I'm still divided. Either Paul Ryan is merely this nation's clumsiest ideologue or he's the most vacuous politician since William Crawford, who in 1824 ran for the presidency while in a state of stroke-induced paralysis. Of course there might inhere a roughly equal mixture of both, however such aforementioned attributes, like left- or right-handedness, are, generally, singularly dominant.
I lean toward the "clumsiest ideologue" diagnosis, although, again, a diseased vacuity cannot be altogether discounted as an underlying condition. My inclination springs from Ryan's seeming sincerity: "We don’t have that much more time to keep kicking the can down the road because we will have a debt crisis if we don’t start taking these issues seriously," he said after last night's New York implosion.
We can't "keep playing politics and using political weapons against each other" -- ding, ding, ding: possible vacuity alert -- but then just as suddenly he erupted in what I can only interpret as ideological obliviousness: "I think we’re moving forward. We’re unified and excited about taking this challenge to the public."
Oh you poor thing. My dear Mr. Ryan, you just did take your "challenge to the public" -- a partisanly affectionate public at that -- and they handed you back your swollen, reactionary head.
He also doubled back on his own self-righteous admonition about "playing politics." While speaking only a few words away from scolding opposing politicians for plying their trade, Ryan launched into the politically squalid GOP defense that last night was only about fearmongering in the absence of any justified fear:
If you can scare seniors into thinking that their current benefits are being affected, that’s going to have an effect. And that is exactly what took place here. So yes, yes, it’s demagoguery, it’s scaring seniors.
No, no, it wasn't -- and Ryan knows it. Those "scared seniors" who've been showing up at town hall meetings in fits of outrage are not by and large scared for themselves; they're petrified that their children will be be left to the untenderest of the GOP's mercies. And last night was their first opportunity to express their outrage in material form.
Ryan is not a stupid man. He's smart enough to inveigle deceptive policy papers from the Heritage Foundation et al and lie like a Palin on stilts. Hence I resist the seemingly confirmed thesis of his vacuity. Still, he's not quite smart enough to hide his ideological clumsiness -- which isn't, after all, that much of a rap on his intelligence, since Edmund Burke himself couldn't sell Ryan's immense turkey of a Medicare plan.