Back in 1971, liberal Republican Senator Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania observed that with Republican President Richard Nixon, “We [liberals] get the action and the conservatives get the rhetoric.”
And this pattern has continued for decades.
Accepting the Republican nomination for president back in 1988, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush told the Republican delegates, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Of course, that promise was soon to be broken. His son, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, declared while campaining for president that America needed a “more humble foreign policy.” And we know how that turned out.
Newly-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (shown) seems ready to continue the tradition of high-ranking Republican officials talking conservative, but when it comes right down to it, giving the “action” to the liberals.
Discussing his new speakership with CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union, Ryan declared that Planned Parenthood should not get one “red cent” from taxpayers. Following that stern rhetoric, however, he quickly explained that the abortion giant will not actually see any cuts in its federal subsidies.
“I think we need to be very clear about what we can and cannot achieve and not set expectations that we know we can’t reach given the constraints of the Constitution,” Ryan insisted.
Constitutionalists, however, clearly understand that the “constraints of the Constitution” would in fact preclude any funding of an organization such as Planned Parenthood.
Ryan told Bash and her viewers that he has “always believed” the pro-abortion organization should not be taxpayer-funded, even before the “disgusting videos.”
Then, as conservatives have come to expect, after the good rhetoric came the “but.”
When Bash asked Ryan if he would actually defund Planned Parenthood, he waffled. “This is what I mean when I say being an effective opposition party. I think being an effective opposition party means being honest with people upfront about what it is we can and cannot achieve.”
Again, Ryan is referring to the supposed "constraints of the Constitution" that would keep lawmakers from being able to defund the abortion giant.
Additionally, many found it bizarre that he would refer to the House-majority GOP as the "opposition party."
Conservatives have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of ability (or will) of the Republicans on Capitol Hill to achieve any victories — a major reason that John Boehner (replaced now by Ryan) is no longer in Congress.
But the expectation that Ryan will be any different from Boehner will lead to even more disenchantment on the part of the Republican grassroots, which has always been more conservative than almost all congressional Republicans.
Radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham summed up Ryan as “basically John Boehner with better abs.” After all, Paul Ryan’s score on The New American’s Freedom Index (a congressional voting scorecard based on fidelity to the U.S. Constitution) is only a dismal 58 percent, compared to Boehner’s slightly more anemic 52.
Anyone hearing Ryan concede that Congress will continue to finance Planned Parenthood would find it difficult to expect him to defund any other wildly unconstitutional government spending. For instance, he joined with 78 other Republicans to support increased federal spending and additional debt in voting for the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which basically repealed the modest budget constraints of the “sequester bill.” This “bipartisan” bill is similar to the 1991 agreement reached by President Bush and the “bipartisan leaders” of that day to hike federal taxes. Then, it was the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings legislation (which was achieving some modest restraints on federal spending) that was basically repealed. And despite all the "lip-reading" of three years earlier, taxpayers got soaked again.
Whenever Republicans “reach across the aisle” (and it's always a one-way reach, as Democrats never move in the direction of lower federal spending), taxpayers get to reach for their lighter wallets.
In one of the most glaring examples of promoting wildly unconstitutional federal spending, Ryan was one of many Republicans, along with most of the Democrats, who voted in 2008 to bail out Wall Street. Another case of bipartisanship to soak the taxpayers.
But it is not just fiscal issues that cause the Republican base concern about Paul Ryan.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz cited Ryan’s vocal support both for Obama’s international trade deals that would diminish America's sovereignty and for his "comprehensive immigration reform" plan (amnesty) as showing that he is a congressman the president can work with.
Shortly before Ryan's election as speaker, Schultz told the press corps, "We hope that whoever is the next speaker assumes that role with a willingness to work with Democrats." And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid commented also at that time, "I hope [Ryan] gets it [the speakership]. We've been able to work with him."
All this is supportive evidence of the view expressed by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in the most recent presidential debate that he did not expect any real change with Paul Ryan in the speaker’s chair.
So the conservatives continue to be gladdened and tranquilized by the reassuring rhetoric, while the liberals get all the action.
Photo: AP Images
Steve Byas is the author of the recently published History’s Greatest Libels, a book that challenges the unfair treatment of many historical figures such as Christopher Columbus and Clarence Thomas.