Paul Ryan: GOP Must Not 'Play It Safe' in Taking on Obama

Friday, 10 Feb 2012 11:06 AM

By Martin Gould and John Bachman

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Republicans cannot just attack President Barack Obama and his policies — they have to put forward bold new ideas of their own if they are to win the next election, House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.

Too many in the party want to take the easy way out, he added, but that is simply not a good enough strategy.

“There are people who would say Barack Obama is not popular, the economy’s not doing well, let’s just run against that,” said the Wisconsin Republican. “That, to me, is not good enough.

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“First of all you are subjecting yourselves to circumstances outside of your control, like the economy. Second of all, we have great ideas. We believe in these principles that built this country, we should be proud of that and we should be proud to defend the morality of free enterprise, of freedom, of the American idea and tell the country specifically how we can reclaim those things.

“That to me is uplifting, that to me is inspiring, that to me is what most Americans want. We should exercise the courage of our convictions, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it is the politically wise thing to do.

“But there are always those who counsel, ‘Play it safe, don’t take risks. If you put out ideas you are simply giving the other side a target for the other side to hit you with.’ Well, they’re going to hit us anyway, so we might as well be telling the people exactly what we hope to do if they give us the opportunity to lead the country.”

Ryan was speaking to Newsmax shortly before taking the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. He said there is plenty to attack in the Obama agenda – which he called a path of “debt, doubt and decline” – and Republicans have to highlight the dangers of a “European cradle-to-grave welfare state.”

“I would basically say that we want, and have an affinity for, the American idea in this country. Our rights come from God and nature, they’re natural; they come before government.”

He said society should be “one in which we enjoy our freedoms to make the most of our lives and we believe in growth and prosperity and upward mobility.

“That is the kind of vision that we have prided ourselves on. But the president’s direction and the vision and philosophy he applies to governing is contrary to that, it takes us away from that.

“So I believe we need to sharpen these contrasts and go to the country and let them choose what kind of country they want to have, what kind of people they want us to be for the 21st Century. Give them the choice of two futures and I would argue, in this center-right country that we are today, we’ll win that exchange.

“If we win that kind of election, an affirming election, then we have the right and the moral responsibility to actually save the country and fix these problems.”

Ryan was the author of last year’s Republican budget plan, which gained high praise because of the amount of money it would have cut from the national debt. He says a growing coalition of Republicans and moderate and conservative Democrats are coming round to his views.

“I’ve got 57 Democrats on my bill, so what I see in the making here is a bipartisan coalition to fix a lot of these problems,” said the seven-term congressman.

“I see bipartisan consensus on … Medicare reform,” he added. “I see bipartisan consensus emerging on tax reform, lower tax rates, broader-based, getting rid of loopholes.

But he said the problem is that Obama and his supporters are not part of the consensus. “What I hope we can achieve is a center-right coalition in this country, where Republicans, who are hopefully in a leadership position, invite conservative Democrats and moderate Democrats into this coalition to fix these issues.

“There is a consensus developing on fixing these things. The president is on the outside looking in, though.”

Ryan said his committee has already agreed to four out of 10 reforms for the budgeting process, one of which is to allow the president a line-item veto, whereby he can send “boondoggle spending projects” back to the House for a second look.

He described the current budget system “biased toward pork-barrel spending, toward higher taxes and overall more spending.”

“We want a budgetary process that’s more accountable, more responsible, more transparent and helps us get back to a more limited government, free enterprise system which is what we are trying to achieve, but I would argue the budget process is making it more difficult.”

He accepted that Obama’s approval ratings have started to inch up as the economy has shown slight stirrings, but that Congress’ remains at rock bottom, but said there are reasons for that.

“Number One, the president bashes Congress a lot and he’s got the bully pulpit. Number two, people don’t really distinguish between the House and the Senate. We’ve got 30 bills sitting over in the Senate that are for economic growth, the Keystone pipeline, things like that.

“We passed a budget last year. We’re going to do a budget again this year. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget in 2010, 2011, they’re not going to do one now. They are not doing anything over there. People cast a broad brush at Congress when they don’t really look at the huge difference between the Republicans in the majority in the House and the Democrats in the majority in the Senate.”

But he said if Republicans can capture both houses in November, change will come, pointing out how the House GOP caucus has moved rightward since he was first elected.

“We have people who came here for a cause not a career. That dynamic is occurring over in the Senate. You’ve got Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson and Jim DeMint. Hopefully, we will have another eight or 10 people like that over in the Senate in our majority next time, so we have a real majority of conservatives.”

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