Tricky Paul Ryan

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Paul Ryan making headlines at Wispolitics with some insight into the health care reform bill that even liberals are beginning to assume is dead:

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (left) predicted House Democrats would move forward with a health care bill including a public option that he said has a chance to pass despite concerns raised over summer recess about the bill.

“They can’t bring a bill to the floor that doesn’t have a public option because a majority of the Democratic caucus is dramatically in favor of a public option,” Ryan, R-Janesville, said on Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha.”

The key to getting enough votes is whether so called “blue-dog” Democrats will remain on board with the public plan, Ryan said.

But he predicted that House leaders may be able to get Dems in line similar to the way they did when cap and trade legislation looked to be short on votes before it ultimately won House passage.

“I think the odds are they’ll probably have the chance to pass this,” Ryan said. “This majority is very good at exercising discipline within its ranks and passing controversial legislation.”

He expressed skepticism about the health care cooperatives being talked about in the Senate, saying they are not like co-ops most people are familiar with and amount to a “public plan in everything but name only.”

Ryan also commented on the town hall meetings taking place, saying that they reflected concern not only about health care, but the growing role of the federal government overall.

While Ryan said he believes the public option would lead to rationing, he rejected the notion that the bill would create “death panels” and said exaggerations aren’t needed to fight the bill.

There are two ways to receive this supposedly frank analysis of health care reform (I sure hope it’s frank):

1. Paul Ryan is a reasonable, honest man who cares more about keeping his constituents updated with affairs than scoring political points for his party. House Republicans made a horrible blunder in allowing him to become the de facto head of the party’s health care opposition.

2. Paul Ryan is a shrewd politician who is wagering political capital on cool, condescending disapproval of the Democrats over angry, foot-stomping demagoguery. By admitting defeat he simultaneously accomplishes two goals: he appears moderate and honest and he very effectively communicates the danger of the Democratic majority.

As you can probably guess, I am a subscriber to the second theory. The same congressman who has been busy proposing radical right wing alternatives to virtually every major piece of legislation is not a moderate and he does believe in using whatever rhetoric necessary to convince the American people to embrace him over his opponents. Why else would his proposed health care bill be three pages long and not include any explanation of the costs? Paul Ryan may be smart enough to be a policy wonk, but he is not on Capitol Hill to be one. He is there to be a politician. He is there to be the next Newt Gingrich.

Many politicians are so confined to their talking points that the bullshit they spin comes out looking like bullshit to a large proportion of listeners. By slightly dressing up their bullshit, Ryan and his team come out sounding much more convincing, and moreover, their words get attention. Rather than go the normal route, “I believe the American people, once they see what is in this bill, will not allow their representatives to go ahead…” he plays the martyr card, much in the way of his political ancestor Dick Nixon, “You know I hate to say it but I gotta be honest with you…the good guys might not win this one.”

On the other end we got Tammy Baldwin playing the same game.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin expressed confidence health care reform would pass, but said while she would have given passage 75 percent odds last month, she’s now down to 55 percent certainty.

“I’ve seen over the pass several weeks just how strenuous the opposition to change really is,” Baldwin, D-Madison, told UpFront. “There are stakeholders who profit mightily from what the status quo is and are resisting it at all odds.

“I do think we are going to prevail and pass legislation providing health care, high quality health care, for all Americans, but the road is going to be steep.”

I hope they’re both right.

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