Friday question answered
On Friday, I asked: "Who most distinguished him or herself this week, positively or negatively, and why?"
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was, quite deservedly, mentioned most frequently in the comments section. As Myhm put it: "This is a man who was able to convince the Republican minority to sacrifice their favorite appropriation projects in order to maintain their filibuster proof minority and stop the bill. This is the man who was able to overcome the Tea parties' influence and keep conservatives in line to push the tax deal through. In other words, he showed an amazing strength in unifying his caucus at an uncertain post-election time."
But for the sake of variety, and to pursue a reader's interesting line of thinking, I'll focus on reader moblieruss's response, which suggested another Republican lawmaker deserving of recognition:
Paul Ryan with his floor speech on the House floor directly preceding the vote (which you reported). At a time when unfounded assertions were being advanced by the extreme elements of both parties, Paul's common sense, big-picture, comments reframed the debate and prompted many to acknowledge that a durable solution to this mess will require major surgery to our tax code, reductions in government spending, and a revitalized economy through sustainable growth initiatives.
Ryan's entitlement reform plan was also recently praised by Sarah Palin, who recognized that it is perhaps foolhardy for other conservatives to try to top Ryan's wonkery.
Why was his performance worthy of note? Because he distinguished himself as the intellectual leader with the most viable approach for the next two years of conservative governance.
Last week, we saw two styles of conservative politics. One was the take-no-prisoners, make-no-deals approach personified by Republicans such as Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint and numerous talk show hosts. One suspects that political posturing has a lot to do with the no votes on the tax deal by five Republican senators and 36 House members. A case in point: In a fall interview with the Jewish Policy Center's In Focus magazine, Pence declared:
Unless Democrats take action, hard working Americans will face the largest tax increase in the nation's history on January 1, 2011. To date, Democrats have done nothing to stop the $3.9 trillion tax hike, leaving small business owners and families uncertain about their futures, and hesitant to spend, lend, or invest. With unemployment hovering near 10 percent, tax increases could not come at a worse possible time. Republicans will do everything possible to prevent these tax increases from going into effect.
But when it came to casting a vote to actually "prevent these tax increases from going into effect," Pence certainly did everything possible, not to block the increases, but to position himself as ideologically more pure than those who prevented the largest tax hike in history.
In contrast to the take-no prisoners Republicans were the Paul Ryan Republicans -- those who can see a few steps ahead, take what they can get now and lay the groundwork for a conservative budget and entitlement and tax reform. It is the antithesis of the sort of slogan-tossing and personality-driven politics that elevated the lightly credentialed Barack Obama into the White House. It is the politics that stresses policy over personality, details over rhetoric and progress over purity. The temptation to grandstand and reject all deals is great, but ultimately a losing strategy for Republicans.
In 2010, the winning gameplan was to attack and oppose Obamaism. But 2011 is about what follows Obamaism. To the extent that Ryan has jumped ahead of the pack in presenting that alternative vision, which requires short term tactics and a long term strategy, he certainly distinguished himself last week.
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