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June 04, 2011

Paul Ryan Gave One Hell Of A Campaign Speech Last Night

Paul Ryan is having quite a year for speeches. First, the Republican reply to the State of The Union, then a major budget address at the Economic Club of Chicago and now a foreign policy speech at The Alexander Hamilton Society in DC.

I know he's not running-running but he's definitely running.

The whole thing is worth a read but below are a few highlights. Since they run long, let me toss my impressions up front.

It's obvious Ryan is a very smart and serious guy who has thought a lot about these issues. This isn't a deeply wonkish foreign policy address but it's a window into his mind and his values. It's safe to say, he's not an isolationist but at the same time he grasps the opportunities of, and the limits on, American power. I like the balance he strikes here.

Most importantly, Ryan is clear eyed about the challenges we face but he's clearly bullish about America and the future. He doesn't see a shrinking America where we are another name on the UN roster, at the same time he understands that for the "world community" to work, it must and will be led. The question and challenge of our time is, Who will lead...us or China?

Ryan also has a powerful force on his side...optimism. Even with all the challenges we face, and he lays them out, he has a strong belief in America. He is not a guy who sees America as something that needs to be remade or looks back longingly at some idealized time that may or may never have ever existed. He looks at the challenges and sees better days ahead...if we make the right choices now. That plays well even in, or perhaps especially in, times of trouble. That he's young, vigorous and attractive really sells the package.

I haven't seen the video of this yet but I've seen Ryan give speeches and talks before. He's good on camera so I can't imagine it was any different last night.

As Jonah Goldberg quipped on Twitter today, "I hope @PaulRyan is feeling a draft"

From the speech:

On the connection between our economy and security.

The unsustainable trajectory of government spending is accelerating the nation toward the most predictable economic crisis in American history. Years of ignoring the real drivers of our debt have left us with a profound structural problem. In the coming years, our debt is projected to grow to more than three times the size of our entire economy.

This trajectory is catastrophic. By the end of the decade, we will be spending 20 percent of our tax revenue simply paying interest on the debt – and that’s according to optimistic projections.

Our fiscal crisis is above all a spending crisis that is being driven by the growth of our major entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In 1970, these programs consumed about 20 percent of the budget. Today that number has grown to over 40 percent.

Over the same period, defense spending has shrunk as a share of the federal budget from about 39 percent to just under 16 percent – even as we conduct an ambitious global war on terrorism. The fact is, defense consumes a smaller share of the national economy today than it did throughout the Cold War.

If we continue on our current path, the rapid rise of health care costs will crowd out all areas of the budget, including defense.

On the tension between American values and geopolitical interests.

There are very good people who are uncomfortable with the idea that America is an “exceptional” nation. But it happens that America was the first in the world to make the universal principle of human freedom into a “credo,” a commitment to all mankind, and it has been our honor to be freedom’s beacon for millions around the world.

America’s “exceptionalism” is just this – while most nations at most times have claimed their own history or culture to be exclusive, America’s foundations are not our own – they belong equally to every person everywhere. The truth that all human beings are created equal in their natural rights is the most “inclusive” social truth ever discovered as a foundation for a free society. “All” means “all”! You can’t get more “inclusive” than that!

Now, if you believe these rights are universal human rights, then that clearly forms the basis of your views on foreign policy. It leads you to reject moral relativism. It causes you to recoil at the idea of persistent moral indifference toward any nation that stifles and denies liberty, no matter how friendly and accommodating its rulers are to American interests.

This raises an important question: What do we do when our principles are in conflict with our interests? How do we resolve the tension between morality and reality?

According to some, we will never be able to resolve this tension, and we must occasionally suspend our principles in pursuit of our interests. I don’t see it that way. We have to be consistent and clear in the promotion of our principles, while recognizing that different situations will require different tools for achieving that end.

An expanding community of nations that shares our economic values as well as our political values would ensure a more prosperous world … a world with more opportunity for mutually beneficial trade … and a world with fewer economic disruptions caused by violent conflict.

But in promoting our principles, American policy should be tempered by a healthy humility about the extent of our power to control events in other regions.

For example, we share many interests with our Saudi allies, but there is a sharp divide between the principles around which they have organized their state and the principles that guide the United States. Increasingly, we hear voices in the Kingdom calling for reform. We should help our allies effect a transition that fulfills the aspirations of their people.

In Syria and Iran, we are witnessing regimes that have chosen the opposite path. Instead of accommodating the desires of their peoples for liberty and justice, these regimes have engaged in brutal crackdowns, imprisoning opposition leaders, and killing their own citizens to quell dissent.

The Soviet dissident, Natan Sharansky has testified to the power of words to those suffering under the boot of oppression. Sharansky said in reference to President Reagan’s inspired “Evil Empire” speech, “This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell's Newspeak was dead.”

We have a responsibility to speak boldly for those whose voices are denied by the jackbooted thugs of the tired tyrants of Syria and Iran.

And some hard truth telling about China.

The key question for American policymakers is whether we are competing with China for leadership of the international system or against them over the fundamental nature of that system.

It is a debate in which we must demonstrate American strength – economic, military, and moral – to make clear our choice to reject decline and instead recommit to renewed strength and prosperity. According to press reports, some Chinese leaders have started talking about when, not if, the United States will lose its status as a great power. We must demonstrate that planning for the post-American era is a squandered effort on their part – and that America’s greatest days lie ahead.

Also – we should seek to increase China’s investment in the international system. We should welcome the contributions and strengths that over one billion people can offer and push for the government of China to give those people space to express their personal, religious, economic, and civil ambitions.

A liberalizing China is not only in the interests of the world, but also in China’s own best interest as it copes with the tremendous challenges it faces over the next couple of decades. Just as America faces an entitlement crisis driven in part by the aging of our population, China faces an even more severe demographic crisis driven by years of coercive population controls.

The stresses that this rapid aging will place on China’s economy and financial system are gargantuan. The ability of China to meet these challenges tomorrow will depend critically on whether they address their unsound economic policies today. Their export-led growth strategy has produced rapid growth, but it has also required policies that are causing massive distortions in the underlying economy.

Ultimately, we stand to benefit from a world in which China and other rising powers are integrated into the global order with increased incentives to further liberalize their political and economic institutions. Managing the strengths of these new powers – as well as their weaknesses – is necessary to creating vibrant markets for American goods and services, and expanding our influence abroad and our security at home.

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posted by DrewM. at 05:08 PM

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