Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY— Paul Ryan is a lifelong Wisconsonite with a reputation as the U.S. Congress' leading budget conservative.
As of Saturday morning, he may be better known as the man Mitt Romney tapped for the No. 2 slot on the 2012 GOP presidential ticket.
Less well known are Ryan’s ties to the Sooner State — and not just the fact that he married his wife Janna, a Madill native, at St. Joseph Old Cathedral in OKC.
Ryan long ago established his ideological connection to local conservatives. The U.S. representative’s budget work in Congress and his role as a key player on the powerful U.S. House Budget Committee have made him a leading advocate for market-oriented economic reforms. He’s a leading critic of the federal health-care law, President Barack Obama‘s signature domestic policy achievement.
In March 2010, Ryan delivered a powerful speech in defense of “American exceptionalism” and constitutional principles of ordered liberty at the annual Citizenship Dinner of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
CapitolBeatOK conducted a memorable telephone interview with Ryan, as he drove through the Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma, on his way to the OCPA event in the capital city.
“Jobs and the economy are the top concerns as far as I am concerned,” Ryan told CapitolBeatOK then. “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.
“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 then-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.”
At a time when many Americans were worried about tension in Washington, D.C., Ryan emphasized his own philosophy about tough but gracious dialogue.
“I can control my own actions,” he said. “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.
Ryan distanced himself from Republicans who abandoned the party’s core principles.
“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,” he said. “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. All of this is part of the political narrative of our day.”
Ryan urged Oklahomans not to confuse local Democrats with what he regards as the more radical national variety.
Pointing to then-Gov. Brad Henry and other Oklahoma Democrats, he observed, “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.
“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.
“The core identity of the country is now at stake,” Ryan told CapitolBeatOK. “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.”
Concerning his wife, Janna, he joked during his OCPA speech that he and his family visit Oklahoma “three times a year — deer season, duck season and turkey season.” For some reason, he joked, “Janna refers to our visits as Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.”