Paul Ryan, flexible and uncompromising


(Joshua Roberts/BLOOMBERG)

Headline of Washington Post story by David A. Fahrenthold: “Paul Ryan, Republican vice presidential candidate, has a complicated record with little compromise.”

Huh? How could these two prominent outlets look at the same career and reach such conflicting conclusions? Let’s have a look at some text.

Wall Street Journal’s case for policy flexibility:

Mr. Ryan voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Bush-era Medicare prescription-drug benefit and an early, limited version of what became the auto-industry bailout. In addition, he voted against President Barack Obama’s stimulus and called the bill “a monstrosity,” then wrote letters to the secretary of energy endorsing stimulus projects in his home state.

Washington Post’s case for “little compromise”:

This term, Ryan’s two budgets have both passed the House with zero Democratic votes.

“It’s important not to confuse civility with a willingness to compromise,” [Democratic Maryland Rep. Chris] Van Hollen said Monday. He said Ryan had shown a lot of the first, but little of the second, on big budget issues.

Indeed, Ryan’s recent years in Congress have been built around the idea that budget issues were too important to compromise on.

Last year, introducing his sweeping plan to change Medicare, cut Medicaid, cut taxes and push the U.S. back toward a balanced budget, Ryan said, “This is not a budget. This is a cause.”

To a new crop of GOP legislators, Ryan’s current devotion to that cause has overshadowed those past votes for bailouts and Medicare expansion.

“Paul is not afraid of new ideas,” said Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who stood behind Ryan when he said that.

Lankford said he admired Ryan for his willingness to sketch out complicated ideas and to say no to compromises.

“He is a person who is not afraid to say to someone he disagrees with . . . ‘I’m not going to move,’” Lankford said.

Verdict: The Post story has on-the-record quotes from lawmakers of both parties attesting to Ryan’s inflexibility. The Journal notes a couple of anomalous votes and then tacks on a strange point about the stimulus package. Is voting against everyone’s stimuli, then turning around and campaigning for Wisconsin stimuli, really evidence of policy flexibility? Or political opportunism? We’re sending the Ryan-as-flexible-pol storyline back for more reporting.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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