The notion that Rep. Paul Ryan is a neocon might come as a surprise to many political observers.
After all, his “brand” has little to do with being a quixotic war hawk — and everything to do with being a fiscal policy wonk. (Of course, as I have long noted, the term ‘neocon’ has been used and abused.)
In truth, Ryan’s recent budget proposal — and his goal of preserving the “social safety net” — may actually define neoconservatism — at least, according to William Kristol (whose father Irving Kristol was, perhaps, the quintessential neocon).
During a recent interview with National Review’s John J. Miller, Kristol defined neo-conservatism thusly:
I think, what [neoconservatism is] best known for, is its belief that you aren’t going to roll back domestic politics, at least. You’re not going to roll back the welfare state. You’re not going to, sort of, go back to some golden age of 1928 or … 1885, or whatever…
… And [neoconservatism argues] that one has to think about the current situation of the country, accept some of the things that have happened — what’s the choice, really? — but then figure out how to reshape things in the wolrd we’re living in to achieve conservative ends.
In today’s world, the term neocon has generally come to describe those who believe in using American military power to spread democracy. But as Kristol points out, the defining characteristic originally had to do more with domestic policy than with foreign policy.
To be sure, there are modern conservatives who might ideally like to roll back the welfare state — but whose realistic pragmatism (not ideology) — has led them to accept the hand they’ve been dealt. Still, if Ryan’s budget proposal — or, at least, his rhetoric about preserving the “social safety net” — does not qualify him as a neocon (based on Kristol’s definition) — I don’t know what would.
Any surprise Kristol is already floating the “Paul Ryan for President” trial balloon?