Method to The Madness

by digby

Tucker Carlson's new Huffy Pose reports:

An unusual thing happened as President Obama’s budget director, Peter Orszag, spoke Sunday evening about the White House budget proposal being unveiled on Monday.

Orszag, touching on the country’s long-term fiscal instability and its connection to health-care costs, raised a Republican lawmaker’s idea on how to fix the problem. The mention of Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, was completely unilateral by Orszag, without any prompting.

“I would note on this point that there have been alternative proposals put forward. For example, Representative Ryan has come forward with a proposal that does restore long term balance to the federal budget,” Orszag said.

He did it again, again of his own accord, during an interview with Bloomberg TV Monday morning at the White House.

“Republicans have put forward ideas. Rep. Ryan … has a plan for the future of the budget. That’s great,” Orszag said.

On the conference call Sunday, Orszag said that under Ryan’s plan, which moves Medicare recipients 55 and younger into a system where they get direct payment vouchers instead of government payment for each medical visit or procedure, the “voucher would not keep pace with ongoing health-care costs.”

Orszag called the plan “one approach” but said it “may not be the one that the American public favors.”

When Ryan’s name came up yet again at a Monday press conference, Orszag said his plan, while “impressive,” is “a dramatically different approach in which much more risk is loaded onto individuals.”


“I obviously didn’t expect to get this kind of attention,” Ryan said in a phone interview Monday. “But I’m very happy about it because … they can no longer say the Republican party has no ideas.”

The dynamic was on display Friday in Baltimore, when Obama told the House Republican caucus that he had read Ryan’s 93-page plan for American’s fiscal future and was familiar with it. The president, who was at times combative during a question-and-answer session and dismissed some questions by other Republican lawmakers, showed respect for Ryan’s ideas, even though he expressed disagreement.

“Paul … has looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal,” Obama said. “I’ve read it. I can tell you what’s in it. There are some ideas in there that I would agree with, but there are some ideas in there that we should have a healthy debate about because I don’t agree with them.”

Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who attended the session, said the nationally televised session will be a significant boost for Ryan’s political profile.

“When the president shows you that much respect the media is sure to follow, and the president acknowledging and emphasizing that he had read Paul’s materials shows you they are serious and significant,” Luntz said in an interview.

You have to assume that they want to elevate Ryan and others like him so that they can engage in a concerted, long term ideological battle. At least that's a possibility I'm seeing in the weeds of those comments. And if that's the case, then my knee jerk opposition to the president appearing before the lunatics in the spirit of bipartisanship may have been wrong.

If they manage to educate the voters about what's wrong with conservative ideology in this process then more power to them. It's going to take a very sustained effort to get people out of their funk and beyond their tribal impulses to engage in this battle in a serious way but if they do it well it could be an important step forward. It's definitely going to take a lot more than sending out Obama to parry questions --- average people don't have time for that. If they decide to go this way I hope that they devote considerable resources and political brainpower to making these argument well, in ways that people can understand. It's risky in this environment. But there is no good time to wage this kind of campaign.

I do think they need to be careful about emphasizing t "bipartisan" part of this message because the villagers are primed to hear only that and nothing else. (And I honestly don't think anyone's going to buy the two cute by half idea that the Republicans are failures if they don't compromise.) But if they do this right, find the right ways to talk about liberal ideology through these policies and expose the bankruptcy of conservative policies at long last, then it could be valuable for liberalism as well as the president, regardless of what happens in November. If they could do this all the way up until 2012 and run the pre4sidental campaign on this basis instead of Obama's personal star power, I think it would be great.