Paul Ryan: A Poor Choice for Speaker
By Matthew Vadum
Contrary to Republican establishment propaganda, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is not reliably conservative. He has strayed so far from the conservative mainstream that his recent voting record alone ought to instantly disqualify him from consideration as the next speaker of the House.
He is the wrong man at the wrong time. If Ryan ends up wielding the speaker’s gavel, the low-intensity civil war bubbling in the Grand Old Party may quickly go nuclear.
And the fact that Ryan wants to make veteran Beltway lobbyist David Hoppe his chief of staff in the speaker’s office should concern conservatives. Ryan describes his fellow Wisconsinite as “a foot soldier in the conservative movement,” but Hoppe also reportedly “has a record of working across the aisle” when working across the aisle means working against conservatives. As the Washington Examiner reports:
He currently serves as a senior advisor to the Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit founded by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker and Bob Dole, both Republicans, and Tom Daschle and George Mitchell, both Democrats, in 2007 to foster cooperation between congressional Democrats and Republicans.
Well, that’s one way of putting it.
The Bipartisan Policy Center is a think-tank that leans left. (In fairness, it is not as radical as John Podesta’s Center for American Progress or the downright kooky Institute for Policy Studies.) BPC’s star attractions, former Sens. Daschle and Mitchell, are obvious left-wingers; Baker, who passed away last year, did serve in the Reagan White House but only after losing to the Gipper; and George H.W. Bush in the 1980 primaries and the retired 92-year-old Dole weren’t exactly “severe” conservatives, as Mitt Romney might put it. In other words, there are currently no inspirational conservative figureheads to look up to at this so-called bipartisan think-tank.
BPC president and co-founder Jason Grumet is an Ivy Leaguer who served as a senior advisor on energy and environmental issues for Obama’s 2008 campaign. The month before Obama trounced John McCain, Grumet bragged that the would-be administration “would initiate those rulemakings” needed to classify carbon dioxide, the gas essential to plant life that you breathe out of your lungs, as a dangerous pollutant in need of a crackdown.
BPC, which in 2005 hailed the advent of carbon emissions trading as “the auspicious intersection of climate change science and business imperative,” is underwritten by the Joyce Foundation. Barack Obama used to serve on Joyce’s board, and the foundation funded the so-called school reform initiatives of unrepentant terrorist and Obama buddy Bill Ayers. BPC is also funded by well-endowed pillars of the left-wing philanthropic establishment, including the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (the MacArthur “Genius Award” people), the Rockefeller Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Carnegie Corp. of New York, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Suffice it to say that having someone like Hoppe as Ryan’s chief enforcer isn’t something that should comfort conservatives.
Students of politics know that Ryan has long benefited from his reputation as a conservative, but the question that needs to be asked is, conservative compared to what? In recent years, at least, his reputation has been undeserved. Ryan is a conservative only in the dual sense that he supports the status quo and that his policy objectives and votes in the House of Representatives are to the right of the overwhelmingly left-wing and radical left-wing members of the media-entertainment-academia complex.
When it comes to actually doing things instead of just flapping one’s lips, Ryan is somewhere between a liberal and a mushy moderate. In choosing a successor to John Boehner (R-Ohio), it is essential that Ryan be judged by his actual deeds, not just by his public image.
Whether Ryan is a RINO depends on where you sit. As a colleague reminds me daily – no, make that hourly – the RINO epithet is not primarily an ideological descriptor. A “Republican In Name Only” is first and foremost a self-identified Republican who refuses to fight. For example, no serious person would argue that Rudy Giuliani, who is out of step with most Republicans on abortion and gun control, is a RINO. Rudy, who is willing to take the fight to his adversaries, is about as tough as they come.
Ryan is certainly no wimp. He definitely has a lot of fight in him. But on issues of importance, he’s regularly working against conservative goals.
Plenty of pundits have succumbed to Ryan’s undeniable charms, swearing up and down that Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate is a red-blooded conservative. For example, RINO thought leader Peter Wehner of Commentary, lambastes as “ludicrous” the assertion that Ryan is not conservative:
Ryan is among the most articulate and effective conservatives in American politics. On issue after issue – taxes, health care, school choice, abortion, the Second Amendment, welfare, defense spending, and more – Ryan is undeniably conservative. Moreover, the budgets Representative Ryan has produced are the most ambitious and far-reaching efforts to re-limit government that any Republican has ever produced.
And in the areas where Ryan is supposed to be a heretic – including free trade and immigration – Ryan is where Ronald Reagan was. It’s Ryan who represents Reagan-style conservatism, not his critics.
It is undeniably true that Ryan is very conservative, but only by Beltway standards. In the real America outside Washington, D.C., you have to do something to advance conservative policies to be a real conservative. Being a conservative de facto is more important than being a conservative de jure. Deeds matter more than words.
As for Ryan supposedly inheriting the mantle of Reaganism, Wehner proffers a slippery argument, invoking “presentism,” which in this case consists of applying the standards of today to the political realities Reagan faced upon taking office in 1981. Reagan was every bit as populist and radical and opposed to big business and crony capitalism as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the holdouts in the congressional Freedom Caucus who aren’t endorsing Ryan for speaker – and even more reviled by the Republican Party’s establishment at the time. Reagan attacked the country club wing of the party and secured only a tiny handful of endorsements from GOP officeholders.
In other words, it doesn’t necessarily matter where Reagan “was” when he was president. Things were different back then. Reagan even admitted he got tricked into supporting an immigration amnesty. And back in the sixties, when Reagan was governor of California, he did some things that didn’t please conservatives. But Reagan’s fabulously successful movement was the precursor of today’s Tea Party movement, and it must be viewed in the context of his time.
It is certainly true that Ryan talks a good game. He’s a strong communicator and a good debater, and unlike Democrats, he actually understands math and is not waging a scorched-earth war against it. At times his rhetoric can be inspiring. He comes across as a really good guy – and he probably really is one. He seems like a solid conservative, at least on the surface.
But as conservative Republicans are painfully aware, talk is cheap. Believing in and advocating the right ideas aren’t enough, especially in this Obama-created era of moral darkness and relativism.
Fighting for the right ideas is a key distinction between conservative Republicans and Republicans In Name Only. RINOs won’t fight for the conservative beliefs they claim to hold, so they become experts at lying. To remain in power, they have to be adept at fooling the party’s base into believing they are serious, committed conservatives. They get away with it most of the time because even among the better-informed members of the base, not too many assiduously track how lawmakers vote.
RINOs excel at paying lip service to conservative stances. When pressed, they rain down a blizzard of excuses for why Republicans can’t do the right thing: we don’t have the majority we need; we don’t have the super-majority we need; we don’t have both houses of Congress; we don’t have the White House; we don’t have the Supreme Court; and so on. And then there are the whispered and unspoken excuses of the cowardly: we don’t want to be called racist or mean or the Party of No, and we don’t want to alienate women or Latinos or blacks or illegal aliens who will be voters one day.
If Paul Ryan isn’t a RINO, he at least has some powerful RINO tendencies.
When Ryan votes in the House of Representatives, which is what the people of the first congressional district in the southeastern tip of Wisconsin sent him to Washington to do, his mask falls away.
Ryan currently receives a “Liberty Score” of just 58 percent from the Conservative Review website, which corresponds to a failing grade of “F.” In the Senate, Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), the fellow who, under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), routinely arm-twists and cajoles his fellow senators into pre-emptive surrender to President Obama and the Democrats, rates 57 percent. On Heritage Action’s scorecard, Ryan rates just 56 percent as of Oct. 22.
Without recourse to emotive language, Conservative Review’s profile of Paul Ryan concludes that his congressional voting record is not all that conservative (though it’s better than current speaker John Boehner’s 37 percent).
According to Conservative Review, Ryan, who was first elected to Congress in 1998 at the age of 28, has long been thought of “as a rising star in a new generation of conservatives,” but “his voting record as well as behind-the-scenes backing of an establishment agenda, reveals that he is one of the more moderate members of the House Republican Conference.”
Ryan was a conservative voice on fiscal and economic issues while he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee (2011-2015). His “Path to Prosperity” budget plan called for maintaining current levels of domestic spending for five years, while rescinding the economic stimulus law and reducing spending by more than $6 trillion over a decade, which would have the effect of “shrinking federal spending as a percentage of the economy to its lowest level since 1949.” The plan also called for eventually replacing Medicare “with a subsidy that used free market forces to drive down the cost while raising the level of care.”
Bear in mind that budget plans are not the same as appropriations. Ultimately, lawmakers can do what they want. They cannot bind a future Congress. Reducing overall federal spending can be tricky, especially given Washington’s crackhead accounting practices that hold sway in the make-believe world of “baseline budgeting,” in which both cuts and increases can count as cuts.
But even if Ryan is given credit for the “Path to Prosperity,” he’s still part of the problem.
After his unsuccessful run for vice president, Ryan returned to Congress and moved away from his some of his conservative positions. “Ryan seemed to be increasingly concerned with creating a more geographically broad base for Republicans and his voting record tracked more to the middle.”
In late 2013, “he helped broker a budget deal with liberal Senator Patty Murray [D-Wash.] that repealed one of the key conservative victories under President Obama’s reign – the sequester budget caps that helped keep spending in check.” In the current Congress, Ryan gained added prominence as chairman of the powerful tax law-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Although Ryan’s high-profile efforts at reforming entitlement and welfare programs have helped “jumpstart a conversation about the untenable state of spending in these areas,” they “do not excuse his often patently liberal votes.” Ryan voted to extend unemployment benefits, bail out the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and repeatedly to hike the debt limit without spending reductions. Before the Obama administration, Ryan backed the big-government boondoggle known as the No Child Left Behind Act as well as President George W. Bush’s reckless Medicare Part D prescription drug program.
According to Conservative Review:
He opposes crony capitalism in theory, but this has not stopped him from endorsing bailouts for banks and the auto industry, as well as a failed stimulus package. He continually supports status quo transportation spending, and even led the charge in the House to make amnesty a reality. Friendly Republicans will defend Ryan’s consistent moves to the middle as “pragmatic,” but the policy results are the same—gains for a big government agenda. (Mediaite) While Ryan may have an eye toward a more conservative governing vision, and would one day like to see that vision realized, it is a mistake to see him as an enemy of Speaker Boehner or the establishment—he simply provides no true contrast to their culture of surrender.
Would Ryan be a better speaker than Boehner? Well, who wouldn’t make a better speaker? As Sean Hannity recently remarked, “Paul Ryan, on too many issues for me, is the same as Boehner … under the leadership of Paul Ryan and John Boehner, we’ve added $4.1 trillion to the debt.”
Conservatives also need to consider if Ryan, unlike Boehner, would honor the so-called Hastert Rule, under which legislation supported by a majority of Republican lawmakers can come to the floor for a vote even if the speaker is personally opposed to it.
Although Ryan is reportedly keen on reviving the rule, why does he insist on weakening a separate procedural rule that keeps the speaker accountable? The venerable parliamentary device known as the “motion to vacate the chair” was what finally pressured Boehner to abandon his gavel for the golf course. A Ryan spokesman said his boss wants “to de-weaponize it so it’s not always hanging over the head of whoever is speaker.” Under current rules, any House member may raise the motion that vacates the speaker’s chair if passed by a simple majority. It’s a desperately needed check on the presiding officer’s power.
Those who say Ryan, whose list of endorsers on the Democratic side of the aisle seems to grow almost by the minute, would unite Republicans leave out an important detail.
In terms of the GOP grassroots, Ryan is on the wrong side of the international trade issue and is on the dead wrong side of immigration, including amnesty for illegal aliens, a political issue that Donald Trump singlehandedly revived at his campaign launch a few months ago. Ryan sounds like self-styled “citizen of the world” Barack Hussein Obama as he takes the position that immigration flows should be increased, a position shared with just 7 percent of Republican voters, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. (The study found that 67 percent of GOP voters want immigration decreased and 25 percent want it to stay the same.)
This means that 93 percent of GOP voters disagree with Ryan on a key element of a hot-button issue that gets hotter each and every day, as illegal aliens continue swamping the nation, depressing wages, bankrupting U.S. social programs, and adding to Democrats’ electoral muscle. Remember that even illegal aliens get counted in the U.S. Census for House apportionment purposes. Some illegals even manage to vote, and the federal Motor-Voter law encourages such behavior. The Clinton-era National Voter Registration Act requires government officials to offer illegal aliens voter registration forms while at the same time forbidding any pesky questioning about whether an applicant is a U.S. citizen.
Ryan does not put the interests of Americans first and has been surprisingly frank about it. As Breitbart News reports:
In 2013, while aggressively stumping for [Florida Republican Sen. Marco] Rubio’s immigration plan, Ryan called for the implementation of open borders immigration policies which would allow for the legal and free movement of foreign labor and foreign goods across national boundaries. Ryan insisted that the U.S. needs an immigration system that has, “gates open to the people who are coming in pursuit of their version of the American dream.”
America, Ryan declared, “is more than our borders.”
Also in 2013, Ryan engaged in what a wise friend of mine once dubbed “ideological cross-dressing” as he clothed his open-borders plan in conservative garments:
[America] is not just a country. America is an idea. It’s an idea that people from all over the world to aspire to achieve … There is no other economic system, no other immigration system that has done more to lift people out of poverty than the American free enterprise system, and American immigration system that we have here. That’s what makes us proud. So the question is: what do we do to restore this? […] We’ve had plenty of waves of immigration that have always been met with resistance in the past—the Irish wave is just but one of them. Each wave is met with some ignorance, is met with some resistance.
So Americans, including conservatives, who resist the ongoing invasion of the United States by people from cultures that don’t value freedom and individual rights are stupid bigots, according to Ryan. RINOs, of course, delight in attacking their own side.
Ryan’s remarks sound like a slightly kinder, gentler version of Obama’s infamous 2008 quip that Americans in small towns are “bitter” people who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Not surprisingly, Ryan helped to kill a bipartisan effort in the 1990s to reduce immigration levels, “thereby repudiating the historical assimilation policy of the United States,” in the words of Breitbart’s Julia Hahn.
The radical in-your-face left-winger Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) has hailed Ryan for, in Hahn’s words, his “history of sabotaging conservative immigration reforms and embracing progressive ones.”
Ryan confirmed Gutierrez’s assertion.
“Luis is right,” Ryan said. “I’ve worked on this issue back since the early 90s. And [as part of] many Republican and Democrat coalitions trying to make this system work.”
How different is all of Paul’s open-borders blather from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s gush that sneaking across the border illegally is an “act of love”?
Everyone with eyes knows that the immigration issue is pressing. Some believe that it is the only issue that matters. Breitbart puts the issue in context, observing:
At our current rate of visa dispensations, each and every day the United States admits enough net immigrants to fill an overcrowded, metropolitan high school. Every three years, we add another entire city of Los Angeles made up of foreign-born immigrants. Since Paul Ryan became a U.S. Congressman, the U.S. has added more immigrants than there were Romney primary voters in 2012 (9.8 million). Since Wisconsin voters sent Paul Ryan to Washington, the U.S. has imported a population of immigrants that is nearly three times larger than the entire population of Wisconsin (5.7 million). […]
Despite the fact that 94 million Americans are operating outside of the workforce, Paul Ryan argued that we need to increase low-skilled immigration so that foreign laborers can come and go to fill any job they please.
Ryan said in 2013 that American lawmakers need to look at immigration from the point of view of foreign nationals who want to come stateside, such as a “gentleman from India who’s waiting for his green card.”
I may be going out on a limb here, but I thought American lawmakers were supposed to be looking out for the interests of actual Americans.
Not surprisingly, conservative dragon-slayer Phyllis Schlafly has excoriated Ryan for his policy stances.
[Ryan] voted to fund President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty … he voted to continue funding Planned Parenthood in spite of a federal investigation into their immoral practices … Ryan voted to give special rights to homosexuals in 2007 (ENDA), he voted to bail out Wall Street in 2008 (TARP), and upon becoming Chairman of the Budget Committee in 2011, he used his position of power to help punish conservatives for voting their conscience.
In addition to being friendly to the burgeoning anti-incarceration movement, Ryan wanted to reduce veterans’ earned benefits instead of cutting unearned welfare benefits for illegal aliens.
What kind of conservative does that?