If you’re looking for a sign of just how unexpected Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan was for his running mate, one place to start might be the lengthy profile of the Wisconsin congressmen published this month in the New Yorker magazine.
Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza traveled to the congressman’s hometown of Janesville, Wis., to look at how he went from being the son of a well-to-do Midwestern family to a serious force in the Republican Party. The piece looked at Ryan’s success at getting the party on board with his pet budget issues, but it downplayed any talk of him becoming the vice presidential nominee.
“Ryan is frequently talked about as a future leader of the House Republicans and even as a long shot to be Romney’s running mate,” Lizza wrote. “He surely would take either job, but he seems better suited to continuing what he’s been doing since 2008: remaking the Republican Party in his image.”
Here are a few more key points from the article, which is worth reading in full:
1. Ryan Loves Ayn Rand, Denies He’s A ‘Hardcore Libertarian’
The congressman says he was inspired at a young age to take an interest in conservative economics after reading Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” In recent years, he has even spoken at the Atlas Society, which promotes the late author’s ideas. But he told the New Yorker that he rejects Rand’s atheism as well as any depiction of himself as a “hardcore libertarian.” Despite his fight against certain government programs, he said he still believes the government has a role play in people’s lives.
“Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature,” he told the magazine. “As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians…Of course we believe in government. We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports.”
2. Bad Blood With House Speaker John Boehner
In recent years, Ryan helped sink bipartisan budget agreements in Congress and kept up pressure for House Speaker John Boehner to reject any compromise with President Obama. The added heat put Boehner in some uncomfortable situations and the speaker in turn criticized Ryan’s own plan, which became known as the Path to Prosperity.
Lizza’s piece pointed to a quote from Boehner’s chief of staff, Barry Jackson, that appeared in Robert Draper’s recent book about the House of Representatives. It showed just how ugly the feud between Boehner and Ryan had become. Ryan’s stonewalling, Jackson said, was an effort to make Boehner “disgraced” and set up a situation where “Paul Ryan can do whatever he wants to do.”
3. Ryan Helped Expand The Deficit Under Bush
Even as he plays the role of a hardcore deficit hawk now, Ryan voted for some unpopular legislation that helped grow the federal debt during the Bush era.
Lizza wrote: “Ryan was a reliable Republican vote for policies that were key in causing enormous federal budget deficits: sweeping tax cuts, a costly prescription-drug entitlement for Medicare, two wars, the multibillion-dollar bank-bailout legislation known as TARP. In all, five trillion dollars was added to the national debt.”
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com