NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Paul Ryan pushed back on the vision of a fragmented GOP Thursday, and instead called for Republicans to “give each other the benefit of the doubt,” even when there are disagreements.
In one of the first speeches at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Ryan tacitly acknowledged that some view the Republican Party as a divided movement.
“The way the left tells it, the Republican Party’s this big mess of civil war: it’s tea party versus establishment versus social conservatives. There’s infighting, conflict, backbiting, discord,” Ryan said. “Look, I’m Irish, that’s my idea of a family reunion.”
“I don’t see this great divide in our party, what I see is a vibrant debate,” he went on. “We are figuring out the best way to apply our principles to the issues of the day. Yes, we have our disagreements, yes they can get a little passionate. I like to think of it as creative tension. For the most part, these disagreements have not been over principles or even politics, they’ve been over tactics.”
“So,” he said, “I think we should give each other the benefit of the doubt.”
“Now there’s a fine line between being pragmatic and being unprincipled,” he said, pointing to the criticism that some have leveled at Republican leaders for striking deals on the debt ceiling or ending the government shutdown.
“Sometimes it’s hard to see who’s here to start a career and who’s here to serve a cause,” he went on.
“But the true test,” Ryan said, “is not what specific path you take — it’s whether you move the country in the right direction.”
Ryan gave credit to a number of Republicans for their efforts, singling out Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — both of whom are his potential opponents in a 2016 presidential bid.