Opening Act: Paul

Jonathan Chait rides one of his hobby-horses – Paul Ryan and his reputation. It’s a good corrective to the tone of most Ryan coverage, which gets mocked throughout. (There’s too much to excerpt, but the snowing of ABC’s Jonathan Karl is remarkable.) The history here, all public record stuff, rarely makes it into Ryan profiles.

In 2001, Ryan led a coterie of conservatives who complained that George W. Bush’s $1.2 trillion tax cut was too small, and too focused on the middle class. In 2003, he lobbied Republicans to pass Bush’s deficit-­financed prescription-drug benefit, which bestowed huge profits on the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. In 2005, when Bush campaigned to introduce private accounts into Social Security, Ryan fervently crusaded for the concept. He was the sponsor in the House of a bill to create new private accounts funded entirely by borrowing, with no benefit cuts. Ryan’s plan was so staggeringly profligate, entailing more than $2 trillion in new debt over the first decade alone, that even the Bush administration opposed it as “irresponsible.”

The New York Times’s fresh profile of Ryan, though – well, there’s not much economics in here. There is a really dissonant transition.

But those who know him cannot seem to dislike him.

“I’m stunned by how oblivious he is to the pain his policies would cause people,” said David R. Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin who jousted often with his downstate colleague before retiring from the House at the end of 2010

And via Common Cause, here’s a bunch of ALEC documents.