Like him or not, Paul Ryan is no dummy. There’s a reason the Wisconsin Republican has had such a quick ascent within the House GOP leadership. It appears that he has even become a subject of Obama’s new strategy to engage the Republicans (or at least to pretend to engage them).
Obama praised Ryan for having ideas at the retreat, contrasting him with Republicans who offered only talking points. But Obama also criticized Ryan, saying his plan would too strictly limit Medicare benefits.
Ryan proposes that the deficit be closed by shifting some seniors away from Medicare. He would have Americans 55 and younger be issued vouchers to buy private insurance approved by Medicare instead of being placed in the Medicare system. when they grow older. Those older than 55 would stay in Medicare.
Ryan is a movement conservative. He is a Buckley-reading son of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page. He is the idol of campus conservatives all across America. An intellectual in an anti-intellectual party. But there’s a reason Obama was comfortable highlighting his intellectualism. His ideas are radical, and they strike against the most sacred special interest in Washington: the elderly. Obama welcomes the opportunity to showcase Ryan’s alternatives because they are incompatible with American public opinion.
The perception that Obama’s health care plan would covertly starve Medicare to pay for increased Medicaid etc. is one of the most important barriers that Democrats need to address in order to win the health care debate. By so generously giving the floor to a Republican who is overtly anti-Medicare (relatively speaking), Obama can remind voters that it is in fact Democrats who wish to protect the elderly.