Paul Ryan, back before his voice broke

Here’s one of those videos that proves that your memory is spot on — back in the day, everybody was really, really young.

You will see a 25-year-old Paul Ryan, early in his career as a, well, career politician, appearing on C-SPAN as legislative aide to then-Rep. Sam Brownback.

This is the sort of programming that people are talking about when they make fun of C-SPAN. If the date had been a decade or so earlier, I would have sworn all three of these kids — Ryan, the Democrat, and the moderator — were on Quaaludes. It’s like a contest to see which one can make the other two fall asleep first.

Of course, this is probably as excited as young Paul Ryan ever got, since the topics were the budget, Medicare and Medicaid. It’s… eerie to see him and these other two kids, dressed up like Daddy and looking and sounding every bit like participants in student government. I keep expecting the next topic to be the frat that’s on double-secret probation. Except that it never gets that interesting.

My favorite parts? When Master Ryan predicts Medicare will be “bankrupt” by 2001, and when he mentions a news story by “Knight Ridder,” which still existed then.

32 thoughts on “Paul Ryan, back before his voice broke

  1. Doug Ross

    I guess as you age, 25 seems young enough to call someone a “kid”. Just as someone who is 25 now might call someone fast approaching 60 an old geezer.

    Yes, Ryan was premature on his expectations regarding Medicare. He didn’t realize then that the government just waves the magic tax wand to make all problems disappear. Broken systems just need more tax revenue.

  2. Brad

    Ryan and I are alike in that when we were 25, we both thought we knew everything. The difference between us is that by the time I was in my 40s, I realized how much I had been wrong about…

  3. Brad

    Just now at Rotary, USC basketball Coach Frank Martin said, “When I was 17, I didn’t know the difference between my face and you-know-what.”

    In the world of public policy, 25 is sort of what 17 is in basketball.

  4. Doug Ross

    Actually, at 25 you know what is right from wrong. At 40 you realize there’s no way possible to fix it so you just play the game.

    Very, very few of the problems facing this country today are the result of decisions made by young people. It’s the older corrupt politicians who have been in office for a long time who are responsible. All that experience in politics is not the same as in other walks of life.

    But I’ll accept that 25 you don’t know really know anything if you’ll accept that at 18 you shouldn’t be allowed to make a decision to serve in the military.

  5. Steven Davis II

    “Ryan and I are alike in that when we were 25, we both thought we knew everything. ”

    You and every other 25 year old.

  6. Brad

    Doug, you couldn’t be more wrong. Experience is every bit as important in public policy as it is in anything else. Except, of course, in basketball you probably hit your peak before 25, whereas in a more intellectual pursuit, you achieve maturity much later.

    As to your last non sequitur, 18 is the perfect age to enter the enlisted ranks of the military, at least with the infantry. You get much older than that, and it’s tough to keep up physically. The perfect Army private is about 18 years old. Of course, you want your sergeants and officers to be older and wise, because they have to make decisions — decisions with deadlier consequences than most people will encounter in public policy. But they need privates to command, or their experience is for naught.

  7. bud

    Good heavens Brad and Doug lets not go down this rat hole. There’s plenty to talk about Ryan without a meaningless discussion about when someone is mature.

    The problem with Ryan isn’t that he was immature at age 25. Rather the problem is he is not serious about budget matters. He offers up a plan that purports to reduce the national debt but the only specifics he cites actually greatly increase the deficit. His tax cuts (mostly for the rich, uh excuse me, the “job creators”) amount to a $4 trillion loss to the treasury. The only specific cuts he mentions only amount to a 1.7 trillion savings. The rest is some kind of enigmatic, mystery savings through loophole reductions and other esoteric nonsense.

    But the bigger mystery is does this actually represents the Romney approach? We can only guess because Romney is exhibiting all the transparency of the SC governor and refusing to say. But this all fits in well with the obvious GOP plan to steal from the poor and give to the “job providers”. Romneyhood indeed.

  8. Doug Ross

    I get it. You want 18 year olds in the military because they are more easily indoctrinated into the killing mindset. Someone with more maturity understands that killing should only be a last resort option.

    As for basketball and other sports (except football due to the physicality), peak levels are typically around 27-32.

  9. Kathryn Fenner

    How much physicality is really required in today’s Army? I mean, it isn’t trench warfare anymore.

  10. Brad

    “Tell it to the Marines!” One of my favorite archaic expressions.

    For the longest time, I misunderstood it, thinking it was a bravado thing — like if someone were trash-talking this country, you’d say that, meaning that the Marines would soon sort them out.

    Then I realized that really it was an old Royal Navy expression, going WAY back. Sailors would say it to someone trying to feed them a line, meaning that marines would be gullible enough to believe it, while sailors would be too savvy. This arises, I THINK from the fact that marines would know less than sailors about the routine operation of a ship, and therefore were, by a seaman’s standards, ignorant.

  11. Brad

    But to answer Kathryn’s question more directly…

    You know what? I have no idea. We’re fighting low-intensity conflicts against guerrillas, which argues that you need extremely fit soldiers well-trained in counterinsurgency. Certainly soldiers hunting insurgents house-to-house need to be in good shape, and have extremely good reflexes.

    But then I also know that our troops find themselves up against foes who mainly do everything they can to avoid a straight-up fight, preferring to kill with IEDs and the like.

    But I think all things being equal, it would be best that infantry soldiers be as fit as possible. Particularly since, with our military as small as it is we can afford to be somewhat choosy.

    And then there’s the fact that a wise strategist prepares for the war that could come, not the last one. Which means you want soldiers who can do it all. Few would have anticipated the kind of offensive we used to take down the Taliban in 2001– mostly CIA and special-ops people fighting alongside Afghan militias, occasionally on horseback.

  12. Brad

    Despite technological advances, the modern military is not just a matter of, as Sgt. Foley in “An Officer and a Gentleman” famously put it, “just sitting on a chair pushing buttons”…

  13. Brad

    Bud writes, “There’s plenty to talk about Ryan without a meaningless discussion about when someone is mature.”

    My point was this: It was one thing for Ryan as an inexperienced policy-wonk, fresh out of school, to confidently advocate for abstract Randian political theories that bear no relationship to reality.

    One would hope that, by the time he reached his 40s, the same man would have gained greater wisdom and understanding of the world than that, and some of his ideas would have changed.

    But Ryan has spent his whole adult life in the ideological hothouse of one faction of one party inside the Beltway. And it shows.

  14. Doug Ross


    Obama submitted a budget that did not get a single vote, Republican or Democrat. Maybe he needed a little more experience before taking the job.

    And I’ll ask again – which major issues facing our state and our country are a result of inexperienced legislators implementing their ideas over the objections of more “experienced” adults?

    Young people fail on a small scale and hopefully learn from their mistakes. Experienced politicians realize there is no failure that can’t be solved by raising taxes and shifting blame to another group. That’s what experience gets you.

  15. Steve Gordy

    Doug, your comment that “young people fail on a small scale and hopefully learn from their mistakes.” With Ryan, that’s never happened because of what Brad noted earlier – that he has spent his whole career inside a political-idealogical hothouse or rather an echo chamber. A 25-year-old who has a plan for success that demands no changes in one’s ideas is limiting when one comes into contact with reality.

  16. bud

    And then there’s the fact that a wise strategist prepares for the war that could come, not the last one.

    How about we try a little harder not to fight wars at all. Is it the default position now that we will forever fight a new war? Seems like Switzerland has avoided war for a couple hundred years and they seem to be doing ok. Why can’t the US emulate that?

  17. Doug Ross


    “Why can’t the US emulate that?”

    Because when you spend so much money on defense (and running up huge deficits to do so), you need to make it appear that there is a moral noble purpose than lining the pockets of defense contractors who pay off politicians (i.e. the Lindsey Grahams of the world).

    If there isn’t an actual enemy, we will create one.

  18. Brad

    Actually, you have it exactly backwards. As much as you desire to wish enemies away, they will exist.

    Bud, the United States doesn’t get to be Switzerland. That role is taken.

    But if our country decided to be Switzerland tomorrow, it would not stop threats from emerging. It just wouldn’t.

  19. bud

    Seriously Brad, Doug has this one nailed. Build more bombs and enemies will come out of the woodwork to accept the role of bombee. We just don’t need a military as large as we have to defend the United States. And damn that’s all we need to have a military for. All this other nation building crap is utterly ridiculous and frankly can’t be constitutional. Until we can’t away from that destructive mentality we’ll continue to suffer a huge toll in treasure, but more importantly, in human terms with death, debilitating injuries and excruciating mental issues to our precious young troops. This needs to stop. Sadly few on either side of the aisle gets that. Ron Paul is a rare exception.

  20. Brad

    Yes, I know that’s what you think. Fortunately, the only people to have sought the presidency in recent years to think the same way are marginal candidates who, like Rep. Paul, have no chance of being elected commander in chief.

  21. Mark Stewart

    The United States of America has never been an isolationist state populated by pacifists.

    Such thinking is possible only because others have a more fully developed understanding of history, philosophy and commerce.

  22. bud

    Fine, show me how our involvement in the War of 1812, WW I, Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan (since Bin-Laden was killed) has made the USA a better place? Seems like a lot of death, maiming and debt with nothing concrete to show for it. Unless you can articulate in some coherent way, NOT a bunch of platitudes about American exceptionalism or other neocon BS utterings, then I will remain a semi-isolationist.

  23. Brad

    I’m going to assume that one is for you, Mark. Just answering the one on the War of 1812 would take more time than I have today. Certainly a regrettable conflict, although I’d have to go back and refresh my memory on it to a great extent in order to decide whether it was avoidable or not — for instance, what WERE our realistic options for addressing the gross violations of our sovereignty by our former colonial masters on the high seas?

    Of course, that’s the issue — was the conflict realistically avoidable? Bud seems to want on wars from which we come back celebrating with a song in our hearts. War is a nasty business, destructive by definition. Sometimes you have to engage in it. But you don’t go around feeling great about that.

    Even WWII, which you leave off your list, had much, MUCH about it to regret in the extreme.

  24. Doug Ross

    To riff on a theme Mark started on the Catholic post, I believe this country began its descent with our involvement in the Vietnam War. It wasn’t a war of self-defense, it was a war used to flex our muscles in Russia’s face.

    The U.S. now is like the musclebound guy, all roided up, looking for someone to fight. Otherwise, what’s the point of being the toughest guy in the bar?

  25. bud

    Sometimes you have to engage in it.

    Sure there are instances. But there are many, many other instances where you don’t and it proves to be a mistake later. Why is these even slightly controversial?

  26. Mark Stewart


    Or maybe the question would be more appropriately stated, “What would America be where it not for an ability and a willingness to use warfare when necessary?”

    We could start with the Barbary Pirates War, the War of 1812, the Creek & Seminole Wars, the Republic of Texas, the Mexican-Amercan War, the Pig War, the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War. And that was just the 19th Century.

    A muscular approach to territoriality also lead to the inclusion of upper Maine, THe Ohio River Valley, Florida, the Oregon Treaty and the Gadsen Addition – oh yeah, and California – within the United States.

  27. Mark Stewart


    We should have made nice with Ho Chi Minh.

    Generally we run astray when we betray our country’s core pricipal’s of self-determination and freedom.

  28. Brad

    There was no Barbary Pirates “War” because no war was declared! It was purely fought upon the whim of… Thomas Jefferson, the patron saint of limited government.

    One of my favorite historical anomalies. Actually, it wasn’t an anomaly, though. Once you actually are commander in chief and actually have to defend the nation’s sovereign interests, a lot of “we don’t need a Navy” ideology sort of goes out the window.

  29. Mark Stewart

    Since the centuries old “war” was about (white) slavery on the North African coast, I always found it of note that it was Jefferson who wanted to put an end to that sort of subjugation.

    Yeah, I know that the Barbary bribes where costing the Federal Government almost as much as the construction of the six frigates (since England was no longer paying to protect our sailors from capture), but the slavery connection is just too funky not too mention.

  30. Barry

    I like Ryan and will likely vote for that ticket

    but it’s always a little odd to be reminded that an anti government guy like him has been working for the Federal Government almost his entire career.

    At least Romney worked in the private sector for a good while.

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