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When Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, fawning pundits rushed to praise Ryan as a brave, unique snowflake of a politician. Supposedly, Ryan’s extremist budgets make him “courageous” and different from all of the other right wingers in the House.

It’s true that Ryan isn’t like like the average politician. But he is like Mitt Romney.

Ryan has changed his stance on several key issues since joining Romney’s ticket, calling to mind Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom’s infamous remark that the campaign is “almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

Here are four of Ryan’s most brazen flip-flops:

The Stimulus


Ryan was one of the harshest opponents of President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package, deriding it as a “wasteful spending spree” and saying on a radio show in 2009 that “I’m not one who votes for something and then writes to the government to ask them to send us money.”

Actually, it turns out that he is. While Ryan was ripping on the stimulus, he was simultaneously writing letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, asking for stimulus money to support two Wisconsin conservation companies. One of them received $20.3 million thanks to Ryan’s help.

AP Photo/Mary Altafer

China


Since joining the Republican ticket, Ryan has taken up one of Romney’s favorite targets: China.

“Mitt Romney and I are going to crack down on China [trade] cheating,” Ryan recently declared at an Ohio rally.

This bravado doesn’t match Ryan’s voting record, however. As Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur reports:

Ryan has consistently opposed measures to crack down on China’s currency manipulation practices, which tilt the playing field against American labor. Last fall, he voted against a bill to impose tariffs on countries that significantly undervalue their currency. Late in 2010, he voted against allowing the government to slap duties on imported goods from nations undervaluing their currencies. As far back as 2000, he voted for a bill to block the U.S. government from placing trade sanctions on China, an effort to normalize relations.

Image via Jectre/Flickr.com

Medicare Cuts


Ryan has spent much of his brief time as Romney’s running mate attacking President Obama for “raiding Medicare” by cutting $716 billion, even though both of Ryan’s “bold” budgets included the exact same cuts. So, when reporters pointed out this glaring discrepancy, the courageous Congressman decided to pretend that he never wanted to make the cuts in the first place:

“It gets a little wonky but it was already in the baseline,” Ryan told reporters, when asked about the contradiction. “We would never have done it in the first place. We voted to repeal the whole bill. I just don’t think the president’s going to be able to get out of the fact that he took $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.”

Romney confirmed Ryan’s shift, telling CBS News:

Congressman Ryan has joined my campaign and his campaign is my campaign now. And we’re on exactly the same page. And my campaign has made it very clear: The president’s cuts of $716 billion to Medicare — those cuts are going to be restored if I become president and Paul Ryan becomes vice president.

AP Photo/Robert Ray

Ayn Rand

Ryan’s flip-flopping may have intensified after he was picked by Mitt Romney, but perhaps his most startling about-face came back in April.

Ryan has always been known as a devoted follower of ultra-libertarian guru Ayn Rand, forcing all of his interns to read her books and even praising her as “the reason I got involved in public service.” When Catholics started to criticize him, however, Ryan suddenly  realized that slavish devotion to a vocal atheist might prove troublesome to his future in national politics.

Suddenly Ryan announced: “I reject [Rand’s] philosphy…it’s an atheist philosophy.” Instead, he now claims that St. Thomas Aquinas is his intellectual idol.

It’s just as well — Rand wouldn’t have liked Ryan very much anyway.

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