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Five takeaways from Paul Ryan's new book

The former veep candidate's book is out today, pitching the Wisconsin Republican as a hunting, legislating wonk who might just be the GOP's answer in 2016.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) attends the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference in Washington, June 14, 2013.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) attends the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference in Washington, June 14, 2013.

Paul Ryan has some tough words for his fellow Republicans. "Preaching to the choir isn't working, and, by the way, the choir is shrinking," the Wisconsin Republican congressman writes in his new book, "The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea."

The book is part memoir, part policy platform — the sort of volume that is regularly published by politicians looking to raise their national profiles, often preceding a campaign for higher office. Ryan previously made an unsuccessful bid for the White House as Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee in 2012.

In his new publication, Ryan doesn't break new ground when it comes to policy proposals. While the book is presented as a path forward for the Republican Party, it’s no party memo or  white paper — it’s a mass-market book aimed at wooing a larger audience beyond his caucus.

Here are five things we learned from Ryan's book and what they reveal about the congressman's future plans.

1. Paul Ryan thinks he can address poverty and racial tensions — but doesn't say how.

Ryan’s book notes that one of his political mentors, Jack Kemp, visited Los Angeles as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1991, amid the rioting that followed the police beating of Rodney King.

“The way to get money and capital and credit into the inner cities of America and the barrios and ghettos of America is to do something radically different than just transferring wealth through government bureaucracies. It is to empower people,” Ryan quotes Kemp as saying. “In one short answer, Jack conveyed the power of the American Idea—and the hard limits of liberal progressivism.” 

Ryan doesn't lay out any major proposals to empower impoverished communities or ease racial tensions. Instead he boasts that he hired a staffer to reach out to Hispanics in his district and that he supported legislation to keep young undocumented immigrants from being deported. All the while, he criticizes President Barack Obama for using executive actions to prevent the deportation of immigrants in similar circumstances.

2. Ryan sees the president as a feckless backstabber hell-bent on ruining the country.

Ryan, not surprisingly, trashes the president throughout his book. He derides Obama's policies as ineffective and too costly, and writes that the president attempts to brow-beat legislators to conform to his will. It's clear Ryan won't be looking for any common ground with Obama in the final two years of the president's term.

3. Before joining Romney’s ticket, Ryan realized dividing up the country into “makers and takers” was a bit offensive — yet he waited months to stop talking about it.

After a Democrat confronted Ryan in July 2012 at a Wisconsin fair about his "makers and takers" rhetoric, the congressman mentally exclaimed, “Holy cow! He’s right.”

“It took me awhile to completely come around, but I soon realized that the phrase I’d been using implied a certain judgment about the group that receives government benefits — one that is in deep conflict with the American Idea," he writes. Ryan casts himself as a politician who evolved and grew as he became exposed to opposing views.

Changing his rhetoric seemed to have taken awhile; Ryan continued using the language of “makers and takers” into August 2012 and only began walking it back, as Politifact noted, after Romney was caught on camera saying 47% of Americans won't vote for him because they're "dependent on government" and believe themselves to be "victims." 

4. Ryan thinks deeply while wearing camouflage.

Nearly all Ryan's big revelations and mental breakthroughs come while he is wearing camo or hunting. 

Ryan apparently had a jolt of inspiration for his 2010 "Roadmap for America's Future" budget proposal while he was out bow-hunting early one morning. The budget proposed big tax cuts for the wealthy, tax hikes for the middle class, and the voucher program for Medicare. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved Ryan's budget proposals, but the Senate rejected them.

At the time, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that Ryan was "serving up leftovers from the 1990s, drenched in flimflam sauce." The Center for American Progress' Matt Miller eviscerated the plan in an op-ed for The Washington Post column, highlighting the ways it would increase the debt, shift healthcare costs to the consumer, and raise taxes. 

5. Paul Ryan drove the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile once.

It was for a part-time job.