Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read all of Katrina’s column here.
Republicans have chosen Rep. Paul Ryan, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, to respond to the president’s State of the Union address tonight. In the civility intermission that has followed the assassination attempt against Rep. Gabby Giffords just outside Tucson, Ryan will no doubt be respectful, and sorrowful that he must dissent from the president’s course. Don’t be fooled.
Ryan is an Ayn Rand-quoting zealot, one of the Republican Party’s self-styled "Young Guns." He’s spent his adult life inside the Beltway, on the political right, with no experience in the world of business, labor, the executive branch or the private sector. Incubated in a right-wing think tank, writing speeches for Jack Kemp and William Bennett, he was elected to Congress at age 28. Ryan became the most loyal of loyal foot soldiers in the Congress presided over by Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, a fact Ryan now glosses over as he describes those Congresses as "corrupt."
Ryan has been dubbed a Republican "thinker" by national reporters desperate to find someone they can praise in a party that was extreme before the Tea Partyers came to town. But, in fact, his rhetoric is a barely varnished echo of the ravings of Glenn Beck. He accuses Obama of a "treacherous plan," saying that Democrats have a "hardcore-left agenda," and claims that Democrats are steering the country "very far left, very fast" – a direction he describes as "completely antithetical to what this country is about."