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Obama vs. Ryan, Round Two

The president takes the low road.

Apr 25, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 31 • By FRED BARNES
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“We’re not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, ‘Well, you know, that’s the other party being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens.”

That Obama—a fake one, it turns out—would have disagreed with Ryan on entitlements without bludgeoning him. No more. Now he opposes Ryan’s reform of Medicare because it “leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs.” And he’s unleashed House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi said Ryan would “abolish” Medicare. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said GOP stands for “get old people.” John Garamendi said Republicans would cause “the death of Medicare” and throw “senior citizens to the sharks.”

Ryan refers to the president as “disinvolved.” And though Obama is hiding behind Biden, there will be an Obama-Ryan debate, only indirect and from a distance. It’s already on. Ryan released his budget. Obama’s speech was his response. Ryan criticized the speech, then Obama took potshots at Ryan. 

They agree, as Obama told Stephanopoulos, that we “are at a fork in the road here.” Ryan said it better in his speech on the House floor before the budget vote. “This is our generation’s defining moment,” he said. “We must not leave this nation in decline. We must not be the Congress that failed to fulfill the American legacy of leaving a better nation to our children.”

Ryan would accept an invitation for a one-on-one talk with Obama. “Of course I would,” he told me. He’s not holding his breath. “I don’t think that’s how it works with the White House,” he says. “I just don’t think they do that.” Not face-to-face anyway, with eye contact and honest discussion.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

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