Exclusive: Bowles on Ryan: ‘I’m not going to act like I don’t like him’

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Erskine Bowles is not backing away from his previous praise of Rep. Paul Ryan now that the Wisconsin congressman is on the Republican presidential ticket.

“I like him,” Bowles, the former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and co-chairperson of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, told The Daily Caller in a phone interview.

“I think he’s smart. I think he’s intellectually curious. I think he is honest, straightforward and sincere. And I think he does have a serious budget out there — it doesn’t mean I agree with it by any stretch of the imagination. But I’m not going to act like I don’t like him or that I don’t have some real respect for him.”

Bowles, who along with former Republican Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson chaired a presidential commission that ultimately released a budget proposal to fix America’s long-term budget crisis, says that though he has disagreements with some aspects of Ryan’s budget, he believes they can be overcome.

“You know, there’s a reason he didn’t vote for our budget, and there’s a reason that, I know, that I have some disagreements with his budget,” Bowles said.

“But it doesn’t mean we couldn’t find a way to, you know, have principled compromise that would, you know, that would address this horrendous problem that we face with these deficits.”

A bipartisan group of four senators recently wrote a letter to the presidential debate commission requesting that it ask the presidential contenders about where they stand on the Simpson-Bowles debt plan. In response on Tuesday, three Democratic House members wrote to the commission asking it not to specifically ask the presidential candidates where they stand on the Simpson-Bowles plan. In a followup email responding to the Democrats’ letter, Bowles said, “There are lots of Democrats and Republicans that wish this whole debt/deficit talk would just go away.”

“It won’t,” he went on.

“The people of this country get it. They know that the fiscal path this country is on is not sustainable and that these deficits of over a trillion dollars a year are a cancer that in time will destroy our Country from within. They know that our Commission has a sensible bipartisan plan out there to address this fiscal crisis and they want their elected representatives to put partisanship aside and pull together, not apart and address our fiscal problems head on. They will demand that a full discussion of the deficits be a part of the debates.”

Despite his praise of Ryan, Bowles says he plans on voting for President Obama in November.

“Who I vote for is my business, but I am certainly a registered Democrat and I’m proud to be so,” Bowles said in the phone interview. “And I certainly envision voting for the president for sure.”

At the end of the interview, TheDC asked if Bowles thought there was a good prospect that a budget deal would get done after the election.

“I’m going to do everything I can to see that it happens,” he said.

When TheDC noted that didn’t sound like he was optimistic, Bowles retorted: “I’m not necessarily pessimistic about it.”

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