The race to define Paul Ryan
August 12th, 2012
04:41 PM ET
2 years ago

The race to define Paul Ryan

High Point, North Carolina (CNN) - Ask Sarah Palin. It happens every campaign cycle. And now, the race to define Rep. Paul Ryan has begun.

At two separate events in North Carolina Sunday, Mitt Romney sought to portray his new running mate as a reluctant budget warrior who went to Washington to change the status quo.

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"His career ambition was not to go to Washington. That is not what he wanted to do," Romney said about Ryan at a rally in Mooresville.

"He went there to change minds," the presumptive GOP nominee added about his running mate in High Point.

Ryan's biography diverges from the narrative that Romney offered. After graduating from college in 1992, Ryan went to work in Washington as a Congressional aide and staff member for a conservative political group. He lived and worked in the nation's capital until 1997, when he returned to Wisconsin to run for Congress. He's represented Wisconsin in the House since 1998.

Romney's comments appeared designed to neutralize criticism from Democrats that Ryan, who was elected to Congress at age 28, is a deeply partisan creature of Washington.

To match an image with its message, the campaign agreed Sunday to a People Magazine photo shoot outside one North Carolina event, according to a pool report. The shoot featured Romney and his wife Ann standing alongside Ryan's wife and young children. On Saturday, a Romney aide tweeted out pictures of the 42-year-old vice presidential candidate's grade school-age children of playing on the campaign bus.

A senior Romney adviser brushed off the coming attacks coming from Democrats.

"They're going to do whatever they can to dirty him up," Romney's strategist Eric Fehrnstrom said before the High Point rally.

The Obama campaign's Ryan offensive shifted into overdrive during the Sunday morning talk shows.

"I think that [Obama] thinks that he is a perfectly genial and bright guy," Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod said on CNN's State of the Union.

"I mean, Congressman Ryan is a right-wing ideologue, and that is reflected in the positions that he's taken," Axelrod added.

The swift and pointed jabs at Ryan stood in stark contrast with the caution shown by Obama strategists in 2008 to a then-unknown Palin. John McCain's running mate would go on to define herself.

The Obama campaign and its liberal allies are moving with haste to fill in its selection of details this time around mainly because Ryan has a lengthy and sometimes controversial record. The Wisconsin congressman ascended to the role of chairman of the House Budget Committee due in large part to his willingness to confront the looming insolvency issues plaguing Medicare and Social Security.

Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" proposes a partially privatized Medicare program for future seniors. Instead of automatic enrollment in the government health care program for seniors, Ryan would give older Americans the option of buying into Medicare approved plans with "premium support" payments or vouchers, as Democrats have described them.

"Where's their plan?" Fehrnstrom asked in reference to the Obama campaign's proposals to bring down the deficit. The Romney campaign has also answered the barrage by accusing the president of seeking to gut Medicare to pay for his health care plan, a charge Democrats vehemently deny.

Liberal activists have insisted Ryan's fiscal hawkishness stems from a fascination with the Russian-American novelist, Ayn Rand.

The controversial 20th century author - who wrote "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" - was a fierce critic of Social Security and other safety net programs.

"It is precisely these trends which are bringing the world to disaster because we are now moving towards complete collectivism or socialism," Rand told CBS's Mike Wallace in a decades old interview that remains popular among fans of the author.

Ryan once recorded a campaign video touting Rand as someone who "more than anyone else has done a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism."

Speaking about the Obama administration, Ryan added in the video: "And I think a lot of people would observe we are right now living in an Ayn Rand novel, metaphorically speaking."

Last summer Ryan told CNN's Gloria Borger that any talk of an obsession with Rand was a "canard."

"You know I read her novels when I was young, I thought they were good, they were good at defending free markets and free enterprise. Her philosophy is kind of a ridiculous one in my opinion, objectivism. I'm a devout Catholic, how can you believe in that stuff? But I think her novels are thought-provoking."

Fehrnstrom dismissed the discussion about Ryan's views on Rand as a youthful interest in a provocative philosopher.

"Every young conservative has a fascination with Ayn Rand at some point," Fehrnstrom said.

Less known about Ryan's record is that he once opposed the trade embargo on Cuba, a position that may surprise leaders in the traditionally Republican exile community in Miami.

As the Miami Herald reported Sunday, the Wisconsin congressman was an upfront critic of the embargo up until late 2008 when he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "If we're going to have free trade with China, why not Cuba?"

Ryan has since changed his position, a reversal that appears to satisfy Cuban American congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-FL.

"He was a free-trader and we explained to him the human-rights and terrorist record of the Cuban dictatorship," Diaz-Balart told the Miami Herald. "His record ever since is one of a strong supporter for freedom in Cuba. He is a strong ally."

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Filed under: 2012 VP Pick • Paul Ryan • Sarah Palin
soundoff (552 Responses)
  1. Arbour

    So let's say Romney's old tax return reveals he has offshore accounts. Is that illegal? No! IRS does require you to report these income. Most investment advisors would advise their clients not to put all their money in one basket/country. It's called porfolio diversification. It's likely your IRA (401k) has international investment in it too. Either way there is no legal issue involved. So why do people want Romney to reveal old tax return even though it's legal eother way. I bet they are doing it to distract from the real issue that Obama cannot defend his own record. With more than 100 rounds of golf, hundreds of fund raising dinners, but no meeting with his job creation team for the last 6 months, it's tough to talk about his achievement.

    August 12, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  2. Jake

    It would be easier to borrow more money, go bankrupt, and start from scratch.
    Once this happens, there won't be any Wall Street greed in the market, and everyone would have to farm and hunt for food.
    Do away with high tech and pick up a shovel.

    August 12, 2012 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  3. Cynthia L

    The one thing cool I read about Ryan, is he wanted to be a professional ski racer. I've been to Janesville, Wisconsin where he's from, after the White Buffalo Calf was born and went to see her.
    Question, where did he ski if living in Wisconsin? Not making fun here. Just curious.

    August 12, 2012 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  4. Joemama

    Lesseee... he created a budget that destroys Medicare and replaces it with a "voucher" system, cuts all education from Head Start to Pell Grants, but uses the savings to increase our already bloated defenses budget AND give yet ANOTHER big tax break to millionaires and billionaires. I can see why Romney likes him, but why in the world does anyone with a net worth under 1 million like this bozo???

    August 12, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  5. Joemama

    Lesseee... he created a budget that destroys Medicare and replaces it with a "voucher" system, cuts all education from Head Start to Pell Grants, but uses the savings to increase our already bloated defenses budget AND give yet ANOTHER big tax break to millionaires and billionaires. I can see why Romney likes him, but why in the world does anyone with a net worth under 1 million like this Yahoo???

    August 12, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  6. Joe

    You Liberals don't seem to understand that social security and Medicare is severely under funded and will not be there for the next retiring age. At least Ryan has a plan when Obama decided to strip even more money from the programs. To do nothing now is idiotic. For a group that voted for change you sure are quick to accept a failing program because it benefits your party. To sacrifice the good of the many for the benefit of a few is insanity.

    August 12, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  7. jamessavik

    Paul Ryan has already defined HIMSELF with his record. He is a fiscal conservative which is in stark contrast to the Obama administrations fiscal lunacy.

    August 12, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  8. brian

    with the proper lighting environment, he looks like he's in horror movie... oh wait, he is

    August 12, 2012 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  9. joshua

    only one person has cut 712 billion dollars from senior citizens medicare program to pay for his own risky, radical scheme, and that is Barack Obama. This puts millions of seniors in danger of not getting medical care that they had already paid for. Barack Obama stole 712 billion dollars from Medicare.

    August 12, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  10. jamessavik

    Paul Ryan has already defined himself with his record.

    He is a fiscal conservative.

    This is in stark contrast to the Obama administrations fiscal lunacy.

    August 12, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  11. FredKelly

    Ryan took Obama to school for 7 minutes during the 2010 Healthcare Summit, after which Obama did not respond and quickly moved onto the next speaker – it's on YouTube, check it out. Obama is out of his league, and Biden isn't even playing the same sport. I can't wait for the debates.

    August 12, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  12. Joe

    RS – what do you think Obamacare gives people who can't afford health care. Could it possibly be vouchers? But you are saying Ryan is stupid for doing the same? What sense does that make.

    August 12, 2012 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  13. Liz the First

    I can define Paul Ryan, first, a huge belated birthday present from RMoney to Obama and the country. second, the face of everything that's wrong with the republican paty. i sure hope all the seniors are paying very close attention to this guy who wants to pretty much destroy Medicare and then lie about what Obama did. what a piece of work!

    August 12, 2012 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  14. Boohincus

    Simply put, Ryan is a 19th century style slash and burn capitalist. He believes with conviction, as did Ayn Rand, that the highest moral fiber belongs to those who enrich themselves the most by whatever means necessary. Trickle down is supposed to be the payoff to the little man for this kind of zero sum economics. In Ryan's mind, boom and bust is just fine. The net gain is always for the wealthy in this configuration, and the little man, well, he can just eat cake–that's how out of touch this 19th century man, Paul Ryan, is. If you think it's tough to be working class now, compare it to the working man's plight at the turn of the 20th century; he enjoyed no benefits at all, save his paycheck–grudging compensation from the Corporate Fathers and moneyed class. So, if you want to go back to the good old days when most working Americans didn't have a pot to p*ss in, vote Romney/Ryan. Just remember that you're probably one of the guys who'll end up with a zero in Mr. Ryan's gameplan.

    August 12, 2012 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  15. Andre

    Romney and Ryan make me sick to my stomach. Given Romney's background, Ryan's lying in bed with the Koch brothers and his outlook on the United States anyone who votes for them is a fool.

    August 12, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  16. ghost

    All I can say is "OBAMA/BIDEN 2012".

    August 12, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  17. me

    if sarah palin is reluctant to approve this guy then he gets my full support

    August 12, 2012 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  18. Funk

    Ryan voted for the major Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Both of these were not funded. In other words they cut government revenues without decreasing spending. The loss of revenue from these cuts has been about 100 billion a year. These cost were therefore added to our debt.
    Ryan also voted for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the first time in history, an American president went to war without enacting a way to pay for it. So, these wars were also unfunded. These costs have also exceeded 1 trillion dollars and is estimated to reach 3.2 trillion when including outstanding obligations. These costs are still adding to our debt each year.
    Ryan voted for the republicans Medicare prescription drug benefit program of 2003. This was yet another huge expense that was unpaid for, the costs being added to our debt. Adjusted for inflation, its costs is at least half as much as Obamacare. However, while the CBO projects Obamacare will decrease the deficit, the much less comprehensive Drug benefit program adds to our debt.

    August 12, 2012 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  19. Tom from Texas

    Is Ryan a vampire? He sure looks like the vampire from the movie Van Helsing!

    August 12, 2012 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  20. john a

    Prefect pick for Romney. He now has the guy that will hold you down while mitt steals Your lunch money

    August 12, 2012 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  21. Heidi

    Anyone who believe Rommey and Ryan have good ideas should read about Herbert Hoover's time in office. – See Great Depression

    August 12, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  22. Julius Raynor

    Paul Who!

    August 12, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  23. adrifter

    It always cracks me up when conservatives talk about the liberal media. Conservatives have their very own TV news channel – I don't have to say what it is because everyone knows – dedicated to defeating Obama. Plus, right-wing talk shows dominate talk radio. And there are plenty of conservative newspapers. Those media outlets don't even try to be impartial. On the other hand, the so-called liberal media do try to be balanced in their news coverage. Conservatives can't stand that. That's why they hate the mainstream media. It tries to tell the truth.

    August 12, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  24. Phil

    The R'Ayn Plan is the dismantling of America as we know it.

    Most people have no idea how deep the domestic cuts would actually be, or the catastrophic changes they would engender.

    And that doesn't even touch on the debt he would saddle two generations with.

    It's a criminally stupid plan.

    Enriching the rich at our expense.

    Of course Romneyhood loves it.

    August 12, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  25. Lou50

    all you have to know is he doesn't live in a cottage behind his mother's house. hopefully he has a birth certificate, school grades, never traveled on a foreign passport and people that have heard of him.

    August 12, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
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