The race to define Paul Ryan
August 12th, 2012
04:41 PM ET
8 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. mickeyjojo

    Please save SS and medicare.. We need them..It;s good to save money. But stay away from SS and Medicare,,
    How can you run for president on a ticket like that?

    August 13, 2012 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  2. Mynameisbarack

    A lot of comments of people putting down the Ryan plan for deficit reduction without understanding a word of it. Parroting another's garbage is still garbage.

    Even Ryan admits it's a policy paper meant to provide a framework for debate on budgets and cost control. The vacuum of knowledge about the VP candidate and his true policy in this comment section is breathtaking.

    August 13, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  3. Tim Young

    Paul Ryan acknowledges that he is a fan of Ayn Rand. She made no bones about her atheism.

    Her novels contain a large element of fantasizing about American history. Reading Atlas Shrugged, you get the impression that railroads were built entirely by private enterprise. The historical fact is that the transcontinental railroad was a government initiative by that great republican, Abraham Lincoln. Every mile of track was backed to the hilt by American taxpayers. As happens so often, government enterprise goes first then private enterprise follows.

    August 13, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  4. Omar

    We know who he is. He's someone who thinks he's like John Galt with a touch of Opus Dei. AT least he seems to be genuine (sincere), which is way more than Mitt can say.

    August 13, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  5. dssman

    Romney begins by saying this man didn't want to come to Washington. So the lies begin early. Seniors and retirees, you now have reasons to not vote for the Republicans as they want to take away your Social Security and Medicare and leave you to pay your own way. So while you can't get a medical insurance policy after you are 65 you will have to find some way to pay your medical bills. Then all the money that you put into Social Security will go to new wealthy and corporate tax breaks and subsudies. Other workers will lose their disability insurance that you pay for in your social security deductions which protects you if you become disabled. Don't vote against your best interests.

    August 13, 2012 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  6. Cathy

    Ryan has already defined himself pretty well. He has voted in lock step with the most extreme wing of the Republican Party, his budget plan is a huge give away to the wealthy at the expense of the poor and the middle class. No Thanks!

    August 13, 2012 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  7. Ronda Reed

    Romney is a detriment to the US. He won't help the needy, elderly and working middle class. Far from it. This voucher program Ryan dreamed up is really stupid because most of the elderly rely on their Soc Sec pensions as sole income to run their households with–How the heck will a voucher program help someone with less than a $1000 per month pension? The rich need to pay taxes just like everyone else. Romney needs to pay his–I think he is hiding from his obligations, which does not set well with citizens. He is deceptive.

    August 13, 2012 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  8. Joseph Smith

    Paul "Ayn" Ryand

    August 13, 2012 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  9. jesor

    If you want to understand Paul Ryan, read Atlas Shrugged, the book he claims inspired his philosophy, then ask him why he subscribes to a philosophy that says that everyone that works for a living but doesn't own the business is part of the "mooching class".

    August 13, 2012 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  10. RT

    Now we will get to see more made-up stories, anomymous sources, and flat out lies from the democrats about Mr. Ryan like they are doing to Mr. Romney. We can see obama's 3 1/2 year failed policies. Time to pick the lesser of two evils.

    August 13, 2012 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  11. Jackie

    Paul Ryan a mentor of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and in 1999 Ryan worked hard to make sure the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that would have stop the Bank corruption and the housing crisis we see today. Ryan along with his wife who is a health care lobbyisr form the HR 4529 bill to end Medicaid to be replaced with limited vouches and to privatize Social Security. Ryan voted on every Bill requested by the Bush Administration and lead the way to the 2008 Recession. Now Ryan hopes to complete his Ayn Rand sick polices and finally push the US off the cliff. Tea Party favorite is llooking to end the Republican Party as even the Tea Party National Convention is the new name of the Party.

    August 13, 2012 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  12. snowdogg

    Ryan is not ready for prime time.

    August 13, 2012 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  13. Claire

    Romney's appointing Ryan is simply a ruse to take the heat off himself. The Republicans figure that we'll continue to waste our time on Mr. Ryan who by the way has aptly defined himself already and use our energies on him instead of Romney. Let's be smart, Ryan isn't worth our energy. Mr. Ryan isn't fit to be President. His budget and Romney's won't promote jobs. People don't want to put an end to Social Security which has been our contract with the government and most people don't want to give up our healthcare. Let's not give this guy another look. Let's put our energies and our vote toward Mr. Obama who seems to have a vision for this country and its people.

    August 13, 2012 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  14. John

    What's to define? He's another Tea Party Republican dedicated to helping the rich get richer at the expense of the middle class. His job, bought and paid for by the Koch brothers, is to sucker the middle class into buying into the deal.

    August 13, 2012 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  15. akmac65

    Another TP darling who puts ideology ahead of rational thought and realistic compromise. One only needs to look at the record of the House of Representatives in this Congress to see where this man's thinking will take the country. There is no balance or conscience in this Republican ticket. They favor only their rich supporters, not the common people of the USA. Merely claiming that they will improve the economy and put people back to work without presenting a realistic plan, is so much hot air. If low taxes on the rich actually created jobs, where are those jobs? Deregulation sounds nice until you examine the effects of that policy, i.e., economic scandals and industry abuse of the environment and consumers. Regulations exist as a result of past abuses, not some non-existent conspiracy to hobble American businesses.

    August 13, 2012 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  16. sigmond seamonster

    Kiss the Wailing Wall, Paul. Then you too, can have the door opened to be elected as VP of the United States of Israel

    August 13, 2012 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  17. CharlesCT

    The definition is out there. We know........unfortunately. What Congress did to our Ratings, is a good example of what could be in store for us. Ayn Rand hated all governments - even those that try to legislate women's health issues and reproductive rights. She held contempt for all religions. Going to be an interesting election finally.

    August 13, 2012 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  18. weston

    "I'm a devout Catholic, how can you believe in that stuff?"

    Really? A politician has to tout his belief in theism and transubstantiation in order to distance himself from the crazy idea of reacting to situations based on logic and experience in order to get elected?

    August 13, 2012 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  19. BeverlyNC

    We already know who Ryan is by his extremist Tea Party views – his NO votes on the Fair Pay Act for women, his radical anti-anti-abortion views even when the mother will die and in cases of rape and incest, his no contraception views, his NO votes as an obstructionist Congressional Republican on ALL jobs bills, economic recovery bills, and anything for the People.

    We also know very well his destructive budget plan that kills Medicare, Social Security, public education, veteran benefits, veteran pensions, food stamps, every programs for the poor, no disability, no minimum wage, no workers' comp, no unemployment insurance, no regulations on the banks again (so financial failure will hit us again), no EPA, FDA or any other agency that protects our environment, food, medicine, kills all reseach, science, technology, energy alternatives, is for a longer war in Afghanistan,and has spent 25 years living in Washington as a political worker for Congressmen and Senators so he has no clue either how real Americans live or what the actual issues are.

    Ryan is a Catholic disavowed by the Catholic Church for his budget as being "immoral" and "against the teachings of Jesus". It has so upset the Catholic Church, nuns are going around the country warning People to reject the budget for it destroys the lives of poor peolple while increasing corporate welfare, subsidies, no corporate taxes and even lower taxes on the rich.

    We know exactly who Ryan is – an extremist with destructive ideas and a plan the CBO has scored as "unworkable" and killing 14M jobs in the first year alone and more each year while increasing the debt and making the poor poorer.

    We know Ryan – a younger Romney Ken doll who cares nothing about the People and who has worked against the People, all job creation and all efforts at economic recovery – a traitor of the People. Romney picked another Palin – inexperienced for high office, clueless on foreign policy, and the author of the most extreme destructive budget killing all People programs and protections in our history.

    No thanks. I will stand with President Obama who has stood up and fought non-stop for ALL Americans.

    August 13, 2012 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  20. Barry Van Kleeck

    I can guess that as a "Tea Party" radical–his past record is whistle clean. That is as far as the law is concerned. Otherwise I am certain that Mr. Ryan (as a congressional represenative) has only attacked the hard-working, middle class represenatives legally (as his mentor George W Bush) would have wanted. This man represents the worst of the hard-right conservative sect in this country. He, with his hard-cutting budget blan will destroy the hard earned benefits of seniors–and end the ability of low to middle class students to get the help to finance their educations. To vote for Romney-Ryan means then end of making the true hard working Americans strong. Period. And yes you righties, I have done my research. Period again.....

    August 13, 2012 03:54 am at 3:54 am |
  21. 66Biker

    I can define Paul Ryan. He is to Mitt Romney what Sarah Palin was to John McCain. The reason he will lose the election.

    August 13, 2012 04:09 am at 4:09 am |

    As a Wisconsin voter and someone who knows Paul Ryan I can tell you all that he is a fraud... A great choice for Mitt to secure a LOSS in November... Great job Mitt...

    August 13, 2012 04:28 am at 4:28 am |
  23. southernwonder

    v.p. is not an elective office. he is just a tag along appointee, a designated surrogate. nobody votes for a v.p.

    August 13, 2012 04:36 am at 4:36 am |
  24. Dolly

    No thanks!!!! Obama 2012!!! Ryan is not good for the country.

    August 13, 2012 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  25. Dolly

    Ryan has already been define and no thanks.

    August 13, 2012 04:45 am at 4:45 am |
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