Tell us, Journal Sentinel, which Paul Ryan is most important? Failed VP candidate? Budget chair? Politician? Home boy? Author? | WisCommunity

Tell us, Journal Sentinel, which Paul Ryan is most important? Failed VP candidate? Budget chair? Politician? Home boy? Author?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sure loves politicians who write books. And some of those authors it really, really loves, judging by the space it has devoted to their self-serving monologues. The newspaper like other news media gave a fair amount of coverage to Gov. Scott Walker's "Unintimidated" book a year or so ago, not all of it flattering, but the free PR that Walker got was nothing compared to the Journal's bigger festish for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis), a political home boy (he represents the congressional district including Janesville) who unaccountably tends to get a lot of coverage in the state's biggest newspaper whenever he says or does anything.

A new book by Ryan hit store shelves Tuesday. And as of this morning, the Journal Sentinel has run six articles on Ryan's book dating back to May 2013, more than a year before it even came out. The two most recent articles ran on consecutive days -- both on Page One. Why, the coverage is almost as long as the book itself. [UPDATE: As of Sunday, 8/24/14, the number has increased to seven, with a big wet kiss by conservative JS columnist Christian Schneider. Geez, why didn't the newspaper just print the entire book and be done with it?]

Like Walker, Ryan has presidential ambitions, and these days you don't run for president before first writing a book describing -- or in many cases simply alluding -- to your vision for the country. His book is entitled "The Way Forward." That has a nice, quasi-utopian ring to it, along the lines of Microsoft parent Bill Gates' techno-focused "The Road Ahead," but the Ryan book's retreaded policy pronouncements sound more like something from novelist Cormac McCarthy's dystopian "The Road."

Ryan yaks about the "politics of emotion," a style he says infects both major parties (the Democratic Party more, in his view, and Obama in particular. Really? Obama is too emotional?). This style, says Ryan, obstructs rational policy discourse and compromise. Hey, tell us something we don't know!

Ryan says he wrote the book mainly to suggest new tactical approaches the Republican Party can use to relate better to people other than the party's current electoral base. He means people like the unemployed, the working poor, Hispanics, and African Americans -- who these days are righteously emotional about a lot of bad stuff that's been happening to them and their communities. If we could only talk more calmly about the big political issues, Ryan says, everything would get better.

Give him a wee bit of credit for admitting the Republican political approach is far too emotional. Take that credit back, though, because Ryan ignores how a lot of people in this country are hurting in many cases because of the GOP policies he wouldn't so much change as amp up.

While Ryan chides his own party for not doing enough to reach out to at-risk populations who normally vote Democratic, he trots out the same policy ideas, only this time dressed in gift paper and bows. He would still whack what's left of the nation's social safety net, but in turn he'd give struggling Americans an "opportunity" grant (like he'd basically get rid Medicare and instead give recipients a too-small voucher). In exchange he'd make public aid recipients sign a "contract" in which they would promise to succeed or face cut-off. How nice.

None of those ideas are the key focus of this book, however. Rather, as Ryan has explained, he just wants his party -- like he, himself, is already doing, dontcha know -- to focus on making more friends instead of attacking what he and other Republicans have in the past regarded aloud as the "lazy 47 percent" of Americans who are "takers." No more of that talk, Ryan says. Just concentrate on the same old policies, but smile more.

Give Journal Sentinel political reporter Craig Gilbert a little bit of credit himself, for, in the latest article (which you can find in the links below) asking Ryan some pointed questions about the content of the book. But ding the newspaper as a whole for conflating the book into a prospective Republican policy statement that might just attract new voters. And for conflating Ryan into some kind of statesman apart from all the rest. Actually, it's the same-old stuff from Ryan, re-tuned to sound open-minded, but the impact of which would be just as cruel and unfair.


August 20, 2014 - 10:53am