U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan delivered a powerful speech in defense of “American exceptionalism” and constitutional principles of ordered liberty at the 2010 Citizenship Dinner of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) Wednesday night (March 31). A senior member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, he has emerged as a leading advocate for market-oriented economic reforms.
Ryan, a leading national critic of the new federal health care bill, highlighted the annual OCPA gala at the Nationla Cowboy Museum. The event featured announcement of five Oklahoma high school students who won this year’s Citizenship Essay awards.
In an interview with this writer for CapitolBeatOK and Tulsa Today, Ryan reflected, “Jobs and the economy are the top concerns as far as I am concerned. It is a concern that is greater than politics. Now obviously the top worry about government at this very moment is the passage of this dreadful federal health care bill.”
The Wisconsin Republican said, “We are telling entrepreneurs, risk takers and creative people to brace themselves because more is coming. Get ready for inflation and don’t take risks, that’s the simple version of the message our government is sending right now. The worst is yet come.”
Ryan powerfully dissented from current national policy priorities. Concerning the new health care bill, Ryan said, “I’m letting others fight the legal fight, the constitutional fight, about this terrible bill. The only way to fix health care now is to repeal this bill, and that means to succeed in the upcoming elections. It’s simple. Repeal this law, replace it with better law, defeat this president and replace him with a new one.
“We are on a very clear trajectory for government takeover of the entire economy. With this legislation, the president and his allies have assaulted our sensibilities and our principles.”
CapitolBeatOK asked Rep. Ryan if he is running for president. He responded, “No, I’m not. My head is not that big and my kids are too small. They are 5, 6 and 8 years old and they need me.”
Ryan engaged in a discussion about recent rhetorical excesses in political debates, saying, “I can control my own actions, I can’t control the actions of others. We need civil dialogue, and we need vigorous and trenchant debate. We need to give people who are concerned an ability to channel their energies and their concerns productively. That is a matter of political freedom.
“Some of the recent criticism of conservatives generally is an effort to make bad actions by a few into a political weapon against everyone who raises concern about the expansion of government at the expense of freedom. The suggestion is made by too many that those who believe government should be restrained and taxes should be lower, and who believe the federal health care bill is ill-advised, that those people – our people – are part of the fringe.
“We are not a fringe, we are free people engaged in an important political dialogue. We must continue to argue for what we know is right, and not allow ourselves to be, or to feel, ostracized for believing in American principles and standards.” He reflected, “All of this is part of the political narrative of our day. I have experienced harsh attacks for 11 years.”
Ryan continued, “I’ve actually spent a good share of time hereabouts. I know how incredible and wonderful Oklahomans are. I also know this is a largely sensible state. You have competitive politics, a Democratic governor and other Democrats in important positions.
“People here have to understand that many Democrats in Washington no longer fall into the bipartisan tradition taken for granted here. There just aren’t that many Washington-style Democrats in Oklahoma.”
Ryan continued, “We are on the road to becoming a European-style social welfare state, a social democracy in a model that is foreign to our traditions of liberty, freedom, constitutional and limited government.”
Ryan told this writer, “The core identity of the country is now at stake. We don’t want or need socialist democracy. All of us who agree on fundamental principles of freedom, limited government, personal responsibility and government accountability must band together. We have to reapply ourselves to the struggle for freedom and the things that come with it.”
Ryan praised his colleague Tom Coburn after a warm introduction from the Muskogee Republican. He said he regretted his friend Mary Fallin’s decision to leave Congress and run for governor, saying, “Our loss is your gain.”
At the OCPA gathering, Ryan praised OCPA and its founder, Dr. David Brown, for establishing what he called one of the best state-level conservative policy “think tanks.”
When this writer interviewed Rep.Ryan Wednesday afternonn, he was driving through the Arbuckle Mountains in south central Oklahoma, on his way to the event in the capital city. He and his wife Janna, a Madill native, were married at Oklahoma City’s St. Joseph Old Cathedral.
Concerning Janna, he joked during his OCPA speech that he and family visit Oklahoma “three times a year – deer season, duck season and turkey season.” For some reason, he continued, “Janna refers to our visits as Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.”
About the author: Pat McGuigan is a longtime writer for Tulsa Today. He runs the on-line news service CapitolBeatOK from offices in the state Capitol Building in Oklahoma City.