Roger L. Simon

Mr. Ryan's Dilemma


Excuse me, but I’m a little confused. Just why are “movement” conservatives and libertarians so angry with Paul Ryan about the budget deal he made with Patty Murray?


Now, of course, I understand why some politicians are angry, or pretending to be. They’re Ryan’s competition for POTUS in 2016, assuming the Wisconsin congressman wants to run. They’re positioning themselves for a campaign. But the rest of us?

Let’s stipulate this: No conservative or libertarian is going to get what he or she wants on government spending — or even anything remotely close to it — without winning the Senate in 2014 and the presidency two years later. Barring mass lobotomies, it ain’t gonna happen — not with Barack Obama and Harry Reid standing in the way. You have to get rid of these people first.

The good news is, as of this moment — thanks to the Obamacare fiasco that will likely continue for some time, even get worse, and, to a lesser extent, the Iran deal that, in all probability, is headed for disaster — things are running in the right’s direction. What Ryan quite obviously was trying to do is keep it that way — tread some water until we have at least the first of those elections (2014). He was following Hippocrates’ prescription to do no harm.


The harm would be shutting down the Congress, because the public seriously dislikes that. They turn against you — and for good reason. They understand you don’t have the votes to accomplish what you say you want and are posturing for the most part. Even some low-information voters get that. It’s pretty obvious.

We saw that happen during Ted Cruz’s filibuster, when public approval for Republicans went to all-time lows. Cruz was certainly right about Obamacare, but the voters clearly didn’t care for his approach. Why repeat it, especially when you can get to the same place in other ways? And budget considerations are much more complex. With Obamacare, the bad results were in people’s faces almost immediately. The results of deficits are too far away and too easily obfuscated for most people to feel the pain immediately, even though it may ultimately be even more important.

So this is about strategy and it’s hard to see why Ryan didn’t have the correct one. He moves us closer to the goal, winning those elections and thereby being able to make serious change.

Although this is true, I can sympathize with those who are upset, even if I don’t agree with them. I am angry as well. Things have really gotten out of hand. But now is time for extra patience because the cards are still being dealt and they are coming our way. The wise poker player keeps his cool. Soon he may have four aces — or even draw to a straight flush.


In the meantime, we should be making constructive proposals, such as Rand Paul recently made about bringing “economic freedom zones” to Detroit. It is important to publicize such things widely because they are (relatively) fresh and creative. They expose the other side for what they are — stodgy, old and hypocritical.

Above all, when you are about to win, it is not the time to turn your guns on each other.

(Artwork created using multiple elements, and with apologies to Muhammad Ali and George Lois.)

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