In no time, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell cynically reported Ryan's comments, juxtaposing them with claims by the congressman, as recent as 2009, that Rand's philosophy, in fact, merited praise and emulation. How, O'Donnell rhetorically asked, could Ryan be so opposed to the Objectivist philosophy in August 2012 when he was heard telling the Atlas Society in 2005 that Ayn Rand was a reason he got involved in politics in the first place?
O'Donnell chided Brit Hume and Fox News for failing to grill Ryan on his supposed inconsistency (having your journalistic integrity questioned by MSNBC is surely akin to - too easy, fill in your own punchline here). But Ryan, according to the tone of MSNBC, is not merely disingenuous, as is the wont of even the best politicians, his denial of Ayn Rand masks his secret regard for a cult-like figure of whom he thinks the American people would be afraid. O'Donnell submits that conservatives would be outraged if a Democratic politician was not grilled on his affection for a "Russian atheist."
Nice try, Lawrence. The American right has always admired Ayn Rand without truly embracing her. Her atheism and moral code of radical self-interest (a title of one of her books: The Virtue of Selfishness) turn off many conservatives who are, nonetheless, inspired by her bold and passionate defense of capitalism. Many who read her novels for the first time want to be John Galt, Dagny Taggart and Howard Roark. Atlas is a rare epic novel where capitalists are not only portrayed well (which is rare enough) but are larger-than-life heroes. Building cities and making money are presented not as necessary evils but as moral forces for good.
Whether or not Ryan's recent break from Rand is a calculated move is not really the point. MSNBC and others are trying to portray Rand as some freak relative locked in the conservative attic from whom Ryan is desperately trying to distance himself. He may very well be running scared from Rand. More likely, like many conservatives, he just greatly appreciates her moral defense of capitalism and individual liberty and rejects the rest of her opinions. End of story.
The American left, by way of the media, is looking for payback. Liberals have been caught in bed, figuratively speaking, with so many America apologists and haters (Fidel Castro, the North Vietnamese, Angela Davis, Bill Ayers, Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Hugo Chavez, Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Reverend Wright, etc., etc.) that the thrill of marginalizing the favorite author of many Tea Partiers is just too delicious to pass up.
Of only peripheral interest to MSNBC is that, whatever her faults, this Russian atheist loved America. She was a lifelong anti-Communist who never backed down in opposing Soviet totalitarianism. She never stood before any audience and yelled "God d*** America!"
She never complained that Americans consumed too much or raped the environment. For the right of every American to satisfy his passions and make money, there was no greater champion than Ayn Rand.
Paul Ryan, love him or hate him, is a politician. They come and go. But the popular ideals championed by Ayn Rand - America's moral greatness and the virtues of capitalism - are what MSNBC really can't stand. They don't care if Ryan is a hypocrite, and taking him down is of only cursory importance.
The overall struggle consists of marginalizing the notion that - gasp! - capitalism is morally superior to collectivism. It is not always the extremists in political life that we need to fear but rather the smug masquerading as the moderate voices of reason.
David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.