By comparison, the New York Times' Paul Krugman has long called out Rep. Ryan as the content-free scammer that he is, regardless of how knowledgeable Pau-lie seems to be when he gives his scripted, trickle-down spiel. Krugman put out an excellent column over the weekend exposing the foolishness of both Ryan's act, as well as those insiders that talk Ryan up as some kind of conservative policy wonk. Krugman explains why taking the Speaker's job would destroy a façade for both Ryan and the pundits, since a big reason why Ryan has a raised stature is due to a political media that refuses to admit to the public that the GOP has no workable policy solutions, and feels wedded to the idea of having "both sides" in arguments to have equal worth.
What you need to understand about political commentary these days — including the de facto commentary that poses as news analysis, or even reporting — is that most of the people doing it have both a professional and an emotional stake in portraying the two parties as symmetric, equally good or bad on policy issues and general behavior. To stray from this pose of even-handedness is to be labeled a partisan — and to admit that the parties aren’t the same, after all, would mean admitting that you’ve been wrong about the most basic features of the situation for years.Krugman notes that the image of Ryan as some kind of thoughtful "solutions man" is a complete fraud that has been perpetuated by lazy analysts who want to be portrayed as "centrist", but have that centrist status be based more on tone than policy or results.
The answer is that [centrists] desperately need to find conservatives they can take seriously, people who produce policy ideas that, even if you don’t support their priorities, add up and generally make sense. And that’s Paul Ryan’s game: he has put himself forward as the serious, honest conservative of centrists’ dreams, someone they can cite approvingly as a way of showing their centrism and open-mindedness...And the guy who knows this best is Paul Ryan. Because if Ryan were to become Speaker of the House, then he'd actually have to face media that might ask legitimate questions about his policy plans, and demand real details. It's much easier for Lyin' Ryan to continue to chair the House Ways and Means Committee, pass poser budgets and 50-something bills to repeal Obamacare, and then go on Sunday talk shows where the hosts won't dare to bark when Ryan says things that are clearly ridiculous. As Speaker, he'd actually have to work with others to get things done, and if anything gets done, it may not be in the interests of the Kochs and other DC Bubble-Worlders that are Ryan's true constiutents.
But Ryan didn’t step into that role by actually being a serious, honest conservative; he just played one on TV. If you knew anything at all about budgeting, you soon realized that his supposedly responsible fiscal proposals were stuffed full of mystery meat. He knew how to game the system, creating the impression that CBO had vetted his plans when it had done no such thing (and in fact hinted broadly that the whole thing was a crock). But there’s never been any indication that he actually knows how to produce a budget — and in any case, giant tax cuts for the rich and fiscal responsibility are fundamentally incompatible.
So Ryan’s current stature is really quite curious, and I’d argue quite fragile. He has been a highly successful con artist, pretending to be the reasonable conservative centrists desperately want to see; he has become a power within his party because of that external achievement. But he’s not a true hero of the crazy right; he’s valued mainly because of his successful con job on the center. So he doesn’t have a reserve of goodwill from the crazies that would let him be, well, not crazy. On the other hand, if he were to be the kind of speaker the crazies want, he would undermine that all-important centrist approbation. Being off to the side, pretending to be dealing thoughtfully with important policy issues, was where he needed to be; moving to the speaker’s chair would be a lose-lose proposition.
Plus, just ask Scott Walker about what happens when big-egoed Republicans from Wisconsin actually try to step onto the national stage away from the cocoon of AM620 and the rest of the suckups in the Wisconsin media. Lyin' Ryan may be a scummy sellout, but unlike Walker, he's not delusional, and he isn't going to do anything that might lead to a Walker-style implosion.