Everything's Coming Up Milhouse for Paul Ryan

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 13 2013 3:08 PM

Everything's Coming Up Milhouse for Paul Ryan

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Just needs some glasses and blue hair.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

One easy angle from the passage of the Ryan-Murray budget is that Ryan re-established himself as an icon, a political compromiser. It's true: For the first time in his three years atop the Budget Committee, he has agreed to compromise and get a budget passed. He did so while igorning or laughing at criticism from outside groups. That's been enough to establish him, again, as a rare Republican who can lead.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Conservative writer Jeffrey Lord, often seen in the American Spectator, is given space in Politico to ask the key question: "Is Paul Ryan the Next Jack Kemp?" Insofar as he's different than Kemp, it's only because he has boldly taken a leadership role, setting himself apart from the do-nothing fire-starters. (Well, they do start fires, but they don't make any choices or pass bills.)

We know at the moment is that he is Chairman Ryan—something that never was true of Kemp, who served in the minority for his entire service in Congress. Where the iconoclastic Kemp regularly upset the GOP establishment, and would continue to do so as Bush’s HUD secretary, Ryan as Budget Committee chair is proving himself to be a team player, a role fraught with political peril, as this budget deal is in the process of demonstrating.
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The Week takes a similar tack, praising Ryan by pointing out that he's pissed off the right people and denied himself a shot at the presidency. He "may have prevented another government shutdown by brokering a small budget deal," but "he may have also prevented himself from winning the GOP presidential nomination come 2016." Such sacrifice! Who else can we think of who sacrificed?

Well, BuzzFeed goes the full Jesus. Literally, a Republican is given anonymity to call Ryan "the Jesus of our caucus," in a story that explains How Paul Ryan Saved the Day. 

Not only has the baby faced conservative negotiated a two-year budget deal with a progressive Democrat like Sen. Patty Murray, he’s convinced his fractured conference to go along with it.

And Jennifer Rubin rebuts those 2016 obsessives and haters.

ABC News quoted him as saying, “If I’m not good at this job, why should I ask somebody for another job?” That, make no mistake, is a slap at the grandstanders in the Senate who aspire to the presidency yet have no accomplishments to their name. Those senators can all afford to vote no, protect their right flank and let the real leaders, Ryan especially, govern. It is actually a pretty powerful argument in Ryan’s favor — the man who can get a huge majority to preserve a very conservative agenda (e.g. no taxes, spending cuts). The GOP senators are acting like senators while Ryan is acting like the party’s leader.

It's not false, not at all, but this reminds one of how quickly Washington can change its mind about what matters. The rise of Paul Ryan as super-wonk started, as Jonathan Chait has chronicled, because Ryan was pitching big cost-cutting measures that would clip entitlements. For a good while, the press harshly covered Republicans who refused to agree to budget deals because they'd pledged not to raise taxes. Just two months ago, Ryan was standing back from the government shutdown, but insisting that the president would come to the table—of course he would, he always responded to pressure by caving.

Flash back to this week. Ryan concedes that the GOP can't use another crisis to get the reforms it wants. He cuts a deal that does nothing to entitlements, apart from keeping Medicare growth at sequestration spending levels. He sells it to conservatives by crowing that he kept the faith—no new taxes. And voila, he's brilliant again, for reasons that have nothing to do why the media called him brilliant in the first place. 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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