COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan on Thursday opted not to directly respond to President Clinton’s barbed criticism of his policies, but did offer a robust defense of his Medicare plan in a speech here.
“Don’t take my word for it,” Ryan told the crowd, a day after Clinton said he had “some brass” for accusing President Obama of raiding $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the health care reform law when the House Budget Committee chairman’s own budget includes the same cuts. “Take the word from the Medicare chief actuary, from the Congressional Budget Office, or from arithmetic. You can’t spend the same dollar twice. Either this money comes and helps Medicare, or it goes to pay for Obamacare, but not both.”
Ryan has defended his budget’s inclusion of the cuts by arguing that he had to write his budget with the assumption that the health care law was still intact. But he said multiple votes by the Republican-controlled House to repeal the law demonstrates their intent to restore the funds. He ignored shouted questions from reporters about Clinton’s attacks as he shook hands with voters.
The vice presidential nominee spoke from a city that is one of the conservative strongholds of Colorado, the state that hosted the 2008 Democratic convention where Obama accepted the presidential nomination.
Ahead of Obama’s speech to the nation, Ryan cited several measures of “progress” that the president defined in his 2008 speech, including people finding jobs good enough to pay their mortgages, American family income rising, and entrepreneurs being able to take a risk and start a small business. In each case, he cited current economic statistics that show failure in each area – record home foreclosures, a drop in family income and small businesses saying the recovery is weak.
“By those very measurements, his leadership has fallen woefully short,” Ryan said. “President Obama can give great speeches, he can blame other people in the past, but he can’t tell you you are better off as a nation.”
In response, the Obama campaign criticized the policies offered by the Republican ticket and said they had failed to offer any specifics on how they would reduce the deficit.
“President Clinton put it best last night: the Romney-Ryan ‘arithmetic’ just doesn’t add up,” said Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner. “Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan would raise taxes on the middle class, turn Medicare into a voucher system and slash critical investments in education and infrastructure to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And they have provided no details about how they would reduce our debt, while independent economists have said that their plan would do nothing to create jobs now.”
Ryan had no shortage of material for his own criticisms against the Democrats, noting that the word “God” – originally removed from a plank of the Democratic platform that referred to Americans’ “God-given potential” -- was reinserted at the order of President Obama after pressure from the Republican party.
“They reversed course on that one yesterday – it wasn’t really a popular reversal if you watched it on TV. But to quote a popular journalist from Wisconsin, ‘They were against God before they were for him,’” he said, referring to Politico’s Jim VandeHei.
He also sought to drive a wedge between Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden, before the two men deliver their speeches. According to a preview of a book about the debt-ceiling deal by Bob Woodward, Biden told House Majority Leader Eric Cantor during a private conversation, "You know, if I were doing this, I'd do it totally different."
Ryan quipped, “Sounds like Joe and I finally agree on something.”
Ryan has one more public event scheduled this week in Reno, Nev., but will spend the rest of his time raising money on the West Coast.