Apparently taking note of the fact that someone is s hypocrite and rightfully pointing out that their policies hurt the most vulnerable among us is now a "straw man argument." On this Sunday's Meet the Press, David Gregory asked Rep. Paul Ryan about this quote from President Obama's inaugural speech, and Ryan pretty well twisted himself in knots trying to pretend that he and his fellow Republicans really don't want to gut our social safety nets. And all of that talk about "makers vs. takers"... well, just disregard all that.
Here's the quote Gregory read from the President's speech:
We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
And here's his exchange that followed with Ryan:
RYAN: But if you keep the context going, my point in making that statistic is, it's not as these statistics lead you to believe. We don't want a dependency culture. We want a safety net that makes sure that people don't fall through the cracks, that gets people on their feet. Americans want the American dream and the point I make when I cite that statistic is, it's not as it seems. People want the American dream. They want lives of opportunity.
They want to reach their potential. And so our concern in this country is with the idea that more and more able bodied people are becoming dependent upon the government than upon themselves for their livelihoods. We want to make sure we don't continue that trend. And when you take a look at those statistics, it's not as bad as those statistics say. People want lives of upward mobility. People want to chart their own course. They want to reach their potential and our policies should gear towards doing that (crosstalk)... so no one's suggesting that Medicare and Social Security makes you a taker. These are people like my mom, who worked hard, paid her taxes and now is collecting a benefit that she paid for. No one is suggesting people like my mom is a taker.
GREGORY: But then why... look, you're citing figures that of course include entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.
RYAN: When these statistics get cited, it leads you to think that America is gone, that we're becoming too much of a dependent culture and my point has always been, no that's not the full picture (crosstalk)
GREGORY: But here's the criticism against you and Jonathan Chait wrote about it in The New York Magazine blog this week and I'll put it up on the screen, which goes to whether you really want to expand the base of the party and reach out to the poor. This is what he writes.
Obama is arguing that misfortune can strike Americans in all forms — a disability, a storm, illness, or merely outliving our savings — and we have some obligation to each other. Ryan's budget imposes savage cuts to food stamps, children's health insurance, and other mitigations of suffering for the least fortunate. Oh, and Ryan also voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. By Ryan's definition, if the government is rebuilding your destroyed home, you're a taker, too.
RYAN: No, look. This is a straw man argument. The President said I think the week earlier that we had suspicions about Medicare and taking care of the elderly and feeding poor children. When he sets up these straw men, which is to affix views to his adversaries that they don't have to win the argument by default, it's not really an honest debate.
Gregory then tried to get him to specifically say which part of the "safety net culture" was doing that and par for the course, Ryan didn't answer him. If Gregory was going to quote an article by Chait, it's too bad he didn't bring this one up, because it does a great job of calling out Ryan for the "weasel words" like the ones he was using in the segment above: Paul Ryan Breaks Down Under Wonkterrogation.
It's also too bad he didn't show part of Jon Stewart's segment last week where he tore him up for his hypocrisy as well, but it's David Gregory, so I tend to keep my expectations pretty low.