Rep. Ryan: I Know You Are, But What Am I?

October 28, 2011 1:15 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

It's been a tough year for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). When Republicans took over the House, Ryan was heralded as the conservative visionary with all the answers to America's economic troubles. But then he rolled out his signature proposal, the "Path to Prosperity," and everything changed.

Ryan's plan to rewrite the social contract, replace Medicare with vouchers, and reduce taxes for wealthy individuals and corporations sparked a massive public backlash. The congressman responded by accusing his critics of spreading falsehoods and, eventually, refusing to face constituents who were not willing or able to pay for access.

Now, Ryan is back on the offensive with a new strategy: projecting his own behavior onto President Obama and Democrats. For example, Matt Yglesias flags a fundraising email sent by Ryan on behalf of the RNC, lamenting that "The safety net for the poor is coming apart at the seams and no one in Washington seems to care."

           screenshot via Steve Benen

As Steve Benen notes, "Ryan is the one swinging the machete at the safety net"; his "Path to Prosperity" may be great for the wealthy, but privatizing Medicare and turning Medicaid and food assistance over to the states would be devastating for Americans who rely on those programs. Since critics began scrutinizing Ryan's ideas more closely, this kind of deflection has become a pattern for him:

 Ryan does the same thing with rhetoric, too. In addition to blaming the unpopularity of his policies on "misinformation" despite habitually lying about Democratic policies, Ryan has complained about "excessively partisan" criticism from President Obama, even though he regularly criticizes the president with politically charged statements.