In Roll Call Stuart Rothenberg writes that, “elevating Ryan to a point where it’s somehow sacrilegious to criticize him or question some of his arguments — or even to suggest that he must save his party by jumping into the presidential contest — isn’t healthy for Ryan or his party.”
What Rothenberg clearly has in mind in his “sacrilegious” reference is Newt Gingrich’s comments about Ryan’s plan, which Gingrich referred to as “radical” and “right-wing social engineering.” The response to what Gingrich said was so strong because the comments themselves were so irresponsible (to say nothing about them being at odds with what Gingrich had said a few weeks before). If Gingrich had simply said he believes the entitlement crisis is real but he has honest differences with Ryan’s approach — and then laid them out in a careful way — it would have caused relatively little stir.
Indeed, if Tim Pawlenty or others offer alternatives to the Ryan plan, my guess is that many, and perhaps most, conservatives will share my view: let the debate begin. If there are flaws in either Ryan’s arguments or his math, by all means let’s hear them. And most conservatives – including Paul Ryan himself – wouldn’t be bothered one bit by the words of Senator Bob Corker, who said this about the Ryan plan during the Senate debate about it earlier this week: “I don’t think there’s anybody in this room that would say it’s an article of faith.”
To take the conservative reaction to Gingrich’s comments and to extrapolate from them that any departure from Ryan’s plan, or any counterarguments to his case, are “somehow sacrilegious” isn’t really accurate. It in fact perpetuates a caricature, which is why it’s too bad that Rothenberg, a serious political analyst, wrote what he did.