Christopher Caldwell does his best to spin for Ryan:
Mr Ryan even has a gift for beating up on his own party. “Politicians from both parties have made empty promises,” he said in his introductory speech on Saturday, “which will soon become broken promises, with painful consequences if we fail to act now.” He lambasts “corporate welfare” as often as he does welfare. Americans like this anti-partisan tone.
Could these statements be more generic? Vaguely blaming members of both parties for “empty promises” is an old stand-by, not a serious criticism. This isn’t even as specific as the usual Republican lament that they indulged in “wasteful spending” in the past. If he attacks “corporate welfare” now, it’s hard to forget that he repeatedly voted for some very large and costly “corporate welfare” bills in the last decade. In addition to adding trillions to the government’s unfunded liabilities, Medicare Part D was naturally a boon to the pharmaceutical industry. If Ryan opposes “corporate welfare” now, it is something quite new.
Ryan doesn’t have an “anti-partisan tone.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t true to say that he has one. He doesn’t beat up on his own party. Then again, neither did Obama. Obama’s “post-partisanship” was always a myth. What I never quite understood was why anyone found that myth appealing. We’re supposed to believe that one of the things that makes Ryan interesting is that he doesn’t make a fetish out of bipartisan comity for its own sake, but apparently we’re also expected to see him as an “anti-partisan” figure standing above the fray at the same time. His record has been one of being a party loyalist. He doesn’t have a record of dissenting from the party line. It’s pointless to pretend that he does.