Rep. Paul Ryan stopped by National Review’s Washington offices today. Towards the end of the meeting, I asked him about the contrast in his life in the past year — last autumn, when he spent every day in the white-hot spotlight running for vice president, and now, when he’s back chairing the House Budget Committee. I asked whether a part of him felt happy to be back in his budget-policy element.
“No, I actually wished I was doing something different,” Ryan said with a laugh. “I had a different vision than this.”
“I guess one of the most distressing things is that . . . I worked with Mike Leavitt — after my debate was done, I got to jump into the transition planning more. Mitt had two more debates to go. So I worked with Mike Leavitt and Chris Liddell and his team on the transition plan. And knowing what we were going to do in the first 200 days, how we were going to tackle the entitlement problems, the debt crisis, tax reform, energy exploration, all the things we said were going to do, we were going to do. And we were really getting down to the specifics. Losing the election and now seeing where the country is headed in this kind of level of detail . . . [holding up a summary of President Obama’s budget proposal, unveiled today] . . . Very few people have such a clear view of the whole alteration of trajectory that has occurred. And that’s obviously . . . I won’t say it’s despairing, it’s distressing, I’m distressed. I gave up despair for Lent this year,” he joked.
“I look at the situation now, and I do what you have to do as a legislator: make the best of a situation as it is, and try to improve things. I want to get an agreement to get a down payment on this problem to buy the country time, and help create some space for economic growth. But it’s distressing that all of these things are happening — I think Obamacare is going to destroy health care. I think the tax code is holding us back. I think we’re on the cusp of an energy renaissance, if we allow it happen, that could be a game changer for America. I think they’re regulating jobs out of existence with uncertainty. We could have changed all that. But we didn’t. So let’s go to Plan B, which is make the best of it.”