that that’s what this is shaping up to being the discussion in 2012, and that was what was running through my mind when I heard that speech.
HH: Every time, in fact, he did it in El Paso on the border speech yesterday.
PR: Yeah, I saw that, too.
HH: Every time he gives one of these, it’s like the Macy’s parade of straw men, or the million straw man march.
PR: Yeah, well, I think, well, Churchill used to say he’s a pyromaniac in a field of straw men.