David Frum

01.02.13

Paul Ryan Really Wants to Be President

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Jeb Golinkin on Paul Ryan's vote for the just-passed tax cuts:

Ryan is one of the party's hottest stars, and even the speaker would probably have understood if the congressman voted no to maintain his anti-tax purity, especially given his role as a favorite of the Tea Party. Furthermore, Ryan did not need to vote yay even if he did want the bill to pass, since the measure had plenty of votes to spare. In casting his vote, Ryan struck a consciously presidential tone AND quite brazenly distanced himself from the Tea Party. This was almost certainly by design.

Unlike another Tea Party rock star, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan can claim serious legislative achievements and boast that he has put forth by far the most detailed plan of attack for addressing the deficit not just in the party, but in Washington. Indeed, not even the president has come even close to laying out his vision in anywhere near the detail that Ryan has. Furthermore, Ryan's plan is so conservative that most GOP leaders avoided directly endorsing it for fear that they would be attacked for being extremists of the right. Thus conservative media powerhouse Eric Erickson was very wrong when he tweeted yesterday: "Thus ends the Paul Ryan 2016 Presidential Exploratory Committee." The exact opposite is true: So begins Ryan's move toward 2016. Ryan was already a credible conservative thinker. Now he can fend off claims that he is not pragmatic. Indeed, his words Tuesday sounded positively presidential.

We hopped the curb - or jumped the cliff, if that's your thing - before that vote. Sparing Talmudic interpretation, Mr. Ryan's vote was to cut taxes. The Congressmen who voted no either don't get that or are so nihilistically bent on self-destruction that they're willing to vote themselves into irrelevance. My money's on the latter. And yes, of course Paul Ryan's running for president.