Paul Ryan gives the first major national address of his career at the RNC on Wednesday night, and he will have to do more than "introduce" himself. He needs to rebrand himself.
That's because Ryan's new role contradicts his entire government career.
While many focus on Ryan's budget plan -- whether it's bold or cruel, realistic or fantastic, precise or vague -- the most important thing is that it is just a plan. A promise. An idea. It is not a record.
Ryan's rebranding can only succeed if we all focus on his proposals. Not what he actually did.
A look at the record shows this race is not about deficit-hawks, it's about deficit-chutzpah.
During 14 years in Congress, Ryan consistently and loyally voted to increase the debt:
He did not take political risks or buck his party to combat "our exploding deficits."
He voted for 65 different pieces of legislation to expand the debt.
He requested earmarks.
This is not arcane "history," either. It's a record of creating the current problem that Ryan now touts as his guiding purpose to solve. In fact, the majority of today's deficit is comprised of congressional spending decisions made during the last administration, which Ryan supported.
The Bush-era spending spree turned a surplus into more than $6 trillion in debt. And Ryan, the GOP's budget guru and intellectual inspiration, backed those deficit increases a remarkable 90 percent of the time.
He also supported each of largest specific drivers of today's debt: defense spending, tax cuts and Medicare Part D. (Harsha Nahata, a writer at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, crunched these numbers from Congress' own budget office.)
So Ryan literally spent his government career increasing the budget deficit. In a twist on the old Gandhi maxim, he is the problem that he pledges to solve.
And that does not make Ryan unusual, either -- it's just part of the GOP's cyclical deficit outrage ritual, a dynamic I explore in this article.
Ari Melber is an attorney and contributor to Politico. The original version of this article is available here.