Paul Ryan's high school class voted him biggest brown-noser in school. A former classmate from Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville told us he was "always kissing up and kicking down. He was very popular in a superficial-- prom king and jock and student council president-- way but not really someone anyone trusted."
Most people who have followed Ryan's career in Washington have noticed the same patterns-- always kissing up and endearing himself to the rich and powerful. One of his Wisconsin colleagues told us that he "sold himself out to K Street and Wall Street faster than any Member had ever done in the history of Congress." Even when David Obey-- who was in Congress when Ryan was still brown-nosing in high school-- was Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Ryan had sailed past him in terms of contributions from Wall Street. The Financial/Insurance/Real Estate sector has given more in legalistic bribes to Ryan than to any other politician-- including senators-- in the history of Wisconsin. And that happened even before Boehner appointed him Budget Chairman! This morning, Politico took a deep look into how Ryan clawed his way to the top of the House foodchain, vaulting over a whole generation of ambitious Republican politicians. Ever wonder how Ryan got the word "serious" attached to his name? It sure made serious economists like Paul Krugman scratch their heads in absolute wonder. Politico hones right in on Ryan's ability to blow smoke up the asses of the media.
190 times. That’s how often the Wisconsin lawmaker’s name appeared in the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal between Election Day 2008-- when a Republican rout at the polls left the conservative intelligentsia urgently looking for a new star-- and the day this month when Mitt Romney tapped Ryan his running mate.
Another revealing number: Ryan and his plans for overhauling the federal budget drew at least 72 mentions in the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, according to a Politico count. There were at least as many references in the equally influential National Review.
These billings, in turn, helped Ryan drive an even bigger number: 1,050 is how many times Ryan and the Ryan budget were talked up on Fox News.
There are legions of smart and ambitious politicians who could never dream of this kind of publicity who can testify that numbers like this do not just happen by accident.
In Ryan’s case, say people who have worked closely with him, they are the result of a years-long effort to cultivate relationships with a small but influential corps of commentators, policy intellectuals, and impresarios of the conservative movement.
Ryan invites these people to off-the-record dinner briefings to talk about ideas and his policy proposals. He calls them to say how much he liked their articles. He attends their going-away parties and hires young people from their staffs. Above all, he has made clear that he takes these people seriously and wants to be taken seriously by them.
And these Washington and New York influentials-- including writers Bill Kristol and Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, and Rich Lowry of National Review, and policy provocateurs like Bill Bennett and Pete Wehner-- have repaid the favor. In the process they have helped Ryan illuminate a path to power much different than the traditional strategy of bill-passing, logrolling, and above all loyal time-serving that historically was the way to win influence on Capitol Hill.
“Ryan developed a fan base outside of Congress,” explained conservative editor Yuval Levin. “He seems to be taken seriously by people who other members take seriously.”
“Public policy and intellectual types are susceptible to flattery and the bar is not particularly high,” quipped Ramesh Ponnuru, a National Review writer who knows and admires Ryan.
The GOP, long a royalist party that rewards those who wait their turn, has been upended in recent years by powerful ideological and technological forces, and nobody better symbolizes the new ways in which power is obtained than Ryan.
He even managed to ingratiate himself to fellow Wall Street-oriented Democrats to so powerful an extent that he has never to this day been seriously challenged for reelection by the DCCC despite representing a swing district filled with Democratic legislative leaders, a district that Obama won in 2008. Even now, when Ryan has a formidable grassroots challenge from Rob Zerban, Steve Israel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have sent out the word that Ryan is not to be touched. One of the DCCC's biggest donors and fundraisers told me she would throw an event for Zerban in her home and the next day she told me "Steve told me not to waste my time or money. He said Zerban won't even win the nomination." That seemed odd to me since the DCCC hadn't even put up an opponent and no other Democratic opponent had come forward. But it was just Steve Israel doing what Wall Street whores like him-- and it is a requirement of the DCCC chairmanship that you be a Wall Street whore (think Rahm Emanuel and Chris Van Hollen)-- had always done: protect Paul Ryan.
But being president-- the position Wall Street wants him in-- is very different from being president of a fraternity or a junior high school class. We'll soon see if the American public is as gullible and susceptible to his charms as Rich Lowry, Bill Kristol and Stephen Hayes.
And, by the way, please visit the Stop Paul Ryan page if you'd like to do something about saving America from this venal brown-noser.