I'm really grateful that David Brooks is on book leave, because -- well, obviouslt because he's not writing awful columns, but also because he's not around to gush like a hormonal adolescent at the rollout of Paul Ryan V2.0, which is taking place right now. Unfortunately, it's a slow rollout, which means Brooks will be back at his post in time to swoon, along with the rest of the centrist press, at this grubby little go-getter's attempt to rebrand himself. For now, we have a long story in The Washington Post, as well as a shorter post at Business Insider, which serve as a sort of warning shot:
From the Post:
Paul Ryan is ready to move beyond last year's failed presidential campaign and the budget committee chairmanship that has defined him to embark on an ambitious new project: Steering Republicans away from the angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement and toward the more inclusive vision of his mentor, the late Jack Kemp.As far as I can tell, nothing Ryan and his crew are likely to come up with will conflict with his budgets, which gut programs for the needy. As Jonathan Chait notes, the message appears to be that government programs are bad and Jesus is good:
Since February, Ryan (R-Wis.) has been quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods with another old Kemp ally, Bob Woodson, the 76-year-old civil rights activist and anti-poverty crusader, to talk to ex-convicts and recovering addicts about the means of their salvation.
Ryan's staff, meanwhile, has been trolling center-right think tanks and intellectuals for ideas to replace the "bureaucratic, top-down anti-poverty programs" that Ryan blames for "wrecking families and communities" since Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964....
Ryan's new line seems similar to the old one:David Brooks is squirming with delight already.
"Paul wants people to dream again," Holloway said of Ryan. "You don’t dream when you’ve got food stamps."In fact, lots of people who survived on food stamps -- like J.K. Rowling -- went on to achieve great things.
The other emerging element of Ryan's anti-poverty agenda is Jesus:
"You cure poverty eye to eye, soul to soul," he said last week at the Heritage forum. "Spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people."
The Post story mentions one Ryan ally: Bob Woodson, founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise -- a man who attacks black leaders for making a cause celebre of Trayvon Martin, accuses the Democratic Party of caring too much about those damn gays and women ("Everybody has come in front of [blacks and poor people] on the bus -- gays, immigrants, women, environmentalists"), and has friendly chats like this with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: ... So as you know we've been reporting on this for about a month. And I believe it's a collapse of the traditional African-American family that's leading to the violence, the bad education and chaos in general. Am I wrong?So that's one of the inspirations for Ryan's new endeavor. Another, as Business Insider's Danny Vinik explains, is Scott Winship:
BOB WOODSON, CEO, CENTER FOR NEIGHBORHOOD ENTERPRISE: No you're right, Bill. But there has always been a great divide in the black community over this issue. Unfortunately, the civil rights movement of which I was a part in the 60s has declined and morphed into a race grievance industry.
It was Booker T. Washington at the turn of the century said there are groups of blacks who thrive off the grievance of their fellow blacks. If blacks lose their grievance they lose their income. And unfortunately that's what we have today.
O'REILLY: Now do you believe that extends all the way down to the folks or is it just centered in the -- look, we established last night very, very vividly and nobody has challenged it that last Saturday's march in Washington was funded by the teacher's unions very heavily and that the money went into organizations like Al Sharpton's action committee and other civil rights concerns and there is big money involved.
But do the rank-and-file African-American folks in your opinion want the government money to continue to flow and, therefore get behind the grievance industry?
WOODSON: As I said, Bill, in 1965, Bill Raspberry, a banner headline on the front page of the "The Washington Post" and has said "Poor Negroes are not benefiting from the gains of the civil rights movement." And so even from back then until today, the interests of the so-called leadership has -- has often been at odds with the rank-and-file. And this is true on this issue. If you were to take polls, for instance most low income blacks support vouchers for education. The civil rights leadership opposes it....
And the same thing is occurring in New York where Stop-and-Frisk is threatened which means that if they are successful, that you'll see a tick in the murder rate....
To help [Ryan] develop new ideas, the Manhattan Institute's Scott Winship has been working with Ryan in recent months. Winship has worked for liberals organizations like the Democratic Strategist and Third Way before switching over to moderate ones in the Pew Charitable Trust and Brookings Institute. This past September, he joined the conservative Manhattan Institute as a senior fellow.Yeah, that's the idea I expect Ryan to glom onto most readily, to the delight of Brooks and other centrists -- that if those people would just keep their damn knees together, we wouldn't need all this welfare. (Brooks will write of "values" and "virtue.")
... In particular, [Winship] wants the government to play a role in advising and teaching young people to act responsibly to reduce early pregnancies and abortions.
We're also told that Winship doesn't think poor people suffer as much as we think from inequality "once you account for the value of health insurance and taxes." (Medicaid -- it's what's for dinner!) And he's also a fan, naturally, of school vouchers.
I told you this morning that Paul Ryan was the only politician invited to speak at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council annual meeting this week, apart from President Obama and Governor Chris Christie. I suspect Ryan is seen as the guy who can bring "serious" back to the GOP. This, I guess is supposed to be how. Never mind that his proposal will be a slap in the fact to the people it's supposed to help, while probably alienating the GOP base Ryan wants to retain for a possible 2016 presidential campaign. The press will still swoon. And maybe that will be enough for Young Paul.