The first week of 2016 brought something that I hadn’t expected: President Obama and I are in agreement. Last week, the president previewed his State of the Union Address from the Oval Office saying, “Since I took office seven years ago, in the midst of crisis, I don’t think I’ve ever been more optimistic abut the year ahead.” (odd for him to say considering in January of 2009 he had his vision of change and a Democrat Congress to achieve it, but I guess “yes, we can” was less convincing to him than his followers.) What’s more, we both agree on at least one cause of this optimism: that this is his last year as president.
My other reason for optimism, Paul Ryan’s speakership, is likely not shared by the president. Ryan’s ability to communicate the way in which conservative principles can improve Americans’ daily lives and his Midwestern, earnest and steadfast promise keeping will be refreshing for the Republican base and the House Freedom Caucus. If Speaker Ryan says he will do something, it’s going to happen.
2015 closed with a budget deal that had Rush Limbaugh shrieking the “GOP [sold] America down the river.” In a nutshell, the pundits and many in the Freedom Caucus were frustrated that Ryan didn’t threaten a government shutdown in order to defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood—two things that won’t happen while Barack Obama is in the White House. Political punditry and showmanship are easy, governing is hard; it requires wisdom and patience, uncommon virtues in Washington. Thankfully for Republicans, Paul Ryan has both.
Upon assuming speakership, Ryan was handed a budget deal that was a fait accompli. He had two options: blow the deal up, shutdown the government, and start the 2016 Election Year in turmoil; or snatch a few important victories within the deal and start 2016 with a clean slate on which to write a clear, conservative vision for the country. Paul Ryan withstood pressure from the “politics-over-governance crew” and chose the latter.
The budget deal permanently removed the ban on oil exports, strengthening our position in dealing with the Middle East and Russia while boosting our economy at home; prevented the sequester from hitting the military so that our beleaguered forces get the resources they need in this dangerous world; and protected free speech by preventing the IRS from transforming abusive tactics into sanctioned policies. The IRS provision alone was worth the price, because we can undo spending in the future easier than re-instating First Amendment rights taken away. Not bad for an admittedly crappy bill.
Then, in the first week of the New Year, Paul Ryan did exactly what he promised, sending to Obama’s desk a bill that defunds Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. Of course, the president vetoed it, but the public discussion will be about the issues presented in the bill, rather than inside-the-beltway gridlock and bickering. Moreover, passage of the bill shows the American people that Republicans are capable of governing.
As the year continues, with Speaker Paul Ryan’s help, Americans will realize that “a more prosperous, a more secure, and a more confident America is possible.”
Yes Mr. President, I’m very optimistic.