Return to Transcripts main page


Mitt Romney Announces Paul Ryan as His Running Mate in the 2012 Election; Interview with Newt Gingrich

Aired August 11, 2012 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The decision is made.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an honor to announce my running mate and the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan!

BLITZER: Now, a look at Paul Ryan, the man.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Janesville, Wisconsin, is where I was born and raised, and I never really left it. Every politician in this town --

BLITZER: The lawmaker.

RYAN: I have focused on solving the problems that confront our country.

BLITZER: And his impact on the race for the White House.


BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

In this special hour, we're taking a close look at the man Mitt Romney's asked to join him on the Republican presidential ticket, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Fittingly, Romney made the big announcement in front of the battle ship, the "US Wisconsin." Ryan is chairman of the house budget committee, made a name for himself here in Washington, by battling deficits and fighting for cuts in government spending.

Listen to how Mitt Romney broke the news.


ROMNEY: It's an honor to announce my running mate and the next vice president of the United States, Paul Ryan!


ROMNEY: His leadership -- his leadership begins with character and values. Paul is a man of tremendous character, shaped in large part by his early life. Paul's father died when he was in high school. That forced him to grow up earlier than any young man should. But Paul did, with the help of his devoted mother, his brothers and sister, and a supportive community. And as he did, he internalized the virtues and hard-working ethic of the Midwest.

Paul Ryan works in Washington, but his beliefs remain firmly rooted in Janesville, Wisconsin. He's a person of great steadiness, whose integrity is unquestioned and whose word is good. Paul's upbringing is obvious in how he's conducted himself throughout his life, including his leadership in Washington.

In a city that's far too often characterized by pettiness and personal attacks, Paul Ryan is a shining exception. He doesn't demonize his opponents. He understands that honorable people can have honest differences. And he appeals to the better angels of our nature. There are a lot of people in the other party who might disagree with Paul Ryan. I don't know anyone who doesn't respect his character and judgment.


BLITZER: Paul Ryan was only 28 years old when he was first elected to the United States congress. He served seven terms, almost 14 years. At 42, he's the same age as the eldest of Romney's five sons. Ryan's catholic with a wife and three young children.


RYAN: I want you to meet my family. This is my wife, Janna. Our daughter, Liza, and our sons, Charlie and Sam.


RYAN: I'm surrounded by the people I love. I love you too. Janesville, Wisconsin, is where I was born and raised and I never really left it. It's our home now.

For the last 14 years, I have proudly represented Wisconsin in Congress. There -- there I have focused on solving the problems that confront our country, turning ideas into action, and action into solutions. I am committed, in heart and mind, to putting that experience to work in a Romney administration.


RYAN: My dad died when I was young. He was a good and decent man. There are a few things he would say that have just always stuck with me. He'd say, son, you're either part of the problem or part of the solution. Well, regrettably, President Obama has become part of the problem and Mitt Romney is the solution.

I represent a part of America that includes inner cities, rural areas, suburbs, and factory towns. Over the years, I have seen and heard from a lot of families. From a lot of those who are running small businesses. And from people who are in need. But what I've heard lately, that's what troubles me the most. There's something different in their voice, in their words. What I hear from them are diminished dreams, lowered expectations, uncertain futures. I hear some people say that this is just the new normal.


RYAN: Higher unemployment, declining income, and crushing debt is not a new normal! I've worked closely with Republicans, as well as Democrats, to advance an agenda of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and job creation.


BLITZER: Paul Ryan's name was certainly on many people's short list of vice presidential possibilities. Still, the choice is somewhat surprising, and carries some very definite risks.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here to assess what's going on.

You spent a lot of time studying Paul Ryan. And you've looked at the pluses he brings to the ticket and some of the minuses.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's bold and risky, all at once, Wolf. The biggest plus is the immediate one you see. Governor Romney today had a bit of a swagger, he was loser, he seem to better candidate.

This was the first oh, yes, I'm the nominee. I'm the leader of my party. You make that big pick and you can see him a little loser today. But the American people are going to decide between Governor Romney and President Obama. But can Paul Ryan help?

Here's some of the pluses and you see evidence already. He energizes a Republican base that has been somewhat suspicious of Governor Romney. You can see it already. People saying, this is a big ideas guy, we want him there. He's a very energetic debater and he is a campaigner. 42-year-old, you mentioned that. You can see it today. He adds youthful vigor to the race right out of the batting. Good and a strong campaigner.

But there are some downsides. He's never run, meaning he's never run won statewide. So can he help Mitt Romney? He put Wisconsin in the Republican column? That's a big question mark. The candidates will be together. Their first event was Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburbs, that's the key test there, zero for policy experience. People are saying Governor Romney is also week there. The Democrats will make that an issue and on the one hand, 42 is youthful vigor, on the other hand, some will say, he is 42-year-old House member, ready to be commander in chief?

BLITZER: With only national security worth policy experience. And most of his experience has been within Washington, in government or think tanks, a legislative aide. He doesn't bring, for example, the experience in the private sector that Mitt Romney would bring to the ticket. KING: Right. And so, you would have on the one hand, as Paul Ryan said today, there is a great combination. Here is a guy from the outside. He was a governor, a chief executive, a businessman. He doesn't have Washington experience. I'm a guy who can help him navigate the nooks and crannies of the bureaucracy. I says he worked with Democrats.

Governor Romney's right when he says Democrats respect Paul Ryan. They disagree with him on just about everything when it comes to solution. But, they do respect him as someone who comes to the table with ideas, not just with rhetoric and partnership.

BLITZER: Yes. He's a likable kind of guy. That's what you hear from Democrats as well. Today, I spent time going through a lot of the interviews I've done with him over the past few careers.

I want to play this little clip and then I want to talk about it with you. It's about taxes, which is a very, very sensitive issue.


RYAN: Not only are we open to tax reform, as you describe it. It's in our budget. What we proposed in our budget that passed the House, get rid of these loopholes in exchange for lower rates. And what we want to do is get rid of these loopholes, all of these loopholes in exchange for lowing everybody's and every business's tax rates to make us more globally competitive.


BLITZER: He doesn't like the fact, for example, that a company like GE pays no taxes for whatever reason. He wants to do away with those kinds of loopholes, different tax rates for UPS as opposed to DHL. He goes into some specific details. Is that orthodoxy start that conservative base, which some of whom see any reduction in those loopholes as, in effect, a tax hike?

KING: It is becoming orthodoxies to the extent that flatter, simpler, fairer and to get it away with even some of these offshore tax shelters. Even governor Romney says, he's been criticized the house. He has a money and sort of - he flies overseas, so let's get rid of those.

However, some Republicans draw the line that they won't take that tax reform if it in the end it brings more revenue to Washington. What Paul Ryan says is I'm not really going to worry about that. If we simplify the tax code, if the end result is more money for Washington, great. He says it's critical that we will pay to make it simpler for middle class families. But he will be very honest about this. He says, the main goal for businesses, you take away those stacks of the tax code. You make is simple. You can rid of all the loopholes. He thinks more money goes into the economy. You get economic growth, more of a Reagan camp supply-sider.

BLITZER: And he repeatedly said to me in his interviews, he wants to work with Democrats. He would love to find some compromise that hasn't happened lately, but maybe it will happen.

KING: With these issues front and center, maybe whoever wins the election will have a mandate to govern. Maybe.

BLITZER: We'll see. All right, John. Thanks very, very much.

We're just beginning our special hour in the SITUATION ROOM. We have inside information on how Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan. Stay with us for a window into his decision-making process.



TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: I think Romney's selection of Paul Ryan is a terrific selection. Paul Ryan is a bold leader with great ideas for trying to get this country back on track, and I think he and Governor Romney together will make a great team.


BLITZER: Tim Pawlenty there, the former two-term governor of Minnesota. Once again, not the finalist. He was close, but not close enough four years ago. He was first runner-up when John McCain was looking for a vice presidential running mate. He was up there this time around, but obviously didn't get it.

A Romney campaign aide said the decision to put Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket was made on August 1st. We also have exclusive information about Romney's selection process.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, spoke with Beth Myers, who headed Romney's search for a running mate.




BORGER: In the vetting and the process of choosing a vice presidential running mate which is very, very important. It's the first chance people get to look at how a president makes decisions.

So what is it about the process of choosing a vice president? What does that tell us about how Mitt Romney makes decisions?

MYERS: Well, that's something I learned working with him as chief of staff at the governor's office for four years that there is a way -- he is very methodical in making his decisions and what he wants is a couple of things.

First of all, he wants all of the information and we went about a very thorough process in making sure that we had a lot of information about a broad group. He also doesn't like to rule anything out until he has to. So, you know, the first swathe was brought. We got a good cut of information about a lot of people. He then narrowed it down and we got even more information. We got personal information from each of the potential candidates and at that point again, we had some attorneys look through and go through everybody's record to make sure that there was -- I didn't want to miss anything about them, and then Mitt took these candidate dossiers and he thought about them. He read all of them word for word. I had talked with each of the candidates personally. He's obviously been campaigning with a lot of the folks that he was considering and he read the dossiers and we narrowed it down once again and we did, you know an even more deep-dive on them and then gave him the final product and he's thinking about it now.

BORGER: Does he solicit your advice?

MYERS: He solicits the advice of a small group of his advisors, but then he asks, I think, everybody he meets, you know, what's your thought on this?

BORGER: And he listens?

MYERS: He listens. I mean he asks, you know, sort of people you wouldn't think that he'd ask about it. He talks to, you know, he calls friends from all walks of his life, all across the country wanting to know what they think. He listens to that, but I haven't told him -- I -- I have not shared with him my opinion because I think it's important that I'm the objective --

BORGER: So it's his comfort level with someone.


BORGER: And his feeling that person's qualified to be president.

MYERS: Yes, absolutely. I mean, obviously, his first qualification is that the person is qualified to be president and perceived to be qualified to be president.


BLITZER: All right. Gloria's here with me in the SITUATION ROOM.

Gloria, a good interview. I'm glad you did that. Let's talk a little bit about what this says about Mitt Romney, what it says about Paul Ryan, the impact of all of this on the campaign.

BORGER: I think, first of all, as Beth Myers said, it shows that Mitt Romney is somebody who likes to look at all the data when he's making a decision and the way she describes it, he is someone who is very methodical. I also think he had to be personally comfortable with the person he was going to put on the ticket.

But aside from that, Wolf, I think it tells us something about where this campaign is headed. I think they take a look at the campaign and they said, gee, we cannot run just against President Obama's economy, or they would have been up five or seven points by now. Instead they're not. It's been either flat or they've been down. So they said, look, we need to focus this campaign, and what they've done by putting Paul Ryan on the ticket, and this is not without some risk, is they've focused this campaign and said, look, this is about the future, the economic future of this country. They want to talk about spending, they want to talk about tax cuts, they want to talk about deficits. And use that as a way to talk about the economy and where they would take it.

BLITZER: Looks like they've got a good, good relationship. And it looks like they've energized this campaign. We'll see what happens, Gloria.

BORGER: This is day one.

BLITZER: Day one. We'll see what happens day two, tomorrow. Thanks, very, very much.

Paul Ryan's Midwestern roots. How has his Wisconsin hometown shaped his political beliefs? That and a lot more, straight ahead.


BLITZER: When Mitt Romney first introduced his new running mate, he said Paul Ryan's beliefs remain firmly rooted in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.

That's where CNN's Athena Jones is right now. What are you finding out, Athena?


Well, here we are, right outside of Paul Ryan's house. But you know, we spent the whole day, talking to people all across town. And as you might imagine, Wolf, people here are of two minds of Congressman Ryan and what it will mean for the Republican ticket.


JONES (voice-over): Folks here in Paul Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, are reacting to the big news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's an excellent candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I personally don't like what he stands for.

JONES: The seven-term congressman who comes from a prominent local family is well-known in this town of 63,000 people, southwest of Milwaukee. He attended school here, is a parishioner at the Catholic Church, and his brick home on a quiet street sits near the home of extended family. Neighbors describe him down to earth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've spoken to him in the neighborhood, so we're friendly that way. Just a down-home kind of guy. You know, he's in the Labor Day parade with his kids and his daughter was selling lemonade. JONES: At a water ski tournament on the river, voters celebrated what they call Ryan's vision and expressed hope that he will help the GOP win this traditionally blue state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he has got the country - once you get the country going where it needs to be going, budget wise, and the economy, but it also makes you feel good as a Wisconsinite. So I hope that helps some of the other people who are on the fence or whichever, to lean on over.

JONES: While at the farmer's market just down the street from Ryan's district office, voters applauded Romney's choice for different reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was very excited and inspired.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just because that Paul has a great vision for America and I think he's the right choice.

JONES: Some Democrats say the pick many conservatives are hailing as bold and outstanding because of Ryan's commitment to deep budget cuts will end up boosting the Democratic ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm totally elated.

JONES: Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's going to be easier for the Democrats now. I think they can attack two guys, two birds with one stone. And their fiscal restraint -- read the records. They stand for the one percent and they're going to gut all the programs for the poor.

JONES: Both detractors and supporters have good things to say about Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He sticks to his beliefs and he's a big advocate for the district. I think he's a hard-working person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's a man of integrity.

JONES: But one thing voters we spoke with from both parties seemed a bit unsure of is whether the 42-year-old is ready to be president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's not old enough yet to know what he's doing.

JONES: Do you think Paul Ryan's -- he's 42, is he ready to be president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know yet. That's kind of young.


JONES: As you know, Wolf, I don't have to tell you that Wisconsin's been a reliably blue state for years. Ronald Reagan was the last Republican presidential candidate to win it back in 1984. But it's been of a mixed bag.

President Obama won this county, Rock County with 64 percent of the vote in 2008, but of course, Paul Ryan's been elected seven times. So while there are plenty of Democrats around here, there are also plenty of Republicans. It will be interesting to see how the state goes in November -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see if Paul Ryan can turn things around in Wisconsin for the Republicans.

Athena Jones, thanks very, very much.

Mitt Romney's former presidential rival, Newt Gingrich, he is standing by to join us with his take on Paul Ryan, that's next.


BLITZER: We're continuing our in-depth look at the man who will be a heartbeat away from the presidency, if, huge "if," Mitt Romney wins the November election. We're talking about his new running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

The selection of Paul Ryan is being applauded by several of Romney's primary season opponents, including Newt Gingrich, who is joining us right now in the SITUATION ROOM right now.

Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for coming in.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is great to see you. And it's a very exciting day for Callista and me. We've knew Paul -- she knew Paul when he was an intern with Bob Kasten, Senator Bob Kasten. So, there's a long sense there. She's a Wisconsinite and there's a lot of identity with Paul Ryan.

BLITZER: Senator Kasten from Wisconsin back in the '90s. Would he have been your pick if you had won the Republican nomination?

GINGRICH: He certainly would have been on the very short list. And I was asked the other day in some editorial board, if you're looking for somebody to think strategically, who would you want in that room? And I just immediately said Paul Ryan.

I mean, here's a guy who has mastered the budget, but more importantly, he was one of the key players in creating a Republican majority in the house in 2010. He knows how to focus the disciplined, get key things done, and yet he's a very down-to-earth kind of guy. If you look at his life in Janesville and his family, he's going to resonate with Middle America, and he's going to resonate with Midwesterners.

BLITZER: He's got a wonderful family. And he is well-liked. But the Democrats are going after him already, you shouldn't be surprised, on some of the substantive policy issues, which is fine. I want to see a good, strong policy-oriented debate instead of focusing in on trivial things. And they're pointing to some of his budget proposals, and the impact it would have on low-income families.

For example, the center on budget and policy priorities say his programs would cut $3.3 trillion in low-income programs, another $2 trillion over ten years, in other low-income programs. They say 62 percent of the cuts would come from low-income programs. So does this represent a problem down the road for him in this race over the next 87 days or so?

GINGRICH: I think actually it's the reason that it makes Governor Romney's choice courageous and correct. This is going to be a campaign about policy. Paul Ryan can defend what he's trying to accomplish. For example, in New York State Medicaid, over 10 percent is fraud over $4 billion a year. Now, if we modernize Medicaid, we're not hurting the poor, yet we're going to spend a lot less money if we just stop paying the crooks.

BLITZER: But waste fraud and abuse, while it's important, very important, that's not going to necessarily cause massive budget reductions.

GINGRICH: No, but in Medicare and Medicaid, it's probably between $70 and $110 billion a year.

BLITZER: I don't know -- where are you getting that number?

GINGRICH: That number comes from, first of all, "The New York Times" general accounting office. The level of fraud in some of these programs is astonishing. So I think you would see with the Ryan approach, an effort to decentralize back to the states, to go to a much less-expensive program.

And the fact is, this is what Obama and Biden have to answer, if you don't want to cut anywhere, how are you ever going to get out of this massive deficit problem, and how do you avoid becoming Greece? Where by the way, Greece now has 54 percent unemployment among young Greeks.

BLITZER: They want they want to cut the Democrats, but not necessarily in the areas you want to see the cuts. They want to cut some of the tax relief for the wealthiest of Americans, some of the big corporations, reduce some of those loopholes. We're not going to get into that right now.

But, I do want to hear what vice president Joe Biden, back in July, on July 16th, said about Paul Ryan, because this sets the stage for an excellent vice presidential debate in October.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are decent, honorable men and women. I'm not playing a game, you know, these guys are bad guys. They just have a different value set as to what is the most important thing that we should be doing.

Just look at Congressman Ryan. A bright, bright guy, an honorable man. His budget, which has been embraced by, I believe, every member in the Republican side in the House of Representatives. You might remember the first Ryan budget last year, there was nothing subtle about it. It dismantled Medicare and would have turned it into a voucher program over a ten-year program.


BLITZER: Dismantled Medicare and turned it into a voucher program.


BLITZER: Well, he did call Ryan, and has called Ryan for a massive change in the way that Medicare is operated, for people under 55 years old, a voucher program.

GINGRICH: But let's start with the facts. It is a fact that vice president Biden represents the team that took $700 billion out of Medicare in order to pay for Obama care. So here are the guys who have been gutting Medicare, trying to cover what they're doing by attacking.

Second, Congressman Ryan has worked very closely with Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. They have a bipartisan, Medicare reform plan that allows you to keep the current plan if you want to, or it allows you to go to a defined payment plan, but you get to choose. I think it's a very rational thing to do. It's something which many modern and liberal organizations like Brookings have said ought to be done. And so I think that it will be interesting to see if we can have an honest debate over the future, because, frankly, the Obama team was gutting Medicare, taking $700 billion and putting it into Obama care.

BLITZER: I've interviewed him many times over the years, and I've always found him to be reasonable, ready to compromise with Democrats. I know some conservatives, maybe you weren't happy. He voted for the TARP legislation. He voted for the auto bailout, which the president, obviously, supported. Mitt Romney didn't support it at the time. He's got -- he wanted to extend all the Bush tax cuts that the conservatives like. Are some of these votes that he had going to undermine -- going to hurt him with your fellow Republicans?

GINGRICH: I think he's going to have to explain some of them. But the fact is, he is seen by virtually every conservative activist in the country as one of the most courageous and most dedicated advocates of getting back to a balanced budget, controlling spending in Washington, returning power to the states. I think that it's very clear that Paul Ryan represents, in the Jack Kemp tradition, the Ronald Reagan traditional, the next generation of idea-oriented Republicans. And I think he's going to settle very well with the country whose going to find him to be courageous, and as you just pointed out, very practical, willing to talk and to be part of the real world.

BLITZER: I think he is on that sense. And vice president Biden, by the way, issued a press release saying that he called him to congratulate him on the selection, welcome him to the race. The vice president urged Congressman Ryan to enjoy the day with his family. Said he looked forward to engaging him on the clear choice voters face this November. This is going to be a good debate between these two men. I'm looking forward to it in November. I know you are -- in October, excuse me.

GINGRICH: In that sense, I think it was a courageous decision by Romney because it creates a clear division. It says, there are two futures for America, you get to choose which future, the American people get to make this decision, and it elevated the campaign from the trash talk we've been getting recently into a serious choice. And I hope the Obama team will decide they're actually willing to engage in a serious discussion.

BLITZER: I'm sure that there will be a very serious policy debate right now, which is what the American people want and deserve, and there are clear differences between the democratic ticket and the Republican ticket.

Mr. Speaker, look forward to seeing you at the convention in Tampa.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

The Obama camp is already showing us how they plan to run against Congressman Ryan. We'll get the White House reaction, and other reaction. That's next.



SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Great pick. He's a super guy and he's, you know, a national voice on the most pressing issues that faces the country.


BLITZER: Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, getting ready for a bike race today. He was certainly one of the finalists in this race for the vice presidential nod. Didn't get it, as we all know.

The Obama campaign wasted in time in attacking Romney's choice, calling Paul Ryan's ideas, quote, "radical."

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is joining us now with more reaction. What are they saying over there at the campaign and elsewhere, Jessica?


Well, you can expect to hear the word "Ryan" used as part of a phrase an awful lot between now and November as the Obama team. You'll hear it part of the phrase "Romney/Ryan budget" or "extreme house Republican budget." That is because their goal is try to bind Mitt Romney to Paul Ryan's budget, which they believe is an example, or they'll try to tie him to the narrative they've already built, which is that Mitt Romney wants to give tax breaks to the upper income Americans at the expense of middle class Americans. And they think that the pick of Paul Ryan helps them make the case that he is committed to doing that.

That will be what they'll try to do, Wolf. They do know, as you can see, he's an enormously charismatic campaigner. But on the other hand, they can make this argument on entitlements and tax reform and on deficit cutting that Mitt Romney would go about it in a way that will hurt the middle class, whereas the president would not, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of Democrats believe -- they say that the Ryan budget helps them with seniors, especially in a state like Florida, for example, or Pennsylvania, or Ohio.

So is this the Obama team targeting the seniors right now?

YELLIN: Absolutely, they are. But not just seniors. They also plan to target women, veterans, college students, and as I mentioned, middle class voters arguing that Paul Ryan's budget also includes cuts to programs that impact all those constituent groups, and that they will target all those constituent groups by pointing out there are ways Paul Ryan's budget would hurt them. So expect a targeted mess that, again, this Romney/Ryan budget could be damaging to each of those groups, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica's over at the White House. Thank you.

Joining us on the phone right now, someone who has worked closely with Paul Ryan. Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He's the top Democrat on the House budget committee. The chairman of that committee is Paul Ryan, as we all know.

Congressman, thanks very much for talking to us. So tell us, what do you think of this decision by Mitt Romney?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), BUDGET COMMISSIONER (via phone): Well, Wolf, I've worked closely with Paul Ryan and we get along personally, but we have very strong disagreements on budget issues and the economy. And I think this choice does crystallize a lot of issues, in a way that's going to help the president because what Mitt Romney is signaling by this decision is that he wants to double down on an economic plan that helps people like Mitt Romney at the expense of the rest of the country. At the expense of everybody else. Because if you look at the Ryan and now Romney budget, that's exactly what it does. It provides these very big tax breaks to folks at the very high end of the income scale, and asks everybody else to sacrifice for the purpose of deficit reduction, while asking nothing from folks at the top.

BLITZER: He's made it clear to me, in interviews over the years, he recognizes there needs to be compromise. He has to work with Democrats. Has that been your experience with him personally, as the two top members of the budget committee?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Wolf, all can say is that the Republicans have put forward their budget on the floor of the House. It's an uncompromising budget. They rejected every single one of the amendments that Democrats on the budget committee offered. It's a very lopsided approach compared to the bipartisan plans that have been recommended by groups like Simpson-Bowles ribbon community. It doesn't even come close. And it doesn't come close, because all of those plans say that we need shared responsibility. And the Ryan plan doesn't ask the wealthiest to contribute one penny to deficit reduction. They ask everybody else to contribute, which is why it does hit seniors on Medicare. Why it hits kids' education budgets, and why it hits middle income taxpayers.

BLITZER: Listen to this exchange that was caught on tape last year, by ABC News, between Paul Ryan and former president, Bill Clinton. Listen to this. It's fascinating.



RYAN: How are you?

CLINTON: I'm doing great. It's good to see you.

RYAN: Good to see you too.

CLINTON: I'm glad we won this race in New York, but I hope the Democrats don't use it as an excuse to do nothing.

RYAN: My guess is it's going to sink into paralysis, is what's going to happen. And you know the math, you know. It's just, we knew we were putting ourselves out there, but you've got to start -- you've got to get out there. You've got to get this thing going.

CLINTON: If you want to talk about it --

RYAN: Yes, I'll give you a call. Thanks.


BLITZER: Sounds like they were equally frustrated in that little conversation. I don't know if you could hear it as well as I could. What did you think?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, the reality is that the Democrats have put forward a number of proposals to modernize Medicare. We just have a very different way of doing it. Our way says that we need to put more focus on the value of care provided as opposed to the current system, which provides a lot of focus on the volume of care. But the Republican plan that Ryan's put forward shifts the costs and the burdens on to seniors.

And I know President Clinton does not support that plan. What president Clinton supports is the kind of balanced approach that has been recommended by Simpson/Bowles, again, not every recommendation, but that framework.

And I can tell you, Wolf. That the president's budget proposal comes a lot closer to that balanced approach than anything that Ryan or the Republicans in the house have put forward. In fact, Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of the committee, just wrote a column recently to say exactly that.

BLITZER: But as you know, Ryan was a committee of the Erskine Bowles committee - commission. He rejected it, but so did President Obama, he rejected it as well even though he named that commission. So here's an area that for different reasons, Paul Ryan and President Obama agreed. They didn't like the Erskine Bowles' recommendations.

VAN HOLLEN: But what Bowles and Simpson that both said is they've looked at the president's proposal, and it comes a lot closer to the balanced approach that they proposed, than the Republican proposal that's been forward in the house by Ryan and the house Republican leadership.

And the reason for that is that the Ryan budget doesn't ask for one penny from the very wealthiest Americans to help reduce our deficit. And the math is pretty clear. If you say the wealthiest don't have to pay a penny more, it means your budget is going to sock it really hard to everybody else. And that's exactly what their budget does. And they've been very uncompromising about the approach they've taken.

In fact, as you know, last summer, they threatened to have the United States default on its obligations for the first time in our history if we didn't enact their budget proposal.

BLITZER: Chris Van Hollen is the Democratic congressman from Maryland, and a colleague of Paul Ryan on the house budget committee.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

HOLLEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Paul Ryan has been on a mission to reinvent the Republican Party. We're going to talk about his ideological roots, when we come back.



GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I think it's a perfect complement to put someone like Paul Ryan on who I think both at same time, will excite the base, not only here in Wisconsin but across America.


BLITZER: Probably right about that, Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor. Paul Ryan also from Wisconsin.

Mitt Romney calls Paul Ryan an intellectual leader of the Republican Party. But some of his ideas weren't always in vogue with most Republicans. "The New Yorker" magazine published a fascinating profile of the congressman, by its Washington Correspondent Ryan Lizza who tweeted this about Ryan Friday night. And I'm quoting now. "He's a very nice guy, but I would be flabbergasted if Romney picked him as VP."

Ryan Lizza is also a CNN contributor with us right now. Why would you have been flabbergasted?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Well, you know, I just didn't think that this is contrary to what I thought of as Romney's strategy in this election and frankly his character. He's not been someone -- he's played it safe in this election. And I thought his strategy going into this VP pick was focus on the economy, focus on the economy, don't make the race about yourself or don't make the race about your vice presidential candidate and this changes that.

This says OK, I can't just rely on the bad economy. I can't just rely on Obama's failure. I've got to change this more into a choice between two big, bold contrasting ideologies.

ROMNEY: Today you wrote, Romney has made the most daring decision of his political career. That's not just in the last few weeks, but the career.

LIZZA: I think so. Look, that's one way of -- another way of saying that Romney usually plays it safe, right? This is a gamble. We don't know Paul Ryan's budget, the ideas in that budget are untested electorally, right? Republicans didn't run on them in 2010. Boehner told them not to. Boehner told the guys in the house, before he was the speaker of the house, he told his caucus, no, we're not embracing Ryan's idea. They are little hostile.

BLITZER: Especially on Medicare, something like that.

LIZZA: Especially on Medicare. At that time, Social Security was on the table. 2011, all these new guys come in, 87 house freshman. They become the core Ryan supporters. He goes, he has these guys into his office and he does these power point presentations with them and convinces them to embrace his ideas. And in 2011, the Ryan budget passes. So we haven't had an election that tests whether these ideas are palatable to the public.

BLITZER: So it's risky move for Mitt Romney, is that you are saying.

LIZZA: That's what I say it is risky, bold, daring.

BLITZER: I think you're right. Here's a statement from President George W. Bush that he released on Saturday. "This is a strong pick. Governor Romney is serious about confronting the long-term challenges facing America, and Paul Ryan will help him solve the difficult issues that must be addressed for future generations."

This is vice president, potential vice president, is he someone that will compromise Democrats, work with Democrats or is he more the non- compromising tea party mode, shall we say?

LIZZA: Well, he hasn't -- look, 2011 was a year when Republicans and Democrats, you had Simpson-Bowles, you had Canter-Biden, you had Boehner-Obama, you had the gang of six, you has the super committee. They all failed. And in three of those instances, Ryan was on the side of not compromising, right? He was on Simpson-Bowles commission. He voted against the final recommendation.

Now it takes Romney's ability to accuse Obama about from not embracing Simpson-Bowles away, right? His own guy didn't embrace Simpson- Bowles. So Ryan was not on the side of reaching an agreement with the Obama in 2011. So, he was on - he was on the side of the conservatives who said no to any new revenue and would basically waiting till after 2012 to do anything.

BLITZER: Ryan Lizza writing about Paul Ryan. A lot of Ryans everywhere. Thanks.

LIZZA: His daughter's name is Liza. So Liza Ryan was Paul Ryan's daughter.

BLITZER: What a coincidence of that is. Thanks very much.

Paul Ryan's every unusual way of unwinding. We have details, that's coming up next.


BLITZER: Paul Ryan catches fish with his bare hands.

Listen to him talk to our own Candy Crowley for his love of what's called noodling.


RYAN: My wife is from southern Oklahoma. And down there they have a sport where during spawning season for catfish, you go along the river banks. We do this in Lake Texoma down there on the Oklahoma-Texas border and you put your hand in the hole where there are catfishes spawning there and they bite down on your hand and you pull them out of the hole. So, you are just basically catching catfish by hand.

It's really exhilarating actually quite fun. So we try to get down there during noodling season, end of May, early June to catch catfish and they're delicious.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So you watch the catfish on your hand and then what, throw it on the bank?

RYAN: Yes, you have to put it under your arm, because they have this side thing that can sting you. So you have to -- there's a technique to grab it. And then you walk it up into the bank and put it in your boat or bucket or whatever you have. It's really fun.


BLITZER: Noodling. Who knew?

That does it for me. Thank you very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.