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Thomas Roeser

Senate hopeful gets bad rap

June 28, 2003

BY THOMAS ROESER

A misleading rumor has circulated that Republican Jack Ryan, candidate for the U.S. Senate, is a Rockefeller Republican. Not so. Not if you remember Nelson Rockefeller as I do: a big-spending liberal with a definite leftward tilt on social issues and an expansionist view on foreign/defense policy. The liberal label came, Ryan told me, from an announcement wherein he claimed to want to help ''the poorest of the poor.'' That shouldn't make him a liberal, he says. And after two protracted interviews with him, I agree.

Moreover, I don't think Republicans should hold it against the 43-year-old candidate that he is movie-star handsome and rich with a superb pedigree: Dartmouth College cum laude with an MBA and law degrees from Harvard with honors, a partnership at Goldman Sachs while he was in his 30s and, following his retirement from business, a stint at teaching at an inner-city high school. If these things smack of liberalism, I'm sorry.

Ryan is a conservative--at least as conservative as George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and in some ways more.

On the social issues Ryan is pro-life with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother (same as Bush and Reagan). On gay marriage or registry, if legislation were to create ''any special rights, I'm against it. . . . I'm against any special rights attached to someone's sexual orientation.'' On stem cell research he has the same position as Bush: favoring research on existing lines of stem cells, but creating life for experimentation is the wrong thing to do.

He favors the Bush tax cuts and Iraqi war, but what intrigues me is where he takes a rightward departure from the president. He says the administration spends too much and cites $80 billion in corporate subsidies that can be cut. He points to a Cato study that criticizes the Advanced Technology program, where government does poorly what private business should do for itself. Next is a so-called Partnership for the Next Generation of Vehicles, a Commerce Department project that spends public dollars on automotive research, and another Commerce Department effort that attempts to advertise U.S. products. He says that if elected, he would hope to serve on the Appropriations Committee, where such boondoggles can be cut. Education Department expenditures could be pared, too, if school choice were implemented.

Ryan wants to reduce the capital gains tax to zero, abolish the Commerce Department's minority business development arm and focus resources instead to the education of minority youth on how to gain access to capital.

On foreign-defense policy, he believes our stake in Europe should be drastically reduced. The European countries spend about 1.5 percent of their gross national product on defense, he says. We spend 3 percent of our GNP on arms in part because ''we are subsidizing their defense.'' NATO countries' GNP is very close to our own.

''That was all right in 1949'' when NATO was formed, he says, but in 2003 ''the NATO countries are capable of handling their own defense collectively.'' Although ''I'm an internationalist and believe we should be engaged in international affairs,'' European nations have the wherewithal and duty to defend themselves and not have their defenses carried by the United States.

Ryan has crisscrossed Illinois and will continue to do so, energetically. He will spend up to $5 million in the primary, plans to put in a total of $3 million (he has contributed $1 million so far). He figures the total cost will be $15 million, of which he'll have to raise $10 million. The Ryan name, his tests show, gets him only a 3 percent negative rating caused by confusion with former Gov. George Ryan.

Far from a rich guy in an empty suit, Jack Ryan is bubbling with challenging ideas. He's a conservative with a feel for innovative private-sector help for the poor.

If he follows through with his ideas, he might not only win, but pull George W. Bush through Democratic-leaning Illinois with him.





 
 












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