Monday, May 16, 2011

Elephant Dung #32: After Gingrich slam, Ryan retaliates

Tracking the GOP Civil War

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(For an explanation of this ongoing series, see
here. For previous entries, see here.)

Earlier today, I blogged about The Newt's criticism of Republican wunderkind Paul Ryan's anti-Medicare plan as "radical," a not-terribly-surprising establishment pushback against an increasingly unpopular right-wing effort.

Well, you knew that wasn't the end of it, and Ryan snarkily pushed back today, retaliating on right-wing talk radio:

With allies like that, who needs the left? 

Ah, so you see, if you're not with him -- Ryan, that is -- you're against him. And if you dare criticize his Medicare-destoying aims, you're really not much of a Republican, and certainly not acceptable to the sort of right-wing Tea Party orthodoxy that Ryan represents. Welcome to the Bolshevism of the Republican Party. If you dissent in any way, you're attacked and purged.

Ryan probably won't run for president, but The Newt is already in the race and, sensing the tide turning against Ryan, is astute enough to distance himself from his plan, a vote-loser in 2012. Or, at least, that's what I think The Newt is up to. He can stress his conservative bona fides on other issues, specifically on the "culture wars," where he can be adequately nativist/jingoist. But as he is trying to have it both ways by appealing both to the more sensible establishment and to the insane Tea Party wing, he isn't about to take up an issue that is backing Republicans into a corner. As risky as it may have been to come out publicly against Ryan, it was something The Newt had to do.

But we certainly haven't heard the last of this, not with Ryan still such a prominent figure (and media darling), and not with the Tea Party holding so much sway at the grassroots level of the GOP. And it certainly should be fun to watch Republicans go after each other like this over an issue that not long ago seemed to be energizing the party and giving them something to fight for in the budget battles with the Democrats. 

That was never going to last, not once people started paying attention to the actual details of the Ryan plan, and now, with Gingrich contra Ryan (and Ryan pushing back, and Santorum attacking Gingrich), we're seeing one of the major splits in the Republican Party begin to deepen. And it's only going to get a whole lot uglier.

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