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Ryan's political lineage is Conservative royalty | The Conservative Soldier

The Conservative Soldier

“If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.” (Ronald Reagan)

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Paul Ryan’s 20-year journey

August 14th, 2012 · No Comments

The first time I saw Paul Ryan in the flesh was on the morning of February 26, 2009, in Washington.

He was the leadoff speaker inside a vast ballroom at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and was greeted by an audience of several thousand people who were both fired up by Ryan’s presence yet still shell-shocked. This was 30 days into the Barack Obama presidency. It was a time of soul searching, economic anxiety and concern about the future of conservatism.

CPAC was hatched by the American Conservative Union in 1973. Since that first conference, headlined by Ronald Reagan, the gathering had evolved into the most important annual event on the conservative calendar.

But in 2009, CPAC felt like a wake. Paul Ryan would have none of that. He bounded onto the stage. The audience suddenly snapped out of it. Even in this setting, where the attendees are engaged in politics and know the players, Ryan was something of an unknown.

The Wisconsin congressman graciously acknowledged the thundering applause, and clearly was undaunted by the bright lights. Obama’s over-scripted oratory causes feinting spells; Ryan’s ad-libbed straight talk has just the opposite effect. He’s a motivator.

“Looks like Reagan!” I wrote on my notepad that morning. Ryan has Reagan’s full head of hair, but that’s not the relevant parallel. Ryan is a direct descendant of the School of Reaganomics.

The battle to restore America, Ryan said, “will be lead by the conservative movement or it won’t be led at all.”
Now was the time for a new strategy. Now was the time to come together and pledge to stop the plague of radical liberalism from spreading.

“Our last strategy lead to defeat,” Ryan said the February morning, alluding to the failed, unfocused presidential bid of John McCain.

He brought along plenty of verbal arrows aimed at the new Obama administration’s economic stimulus strategies (”phony”), but Ryan’s principle mission that morning was to scold the assembled and their elected Republican leaders.

“The Republican party disregarded its roots,” Ryan said. He talked about our nation’s founding principals. “Without enduring principles, we get change but no direction.”

Ryan encouraged the room to get acquainted with the remedies he recommended. There was a handy web site, AmericanRoadmap.com. (Ryan had actually unveiled his plan in May 2008, amid the McCain-Obama showdown). He touched on the principles that mattered most: stable money, a secure dollar, tax code reform, health care reform (”a vibrant health care market”), federal spending and limited federal regulation.

After a stint on Capitol Hill as a policy wonk for a member of the House, Ryan landed with Jack Kemp’s supply-side economics think tank, Empower America, in 1993. He comes from a rich conservative lineage that includes Barry Goldwater, Reagan and Kemp.

Before exiting that morning, Ryan reminisced about Kemp, the 1996 vice presidential candidate with Bob Dole.

“Jack Kemp once said that all of the supply-siders in Washington (in the 1970s) could fit in a phone booth,” said Ryan, then just 38 years old. “I’m not sure what a phone booth is (laughter). I’ve heard about them.”

But Ryan is as dialed-in as they come on economic philosophy. He has lived and breathed small-government conservatism his entire adult life. By selecting Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney has found one of the few people in Washington who is driven by policy before politics. Ryan seemingly has relished being a voice in the wilderness a for more than a decade, warning Republicans they were straying from their ideals.

National Review’s editorial following the Ryan announcement said it best. Because of his fierce devotion to and enduring respect for sound economic principals, Ryan today is “more presidential than the incumbent”.

The CPAC crowd in Washington sensed that as long ago as 2009.

Tags: Romney Ryan 2012