I sometimes try to keep up with Rachel Maddow (come on, somebody has to). I managed to get away from my busy schedule of destroying all happiness for the non-rich—Shh! don’t tell the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy—to watch one of her recurring, well-choreographed rants against Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s Medicare proposals.
If you’ve been following the recent tide of media coverage of Ryan, you’re probably drowning in a sea of terror. He’s been linked to Ayn “For the Love of Money is the Root of All Good” Rand, whom we are to believe is the indomitable hero of American Conservatism. He’s been accused of throwing Granny off a cliff to help his buddy, Mitt Romney, pay less than 1% in taxes. And he’s a terrible Christian, allegedly.
Of course, Paul Ryan is not an Objectivist, tries to honor Catholic teaching, and doesn’t require his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged. And since we’re on the topic of Ayn Rand, many of my friends and I have read some of her works—usually The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged—and the vast majority of us, liberal and conservative, are not Objectivists. To contest this is to suggest every fan of Twilight endorses Mormonism and your friend who recommended The Chronicles of Narnia has bent the knee to Orthodox Anglicanism. Then again, I hear the admirers of Gandhi are all secret Hindus.
The aim of all this mudslinging is to obfuscate the real issues on the table and the president’s lack of serious solutions. To this end, liberals are largely ignoring the fact that Ryan has offered multiple concrete proposals to start a conversation, including a Medicare plan designed with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Many reports on Ryan’s Medicare plan have not even mentioned Wyden, let alone how a Blue-State liberal Democratic senator could conspire to kill Grandma.
To her credit, Maddow did touch on the issue, noting that Wyden eventually opposed Ryan’s 2013 budget proposal. But she mendaciously conveniently ignores glosses over the fact that Wyden did, in fact, co-write a Medicare plan with Ryan. The bill Wyden eventually voted down was a larger budget package ultimate killed by partisan gimmicks Democratic leadership months later. (Turns out, Harry Reid is allergic to budgets.) Fearful of becoming the next Cory Booker, Wyden is distancing himself from Ryan to preserve his party’s highly disingenuous cheap shot political weapon.
Whether you agree with Ryan’s proposals or not, he has put forth several and made earnest—and occasionally successful—attempts to cross the aisle. By contrast, the Medicare bill Obama got passed by partisan fiat cut $716 billion to fund ObamaCare. He doesn’t appear to have much else.
Why didn’t Obama do more to enact real reform when he had huge majorities in both houses? Why did the Democrats squander so much time and political capital on a lackluster healthcare takeover when there were other priorities? Why are liberals pretending the Ryan-Wyden plan is the abomination of desolation? Is anything not the Republicans’ fault? Those are excellent questions! Maybe Maddow and the others will start asking them. (Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath.)
In any case, the next time you hear some pundit ranting against conservative ideas, keep track of the competing Democratic proposals. If you haven’t already, you may start to understand why the last best hope of the Obama campaign apparently lies in Mitt Romney’s tax returns.