‘We agree with the same red line, actually’

'We agree with the same red line, actually'
'We agree with the same red line, actually'
Associated Press

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a statement this afternoon that left his position on Syria unclear, though he complained that President Obama “has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria.”

Curiously, the Wisconsin Republican didn’t say what “grave missteps” he disapproves of. When GOP lawmakers generally make this complaint, they’re referring to Obama last year declaring Syria’s use of chemical weapons a “red line” that the Assad government must not cross.

But Ryan really isn’t in a position to make this complaint. As CNBC’s Eamon Javers noted today, this was the exchange from last year’s vice presidential candidates’ debate:

RADDATZ: What happens if Assad does not fall? Congressman Ryan, what happens to the region? What happens if he hangs on? What happens if he does?

RYAN: Then Iran keeps their greatest ally in the region. He’s a sponsor of terrorism. He’ll probably continue slaughtering his people. We and the world community will lose our credibility on this….

RADDATZ: So what would Romney-Ryan do about that credibility?

RYAN: Well, we agree with the same red line, actually, they do on chemical weapons, but not putting American troops in, other than to secure those chemical weapons. They’re right about that.

I mention this in part because, just over the last week or so, it seems the conventional wisdom has coalesced around the belief that Obama was irresponsible last year by making his “red line” remarks, which may have helped lock his administration in to a course of action. Whether or not the president’s stated position was the right call is certainly a topic worthy of debate.

But let’s not pretend it was a position Republicans broadly disapproved of last year, or really at any time up until two weeks ago. When Paul Ryan declared that his party “agrees with the same line,” it’s not like there was a great hullabaloo at the time about the congressman’s break with GOP orthodoxy.