Wauwatosa – Introduced by state Sen. Alberta Darling as Wisconsin's Republican "superstars" of national politics, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday blasted away at President Barack Obama's fiscal policies in a joint press conference in Wauwatosa.
The occasion: The fourth anniversary of a speech by then-candidate Obama in Fargo, ND, in which he branded President George W. Bush's $4 trillion increase in the national debt "irresponsible" and "unpatriotic."
There was no question, though, that despite his name being mentioned only sparingly at first, the event was all about promoting Mitt Romney, Obama's Republican opponent in November.
Comparisons to the Euro economy
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, went on the warpath first, saying that after being elected, President Obama had reversed his deficit-reduction promises by offering four successive trillion-dollar-plus budget increases and expanding the national debt by 70 percent, nearly $5 trillion more than he had inherited.
"If borrowing and spending and regulating were the secret to economic success," Ryan declared, "we'd be entering a golden age – along with Greece.
"We're not. It's because the president's economic policies are misguided; they're not working. They're costing us jobs. This is the worst economy since World War II, coming out of the kind of recession we've had."
At a campaign event in Fargo, ND, on July 3, 2008, Obama said:
“The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents – No. 43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back – $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic."
Ryan would repeat his warning analogy of Obama's debt to the European financial crisis more than once.
Ryan's budget solutions ignored, he says
Touting his own proposed budgets in the Republican-controlled House, Ryan said that Democrats in the Senate and the Obama Administration have ignored fiscal responsibility in favor of continuing and deepening debt.
"The economy is not growing like it should," Ryan said, "and it's because of the president's policies. Leadership is what we need. The president has not offered a single solution to prevent a debt crisis.
"In the House, we have passed two budgets, two years in a row, that balance the budget, that pay off this debt, that get this economy growing, that deal with the drivers of this debt. That's what we think leadership is."
"We've offered specifics," Ryan said, "we've offered a plan, and we know that it's not too late to get America back on track.
"It's not too late to keep the commitments to our seniors, it's not too late to get people back to work, it's not too late to have the American idea of an opportunity society with a safety net, versus a welfare state with a debt crisis, which is what the president is taking us to.
"The list of the broken promises coming from President Obama is breathtaking."
With that, and with the warning to his faithful that Wisconsin is one of a handful of battleground states come November, Ryan introduced Walker, saying, "We have a great responsibility. We need leaders to lead. We need people to do what they said they would do when they're in office.
"That's our governor, Gov. Scott Walker."
Unkept promises, Republicans say
Walker recalled that not only had Obama , he had said closer to home, in La Crosse, that he worried about our children's future and later, in the White House, that he had a plan to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.
"Well, today," Walker said, "we're looking almost four years later, four years after that comment and almost four years after those other promises, and we see very clearly he did not keep that promise to the American people.
"The debt has gone up by $5 trillion. The deficit is nowhere near half the size it was when he made that promise almost four years ago.
"In the case of Wisconsin, that's not just an issue for the nation. Our share of the national debt that has increased since Barack Obama has been the president of the United States has gone up by $95 billion. That's $16,720 and 1 cent for every man, woman and child in the state of Wisconsin."
Democrats shoot back
Democrats, in anticipation of Tuesday's GOP press conference, put out a statement in rebuttal even before it was over.
“The president has laid out a plan to responsibly reduce the deficit by over $4 trillion – including $2 trillion in spending cuts he signed into law last year," said state Sen. Chris Larson. "The Romney-Ryan budget, on the other hand, would explode the deficit and give tax cuts to big corporations that outsource jobs to India, China and Mexico, while raising taxes on middle class families in Wisconsin.
"Mitt Romney hasn’t put forth any plans to create job besides cutting taxes for the wealthiest, while President Obama has put forth plans that will create jobs now and strengthen the middle class, creating an economy built to last,” Larson said.
Obama spoke before crash – but repeated it after, Ryan says
The first question from the media had to do with the timing of the statement Obama had made exactly four years earlier as a candidate, in reference to subsequent events.
Wasn't it true that Obama had challenged Bush's debt increases months before the economy truly tanked in October 2008, and did that not perhaps render him somewhat less culpable for backtracking, in an effort to bolster the economy afterward?
But Ryan shot back that Obama had repeated his promises to reduce the deficit both after his election in November and again after his inauguration in January 2009.
"I was at the fiscal summit in the White House," Ryan said, "when he made that promise about cutting the deficit in half by the end of his first term. That was after he was sworn into office, that was after I was involved in all of those talks. That's when those promises came, after that crash."
Walker might like the idea of a Wisconsin VP
After that, reporters took off on other tangents, such as:
"Congressman Ryan, what's it like to be vetted as a vice president?"
"Next question?" Ryan answered with a laugh. "No comment."
Pressed that the Republican National Convention is next month, Ryan said, "Look, I don't think it's helpful to the Romney campaign to fuel this speculation, and so I just don't think it's in their interest to comment on that."
But Walker jumped to the mic, saying, "Obviously I'm a homer on this, but more importantly, you know, I like Chris Christie, I like Bobbi Jindal – there's a number of great candidates out there – all of whom are eminently more qualified than Barack Obama was four years ago... because of their background and their experience.
"But what I like even more about the fact that Paul is on that list is not only that he's from Wisconsin, it shows to me that Gov. Romney is not just serious about winning but about governing."
Walker went on to call himself "the president" of the Paul Ryan fan club and certainly did not seem to distance himself at all from the idea of a Romney-Ryan national ticket.
Polls will be polls, and there's a long way to go
Another question had to do with Romney's lackluster showing in Wisconsin polls, given that Republican Walker had just handily won a recall election to the governorship.
Romney, a reporter said, is only polling about even with Obama in Wisconsin, whereas Walker kept his seat by a larger margin than he had won it in the first place.
Walker suggested that a.) polls are cyclical and would likely move a lot between now and November, and b.) it wasn't bad at all for any challenger at this point to be polling even with an incumbent.
"My best advice (to Romney) was not about message," Walker said. "It was about a repetition. I'd like to see him in the state more frequently, because I think the more he comes back here, the better off he's going to do in the polls.
"The polls will be like a rollercoaster between now and Nov. 6."