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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

The Divider Vs. The Thinker

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Peggy Noonan on the contrast between Obama and Paul Ryan.

 

Which gets us to Rep. Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan receives much praise, but I don't think his role in the current moment has been fully recognized. He is doing something unique in national politics. He thinks. He studies. He reads. Then he comes forward to speak, calmly and at some length, about what he believes to be true. He defines a problem and offers solutions, often providing the intellectual and philosophical rationale behind them. Conservatives naturally like him—they agree with him—but liberals and journalists inclined to disagree with him take him seriously and treat him with respect.

This week he spoke on "The American Idea" at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. He scored the president as too small for the moment, as "petty" in his arguments and avoidant of the decisions entailed in leadership. At times like this, he said, "the temptation to exploit fear and envy returns." Politicians divide in order to "evade responsibility for their failures" and to advance their interests.

The president, he said, has made a shift in his appeal to the electorate. "Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment."

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