Ryan to Gingrich: ‘This Is Not the 1990s’

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the influential Budget Committee chairman, has kept his distance from the GOP primary. But after reading Newt Gingrich’s latest comments about entitlement reform, he says the contenders must seriously address the debt crisis, not play political games.

In an interview with Coffee & Markets, Gingrich said that Republicans should not “impose” solutions that are “very, very unpopular.” Ronald Reagan, he noted, “ran to be a popular president, not to maximize suicide.”

In order to “govern over the long run,” leaders need “the American people [to] think you’re doing a good job and think you’re doing what they want,” he continued.

Ryan, in an interview with National Review Online, says that he disagrees with Gingrich, and urges Republicans to confront fiscal problems, irrespective of political risk. Worrying about electoral “suicide,” he says, is a disservice to voters, “who don’t want to be pandered to like children.”

“This is not the 1990s,” Ryan says. “The ‘Mediscare’ is not working and we should not back down from this fight. I, for one, believe the country is ready, they’re hungry for it. They are ready to hear real solutions. We shouldn’t wait around for the status quo to become popular.”

“Leaders don’t follow the polls, leaders change the polls,” Ryan says. “We have moved so far in advancing entitlement reform, not just in Congress but in this [presidential] race, with most of the candidates embracing comprehensive entitlement reform. That has been a very good thing. At this point, we should be moving forward, not moving backwards.”

Ryan adds that he is still undecided about whether he will endorse a candidate. But his message to Gingrich and the rest of the field is clear. “Leaders need to go out and change things, speaking to people as adults,” he says. “We should not shy away from this fight, even though we know the Democrats will demagogue us.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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