Last Friday I noted Paul Ryan’s comments where he, in essence, accused the top military brass of lying to Congress to cover-up potential harm to the nation’s security in Obama’s proposed budget. To Ryan’s credit, he went on the Sunday shows to retract the claims. Per TPM:
“I really misspoke,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. “And I did not mean to impugn the integrity of the military in any way.” Asked whether he has apologized to Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ryan said, “Yeah, I called him and told him that.”
It was not the impression I meant to give,” Ryan added on ABC’s This Week. “I talked to General Dempsey on it, and expressed that sentiment.”
Calling his words “clumsy,” Ryan doubled down on his broader point that the Pentagon is conforming to adjusted military spending levels in President Obama’s budget, when he argues they should have put out their plan first.
Good on Ryan for stepping back rather than going for the typical politician shuffle of doubling down on your misstated claim. But I think it is still a telling episode about the priorities of Ryan and the rest of the GOP that have anointed him their thought leader on everything related to the budget. Even if he is no longer calling them liars, Ryan’s initial instinct is one that leaves no room for making a deal with Democrats on reductons in defense. The concept that the military might have to trim their budgets a bit to help reduce the long-term debt is anathema to Ryan. But cutting back most elements of the welfare state that cares for the needy? A-ok as far as his worldview goes. If Ryan’s budget—passed along a party line vote in the House last week—was ever implemented, almost all government functions would be rolled back except for defense, social security, and various health care spending. You could say goodbye to food stamps, transportation funding, government assisted college loans, and a series of other popular programs under such a plan.