David Brooks and Paul Ryan at the AEI
When David Brooks says that Republicans in Congress today are rigid, inflexible ideologues unwilling to compromise, it’s worth our attention (emphasis in original):
BROOKS: And my problem with the Republican Party right now, including Paul, is that if you offered them 80-20, they say no. If you offered them 90-10, they’d say no. If you offered them 99-1 they’d say no. And that’s because we’ve substituted governance for brokerism, for rigidity that Ronald Regan didn’t have.
And to me, this rigidity comes from this polarizing world view that they’re a bunch of socialists over there. You know, again, I’ve spent a lot of time with the president. I’ve spent a lot of time with the people around him. They’re liberals! … But they’re not idiots. And they’re not Europeans, and they don’t want to be a European welfare state. … It’s American liberalism, and it’s not inflexible.
You can find this quote, in the complete context of the approximately 45-minute debate between Paul Ryan and David Brooks, on the American Enterprise Institute’s website. The excerpted quote comes at the end, just past the 40:50 mark, in his rebuttal to Ryan’s rebuttal of Brooks’ main argument (Ryan goes first, then Brooks, then Ryan rebuts, and finally Brooks gets the last words). It’s well worth listening to the entire debate, both to get the entire context and specifically to hear everything Brooks says, because he makes some excellent points before those remarks at the end.
The Think Progress post, via Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly. Steve refers to the Brooks quote at the end of a post in which he discusses an article by John Dickerson in Slate, in which Dickerson finds out for himself why bipartisanship is impossible with these Republicans:
Rep. Paul Ryan may be the featured character in the latest chapter of the liberal history of this presidency—call it How Obama Is Getting Schooled by Republicans. Paul Krugman calls Ryan a “flimflam man” for his ideas about balancing the budget, but last January, when Obama met with House Republicans, he called the Wisconsin lawmaker a “pretty sincere guy” whose “roadmap” for balancing the budget was a “serious proposal.” This was seen as an attempt to kindle a little bipartisan goodwill. Today I gave Ryan, who will be chairman of the budget committee in January, an opportunity to return the favor. At a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, I asked him whether he thought the lack of bipartisan cooperation during Obama’s first two years was the president’s fault alone. Debates about the past are tiresome, but as with budgets, it’s instructive to measure each side’s baseline view in order to measure future behavior. If they show a little give, they might have it in them to give in the big way Ryan and others say they’ll have to in order to get anything done.
Obama had said he could have done more to work with Republicans. Did the GOP share any of the blame?
“No, it’s all the Democrats’ fault,” Ryan said. “We’re great. We have halos over our heads,” he added sarcastically.
“How do you want me to answer that?” he asked. I told him that truthfully would be fine.
He seemed boxed-in. Even if he believed Republicans shared some blame, he couldn’t admit it. “They had to make a decision,” he said, referring to the president and Democratic leaders. “Do we work with these Republicans and do we meet in the middle? But we don’t have to because we have all the votes. They made a choice to go it on their own, and that’s when we had to protect ourselves.”
He said he tried to reach out to the White House early in the administration on a health care plan. “We sent a plan to the president, we sent them letters, we called people, we kept trying to talk to them,” he said. “It was just a thud.” Of the White House, he said, “They don’t talk to us.”
So Republicans didn’t share at all in the blame? I asked, just to be clear. Ryan repeated his answer.
Of course, Ryan’s claim that Democrats “made a choice to go it on their own” is horse manure:
… President Obama practically begged congressional Republicans to work with him on everything from the stimulus to health care, financial regulatory reform to energy. The GOP minority not only refused to compromise or negotiate, they conceded, publicly and on the record, that this was a deliberate strategy — even in a time of crisis, Republicans decided it was important to deny Democrats victories for their own partisan purposes.
… when the GOP did express a willingness to present actual policy proposals, they tended to be stark raving mad. Seriously. Their response to the economic crisis was a truly insane five-year spending freeze. They came up with a health care reform plan that didn’t bother to cover the uninsured, or extend protections to those with pre-existing conditions. On Wall Street reform, national security, student loans, and other high-profile issues, it became practically impossible to “meet in the middle,” as Ryan put it, because Republicans weren’t operating in the realm of mainstream reality.