We return to his office, and while we scarf down Thai noodles for the second straight night, I present him my theory on why The Dark Knight, the latest Batman movie, is essentially the story of his own tenure in Congress. It’s about one vigilante fighting against a corrupt political machine for the betterment of the public, whether or not the public knows it, or even wants it. The movie ends with Commissioner Gordon noting that Batman isn’t “the hero we want, but the hero we need.”
Ryan immediately begins systematically dismantling my argument, finishing by noting that Batman ended up the movie as the bad guy. I fully expected him to pull out a Congressional Budget Office chart comparing his budget deficit reduction plan to that of the caped crusader. I immediately regret bringing Batman up.
After he finishes eating, Ryan sighs. It’s time to start another telephone town hall meeting, this time with the people of Racine County. He cracks a can of Miller Lite, ambles over to his desk, and slides his headset on. His computer screen lights up. “Good evening, this is Congressman Paul Ryan . . .”
Forty years ago, on the day Paul Ryan was born, the Janesville Gazette ran a cartoon mocking President Nixon’s handling of the economy. The cartoon shows Nixon in the passenger seat of a car dangling perilously off the side of a mountain, while telling the driver “now, put it in first gear and go ahead very slowly . . . ”
Four decades later, Paul Ryan is facing the same predicament. He earnestly believes he has a plan to get America’s economy off that cliff and back on the road to prosperity. All that’s left to be settled is whether he will try to bring that change from a seat in Congress or from the Oval Office in the White House.
While we eat our second straight night of Thai food, the discussion turns to Ryan’s fans continually demanding he run for president. I recount Act I, Scene II of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar — in which Caesar refuses the crown three times before his adoring fans force him to accept it.
Ryan smiles, pauses, and says, “And how’d that work out for him?”