The woman Paul Ryan beat

Spottswood: Don't underestimate the "business agent for the 21st century robber barons"

Topics: Paul Ryan, R-Wis., 2012 Elections,

The woman Paul Ryan beat Paul Ryan appears on C-SPAN in 1998, after he was elected to Congress.

Lydia Spottswood, the Democratic woman whom Paul Ryan bested in his first-ever political race for Congress in 1998, told Salon today that no one should underestimate Ryan’s skills — or his radicalism.

“I think that Ryan is much more formidable than many may know,” she said from her home in Kenosha, Wis. That was already true in her race as a city councilwoman against Ryan, a 28-year-old former Hill staffer at the time.

“I found Paul Ryan more prepared for the rigors of a campaign than I had expected, and more polished than people expected of someone so young,” she said. “He seemed very well-prepped, and he was also very smooth in terms of his ability to project a positive feeling in public settings.”

That amiability, Spottswood said, allowed people to overlook his views on Social Security and Medicare, which even then involved a major overhaul for the programs — a point she tried in vain to corner him on in the campaign.

“People had a perception of Paul that persists to this day, that he’s a moderate guy with moderate views,” said Spottswood. “They don’t mind if he has extreme views, because he’s a nice guy.”

At the opening of the race, Spottswood was favored to win by the local press, but the stakes quickly rose. Jack Kemp came to stump for his mentee, and Al Gore and then-Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala showed up for Spottswood. Abortion-rights and gun groups also jumped in, and eventually, Ryan outspent Spottswood by a narrow margin.

Spottswood, who would have been the first congresswoman from Wisconsin, described herself at the time as “a nurse, a mother and the daughter and wife of veterans.” Ryan was fighting characterizations of being a Washington insider, having been an aide to then-Sens. Robert Kasten and Sam Brownback. Spottswood recalled with a chuckle that he tried to counteract that by shooting ads of himself in a hard hat looking at building plans on construction sites.

Single at the time, he also tried to shore up his family values credibility by showing up at plant gates with his sister and her infant.

Spottswood, whose three children were school-age at the time, says now, “People would say to me in my district, ‘We met Paul and his wife and baby.’ At first I thought, no, no one would do that, then I saw him on television with a young woman and a baby standing next to him.”

That year, the so-called federal Partial Birth Abortion ban, which vaguely banned a rare later procedure, had become a marquee issue in Wisconsin. A petition drive to recall Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold over their opposition to the ban (which was eventually vetoed by Clinton) had failed by only about 50,000 signatures the year before.

Ryan, says Spottswood, was “accepting not only contributions but also foot soldiers from the anti-choice movement.” (He remains a reliably antiabortion and anti-family planning vote.) In the 1998 race, he ran ads against her that accused her of first opposing the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, then having an “election year conversion.”

“If you really move all the clutter and all the doublespeak out of the way, you realize that the modern Republican Party is championing the vision of Ayn Rand, every man for himself, and women get to take a very deep backseat,” Spottswood says now.

She added, “One of the things that is said a lot in news stories is that Paul is a budget nerd. But  he’s a business agent for the robber barons of the 21st century.” The Romney-Ryan campaign, she said, is  ”promoting a reactionary vision for America, and Paul Ryan is a perfect foil for this.”

Irin Carmon

Irin Carmon is a staff writer for Salon. Follow her on Twitter at @irincarmon or email her at

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>