In response to Ryan Weak on Obamacare? Are You Serious?:
I chewed over Rep. Ryan’s op-ed at length this morning, and while I remain a fan of his work – please, no “Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is a RINO!” taunting – I find it significant that he didn’t mention ObamaCare at all. He’s not the sort to make careless omissions, and he knows perfectly well how the shutdown drama started. While I heartily agree with him that a “complete rethinking of government’s approach to health care” is needed, that’s not what we’re talking about right now, and it’s not quite sufficient as a stand-in for the movement to delay, defund, or repeal ObamaCare.
Ryan also really cannot rely upon people to remember his voting record at moments like this. If he wants to establish his bona fides during an op-ed, he needs to recall that history himself and reiterate his opposition to ObamaCare. I think Republicans tend to make that mistake quite often – they assume everyone knows where they stand, and they don’t appreciate the value of repetition. (In contrast, look at President Obama’s somewhat comical insistence on prefacing many of his statements with “As I have always said,” even when it’s not what he has always said. He understands the value of reiterating his positions, or at least making it appear he is doing so.)
Ryan certainly should not assume that every Wall Street Journal reader will drop by The Conversation and read our exchange concerning his voting record, although of course they all should. The Congressman certainly has my blessing to suggest all Americans partake of this fine website, but he must write on the assumption that some tiny percentage of Wall Street Journal readers are not regular consumers of our repartee.
I’ve thought about how the ObamaCare struggle could lead into a broader debt-ceiling discussion, since this is all happening on a tight timetable, and the subjects are not unrelated. But Ryan made no effort to relate them, which I think is a missed opportunity. A government that produces junk like ObamaCare is not going to seriously address its discretionary spending problems, much less the entitlement crisis. Far from a casual oversight, Ryan’s failure to discuss ObamaCare in this context involved as much strenuous exercise as his P90X workout. Republicans should be the last people who fail to talk about the proverbial elephant in the room.
I don’t hate this Ryan op-ed, and he’s got a guaranteed spot on my Scooby Gang when we solve the Mystery of the Deficit Demons, but I think he could have done better, and it seems both deliberate and important to me that he’s changing the subject away from ObamaCare. This is really not the time for someone of Ryan’s prominence to quietly assume Americans remember what he’s said in the past. It matters what he says today.