Cartoon link

Normally I wouldn’t bother to quote statements by college friends of politicians.  But I was struck by what a friend of Paul Ryan said.  As reported in the NY Times today,

“Paul was always a politician,” said Scott Friedman, a former fraternity brother who was a year behind Mr. Ryan. “He was friendly with everybody. He was into debating the issues, and he was into talking about policy and economics.”

Conversations centered less on girls and football and more on the policy issues of the day. “I always knew that he was a conservative Republican, and I knew that he wanted to be a congressman from his college days,” Mr. Friedman said. “Typically, the discussions with him were around adultlike stuff. He would talk about trickle-down economics and why that would be a better approach to running the country’s economy.”   (Emphasis added.)

The last sentence is worthy of emphasis because of how early Ryan’s views were formed and how little they seem to have changed.  Whether he actually used the phrase “trickle-down economics” in discussing his views is really besides the point.  His friend got it right.  This is what Ryan believed and does believe.  Just read his words.  And unlike Obama he hasn’t become more moderate or more pragmatic with age.  With regard to the economy he just digs his heals in deeper in the sterile soil of Ayn Rand and her fellow radical rightists.  (Although his views on many social issues, e.g., birth control, are decidedly non-libertarian.)

Ryan clearly believes that he is on a mission.  This latter can have its upsides.  Passion can be a virtue, etc.  But there is a point at which passion turns into ideological fanaticism and then only one’s ideas can save the world or a country.  It appears that Ryan has made this turn.  For example, we can point to one of Ryan’s most recent interviews.  The exchange below is from the 60 Minutes interview which aired yesterday, Romney and Ryan’s first joint interview.

Bob Schieffer: Congressman, this is going to change your whole life. What did your family think about it?

Paul Ryan: Well, we’ve dedicated much of our lives to saving this country, to public service.

Ryan, at 42 years old, has dedicated much of his life not to serving the country or assisting the country through public service, but to saving it.  That’s chutzpa from a 42 year old congressman.  I don’t believe that even Lincoln, who could have claimed to be saving his country, would actually have ever uttered these words.  Missionaries have their place but not in the White House.

If you want to know why Obama couldn’t get the House Republicans to compromise with him, you don’t have to look much further than to Paul’s passion for saving us and his belief in the miracle of the trickle-down.  None of this is to say that Ryan the politician wouldn’t vote for policies that run against his libertarian economic principles if expedient.  He certainly voted for measures that markedly increased the debt during the Bush years.  This doesn’t make him less ideological.  Paul needs to survive and thrive to fight for his principles, and this means sidestepping them if necessary in order to hold his place in the sun.   This is very different from the mindset that is actually willing to compromise and debate in good faith.

5 thoughts

  1. ‘Tis an open question whether he still reads Ayn Rand. To the extent he acknowledges that government should allow and possibly assist civil society to thrive and flourish, it seems doubtful. We all outgrow the literary tastes of adolescence and Ryan at 42 is at least as likely to have “moved on” as the rest of us.

    The country might be in dire need of saving. As of today, nearly $7 trillion has been added to the Federal government’s debt since January 20, 2009. That’s eight zeroes times seven, which doesn’t even include state and local debt and various unfunded liabilities. As you probably know, Obama himself (whom you call a “pragmatist”) ran as a messianic politician. Yes, Ryan could be stealthier, but that wouldn’t alter the nation’s desperate predicament.

    1. Josiah,

      Thank you from your comment. I know that Ryan has been trying to run away from the connection to Rand recently but it’s very real. As late as 2009 he had a post on his Facebook page about her. See the article in the The Atlantic Wire today, “Audio Surfaces of Paul Ryan’s Effusive Love of Ayn Rand.” The audio is from 2005 but the article also has a quotation from 2009. http://m.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/04/audio-surfaces-paul-ryans-effusive-love-ayn-rand/51711/

      Since his words often resonate with Randisms, I would need evidence of just what policies he supports that “assist civil society to thrive and flourish.”

      The fact that the deficit needs addressing is not in question. What is in question is how much it needs to be cut, how fast, and how we should go about doing it. Ryan’s approach to cutting is not only unjust, it’s impractical.

      Obama did not see himself as messianic, although some people treated him this way. If you go back and look at his words, he is simply too much of a fallibilist to be messianic. He said over and over during the election that he is going to make mistakes. He came in seeking to compromise with this opponents. And although he had strong convictions, he tried to remain non-ideological in his approach to Congress.

      1. Mr Obama as fallibilist:

        1) “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” See: ;
        2) “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” See: ;
        3) “I’m Lebron, baby. I can play on this level. I got game.” See: ;
        4) “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” See: ; and, my personal favorite,
        5) The 2008 Berlin speech. In all its bizarre megalomania and fulsomeness. See: .

        The adolescent Ryan hadn’t considered the incompatibility between his Catholicism and Rand. As you know, philosophy is the handmaiden of theology.

        -Josiah

      2. Josiah,

        The reason I posted the link was to show that Ryan’s statements about Rand were not confined to his adolescence. On the contrary. He made them quite recently. And yes, there is a tension between his Catholicism and his Randianism, but he has often sacrificed the former for the latter. Even the Catholic Bishops criticized his budget, and this tends to be a conservative group. http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/222003-catholic-bishops-criticize-ryan-budget-cuts-to-food-stamps

        Philosophy is not a handmaiden of theology, at least as it is practiced in most of the western world today.

        The statements you quote from Obama often miss the context or don’t recognize that he is being playful, for example, the comment about Lebron. But more seriously, the statement “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” is not about his ego or his infallibility. It’s a statement about collective action to end injustice and taking personal and collective responsibility to do so. It may have been used in the 1960’s by civil rights workers. Some attribute it to the poet June Jordan. It was used by black women in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. http://www.trcommons.org/2011/03/who-first-said-we-are-the-ones-we-have-been-waiting-for/

  2. Reposting this with links:

    Mr Obama as fallibilist:

    1) “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=molWTfv8TYw ;
    2) “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2pZSvq9bto ;
    3) “I’m Lebron, baby. I can play on this level. I got game.” See: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/06/obama-biography-im-lebron-baby/> ;
    4) “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” See: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/17/081117fa_fact_lizza ; and, my personal favorite,
    5) The 2008 Berlin speech. In all its bizarre megalomania and fulsomeness. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-9ry38AhbU .

    The adolescent Ryan hadn’t considered the incompatibility between his Catholicism and Rand. As you know, philosophy is the handmaiden of theology.

    -Josiah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s