Over at Slate, John Dickerson gets a pretty amazing statement out of Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republicans' supposed budget expert:
Obama had said he could have done more to work with Republicans. Did the GOP share any of the blame?
"No, it's all the Democrats' fault," Ryan said. "We're great. We have halos over our heads," he added sarcastically.
"How do you want me to answer that?" he asked. I told him that truthfully would be fine.
He seemed boxed-in. Even if he believed Republicans shared some blame, he couldn't admit it. "They had to make a decision," he said, referring to the president and Democratic leaders. "Do we work with these Republicans and do we meet in the middle? But we don't have to because we have all the votes. They made a choice to go it on their own, and that's when we had to protect ourselves."
He said he tried to reach out to the White House early in the administration on a health care plan. "We sent a plan to the president, we sent them letters, we called people, we kept trying to talk to them," he said. "It was just a thud." Of the White House, he said, "They don't talk to us."
So Republicans didn't share at all in the blame? I asked, just to be clear. Ryan repeated his answer.
One's first reaction, is, holy cow. He can't even admit that Republicans had even the smallest part in the lack of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans? No, apparently he can't -- it's 100 percent Obama's fault. Ryan isn't saying Republicans have been cooperative, but what he is saying is that they tried to reach out, then "They made a choice to go it on their own," and Republican opposition is just a reaction to that. So it's all Obama's fault.
Now, you might conclude that Ryan has had some kind of psychotic break, or that he's so blinded by hatred of Obama that he interprets everything Obama does as evil, and therefore even when thinking about the administration's repeated and fruitless efforts to reach out to Republicans, he has convinced himself they weren't real, or never happened, or something. But I don't think that's really what's going on.
I think this has more to do with the current atmosphere within the GOP. They spent so much time calling Obama a vile despicable socialist communist America-hating terrorist sympathizer -- not necessarily every single Republican, but as a group -- that it isn't just substantive compromise that has been ruled out of bounds. Republicans now seem to believe that it's extraordinarily dangerous within their party to grant even the tiniest bit of good will or lack of blame to the president and the Democrats. You can't talk about them unless you're expressing anger or contempt. As David Brooks said of his fellow Republicans, "And my problem with the Republican Party right now, including Paul, is that if you offered them 80-20, they say no. If you offered them 90-10, they’d say no. If you offered them 99-1 they’d say no. And that’s because we’ve substituted governance for brokerism, for rigidity that Ronald Regan didn’t have. And to me, this rigidity comes from this polarizing world view that they’re a bunch of socialists over there." And guess who the "Paul" in that statement is.
-- Paul Waldman