10 Things You Never Knew About Paul Ryan

paul ryan

Photo: Flickr/Tobyotter

He’s a fan of Ayn Rand’s work. He catches catfish with his bare hands. He sometimes sleeps in his congressional office to be closer to the Capitol Hill gym, so he can wedge in an early-morning workout with other fitness-minded and buff congressmen.Those are some of the lesser-known facts about Paul Ryan that have emerged in a 2500-word piece in The Washington Post, Reuters, The Huffington Post and elsewhere.

Though Ryan has been exhaustively profiled, news organisations such as The Post, which examined Ryan’s steady climb through the congressional ranks—a climb that led to surprise pick as Mitt Romney’s running mate—have unearthed a few surprises. They will give you a leg up at the water cooler when conversation turns to the GOP convention in Tampa Bay at the end of this month.

If you’ve only read about Ryan’s stance on Medicare, the deficit, the country’s fiscal cliff and other policy issues, you’ve missed a number of interesting personal facts that can be filed under “help-me-understand-the-candidate-better”:

1. Last fall Romney and Ryan had a private meeting that lasted more than an hour, “much of it spent in a deep and freewheeling discussion of economic policy.” Afterwards Ryan irreverently declared in private, “I don’t have to teach him economics.”

2. He enjoys bow hunting deer, but even during hunting getaways he’ll multitask, “receiving and sending text messages about arcane policy details.” Ryan is described as an avid hunter and fisherman—someone known to handle his own skinning and butchering.

3. He can “channel his inner redneck,” which fellow Republicans “like,” according to Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona. That includes fishing “for catfish with his bare hands.”

4. The video workout program from Beachbody, P90X, is a Ryan favourite. The company’s co-founder and president, Jon Congdon, is reporting that traffic to the workout program’s site has at least doubled since Romney chose Ryan as his running mate. “Paul Ryan is an excellent example of what somebody can achieve using our program. The guy is super fit.”

5. Ryan got his start on Capitol Hill as a 19-year-old sorting letters from constituents for Sen. Bob Kasten (R-Wisc.). By his mid-20s, he began seeking advice about running for Congress while working as a speechwriter and researcher for former congressman and GOP vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp at a conservative think tank, Empower America.

6. He read the book, The Way the World Works by Jude Wanniski (all about the 1981 Kemp-Roth tax cut lowering the top U.S. income rate to 50 per cent from 70 per cent), borrowing it when he was a 21-year-old intern on the Senate’s small business committee in 1991 from Cesar Conda, then the Republican staff director of the committee. According to Conda, “[Ryan] would constantly pop his head into my office to ask questions about supply-side economics.”

7. When Ryan gave a commencement address at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, the school he graduated from in 1992 with a double major in economics and political science, he mentioned having had a “difficult” time in high school after his father’s sudden death from a heart attack. Of his economics professor, Rich Hart, Ryan also said, “He provided a vision quest in my mind to improve the economy of our nation.”

8. In keeping with his love of the outdoors, Ryan asked his wife, Janna Little, to marry him at Big St. Germain Lake in northern Wisconsin, “one of his favourite fishing spots.” They were married in December 2000, in Oklahoma City. She graduated from Wellesley College and George Washington University Law School.

9. The reason Ryan voted for TARP, according to Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman and co-director of Empower America, where Ryan once worked: “He has strong beliefs, but he’s driven by data. Paul knew without TARP in 2008, we would descend into another Great Depression, and I still think he did the right thing by voting for it.” Ryan is on record as saying that although TARP was against his principles, he stood in support of it “to save” the free-market system.

10. The reason he didn’t run for Speaker of the House in late 2010, after some conservative House members who admired his fiscal and leadership abilities encouraged him to do so: In addition to what would have amounted to a coup against John Boehner, Ryan would have had to do the “whole fundraising circuit for the party,” according to Rep. Jeff Flake. That extra burden would have taken him away from his family more than his role as a congressman already demanded.

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