NBC's David Gregory must have thought he had performed another gotcha on a prominent Republican Sunday when he cited a poll to his "Meet the Press" guest Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) finding people aren't interested in reducing Medicare spending in order to balance the budget.
Without skipping a beat, Ryan marvelously educated his host saying, "I don't consult polls to tell me what my principles are or what our policies should be. Leaders change the polls" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: According to our polling, nearly eight in ten Americans do not want to cut spending for Medicare, even in the name of cutting the debt. You, I assume, are not doing all this as an intellectual exercise. You would actually like to get reform accomplished. […]
GREGORY: But wait a second, but that really is a dodge. You are the chairman of the committee, yes, you're serious about entitlement reform, yes. You're also a politician. You say you want to do it on your terms. Law does not become law without building political consensus, and you don't have that, and now you had a major figure in the Republican Party say this was right-wing social engineering. So, I'm wondering how much you do feel undercut in actually getting this passed, which I assume is your goal?
CONGRESSMAN PAUL RYAN (R-WISCONSIN): First of all, if people are describing this accurately in polls, it's far more popular than the poll you referenced. Second of all, leaders are elected to lead. I don't consult polls to tell me what my principles are or what our policies should be. Leaders change the polls, and we are leading in the House. We are not seeing this kind of leadership from the President of the United States. The Senate Democrats haven't even proposed or passed a budget for 753 days and we have a budget crisis. So, yes, we are going to lead and we are going to try and move these polls and change these polls, because that's what the country wants.
I just did 19 town hall meetings, David, in a district that I work for that went for Obama, Dukakis, Clinton and Gore. People are hungry for solutions, and I really fundamentally believe that the people are way ahead of the political class and I think they're going to reward the leader who steps up to the plate and actually fixes these problems, no matter how much demagoguery, no matter how much distortion, no matter how much political parties try to scare seniors in the next election. I just don't think they're going to buy it this year and they're hungry for leaders to fix this problem before it gets out of our control.
Later in the program during the roundtable discussion, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell agreed:
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC: When he said to you that leaders change polls…
MITCHELL: …that’s leadership that people are hungry for.
Indeed it is, Andrea. Indeed it is.
Suffice it to say Gregory didn't get the gotcha moment he was hoping for with this Republican guest, and that media members better bring their A game when Ryan's around.
Nicely done, Congressman. Bravo!