Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Democrats and liberals need to discredit the Paul Ryan budget, and some are trying, but, as usual, they're not doing it the way it needs to be done. Most of the responses are wonkish -- the Ryan budget will prevent millions who'd get coverage via the (still little-loved) health care law from getting coverage! The Ryan budget will increase the deficit and then make Medicare recipients pay more eleven years from now! The Ryan Medicare plan will be subject to political pressure eleven years from now that will raise its cost (or reduce benefits)!

All of this is true. All of this is important. None of it, however, is easy for the average American to grasp. None of it is visceral and immediate. I said it before and I'll say it again: The Republican plan abolishes Medicare. There's your message, Democrats and liberals. Somebody needs to say that. Oh, and: Paul Ryan says Medicare and Social Security are "a cancer."

Meanwhile, Republicans know what they're doing. They're selling this by making Paul Ryan a hero -- after all their fumbling around and with an utterly pathetic presidential field, they've nevertheless found their Barack Obama.

I know, I know -- Obama was multiculti and oratorically gifted and sounded kind of progressive. Well, yeah -- but the reason he found favor with the folks in the mainstream media is that he was just their type: youthful, optimistic, an apparent big thinker, a perfect cocktail of wonkish/jockish (but not too much of either), and seemingly not conservative but also not (ick) dogmatically liberal.

The press fell for this combination in '92, in the person of Bill Clinton. He had big ideas and the common touch. Just like many yuppie reporters, he jogged (which, for a politician, was kind of new and hip). He was DLC. He was the new JFK (and then Obama was the newer JFK).

When there's no one like this, the press turns to less satisfactory substitutes -- wishing George W. Bush were smarter, wishing Newt Gingrich didn't seem like a middle-school bullying victim turned Nietszchean. But in Ryan they've got what they want. He's young and vigorous and has big wonky ideas and makes himself sound reasonable selling them. He works out a lot. He sells his budget as a "path to prosperity" and a way of saving entitlement programs -- optimism! Lack of mean-spiritedness! (I guarantee you you're going to read mainstream press articles about how we need to do something like what Ryan's proposing so we can avoid the extremism of the tea party.)

The Republicans know they can sell Ryan as a heroic dreamboat. They know the press will buy it. And what's our side countering with? Wonkery -- nothing more.

Republicans know you have to tarnish a press dreamboat. They sure did it to Clinton and Obama (Both also did it to themselves. But Republicans positioned themselves to exploit every weakness, while highlighting every flaw and making up ones that didn't actually exist.)

Want to blunt the power of Ryan's message? Discredit the messenger. Sorry -- this is America. That's how these things work. The alternative is Ryan as rock star, and Ryanism as our future.


UPDATE: What was I saying? From AP:

Meet Paul Ryan: Packer fan, deer hunter, budgeteer

He's a Green Bay Packers fanatic and a fitness buff, a father of three and a bow hunter not averse to sending emails while stalking deer in the brush.

Seven-term Rep. Paul Ryan is the Republican out front with a message politicians of any stripe don't like to say out loud: Medicare, Medicaid and someday soon Social Security must be reformed or cut outright if the nation's deficit is to be brought under control.

He's delivering that inconvenient truth in a role he's coveted for years....

Shoot me. Shoot me now.

And just in case you thought I was crazy to argue that Ryan would be distinguished from, y'know, real extremists, there's this:

Ryan told The Washington Post that he's not a "root canal" Republican focused on making America suffer for a broader goal.

See? He's sort of a centrist!

Oh, and there's this, too, from the Daily Beast's John Avolon:

Rep. Paul Ryan has put forward a gutsy budget proposal that deals with entitlement reform and promises to cut the deficit and debt by more than $6 trillion in the next decade. Fiscal conservatives should be cheering.

But instead, some on the far right seem determined to bring about a government shutdown by the end of the week over a comparatively small sum....

See? People "on the far right" are Paul Ryan's enemies.



ALSO, TOO: This.

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