Politics

Ryan Looks to Future, His and Nation’s, Post Mueller

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan expects to make a decision by mid-April on whether he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 election, the congressman said Monday.

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, spoke on the topic, as well as the aftermath of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, at a Rotary District 1-A lunch at the Mount Carmel Basilica Social Hall.

The congressman said in an interview following the event that he hasn’t made a 2020 decision yet, but needs to “pull the trigger, one way or the other,” in the next couple weeks.

“It’s time to make a decision,” he said.

During his remarks, Ryan also offered limited comments concerning the report from special counsel Robert Mueller. A four-page summary by Attorney General William Barr was released Sunday that cleared President Donald Trump’s campaign of conspiring with Russian attempts to sway the 2016 election, but Mueller did not draw a conclusion as to whether the president or his associates obstructed justice.

“I’m hesitant to completely comment on it until I read the entire thing. It looks like it’s coming to a close,” he said. “We’ve got to look at it. … There’s a lot of issues in there that need to be vetted and explored.”

With the probe’s conclusion, now is the time to focus on issues including jobs, wages, national security and other issues, Ryan said.

“We’ve got to get together as a country and we’ve got to get to work,” he said.

Ryan did not address his potential presidential bid during the speech but suggested serving in his current post is “an honor and a privilege,” one he would like to continue.

“A lot of members of Congress get up in groups like this, and they run down the Congress and they run down the government,” he said. “I’m proud to be your congressman. I’m honored that you send me there every couple of years. I’d appreciate a couple more terms.”

The congressman, who began his ninth term in office this year, focused much of his address on the need to bridge the divisions in the country and collaborate across party lines. During the middle of the last decade, the country was divided over the Iraq War but “the wheels of government were still turning,” he said. “Today we’re in the midst of every few months there’s a government shutdown or we’re going to be in a debt crisis.”

Although he and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, agree on maybe 30% of the issues they deal with in Washington, Ryan estimated, the two focus on working together on common-ground issues, such as natural gas, downtown revitalizations and skills training.

Ryan recalled that after Republican Michael Rulli defeated one of his “dearest friends,” John Boccieri, for the 33rd District Ohio Senate seat, he met with Rulli to discuss how they can work together.

“It’s not about Tim Ryan. It’s not about John Boccieri. It’s not about Senator Rulli. It’s about this area,” he said.

He also was critical of the false “camps” people are forced into by politics today. “You’re put into a camp whether you’re either for black or brown kids, or you’re for the cops,” he said. “If law enforcement officers are guilty they should be punished, but it’s not all cops and it’s not all black kids. That’s unfair for us as a country to put out citizens in those positions.”

When Americans are divided, the two countries happiest countries to see that are Russia and China, he said. The Russian military has a team that watches social media for any rifts – such as those caused by the protests of NFL players or police shootings – and deploys bots to distribute inflammatory posts “that will do nothing but fire us up and get us into our camps right out of the gate,” he said.

As Russia works to “throw gasoline on those fires” and the United States withdraws from the global stage, China is expanding its influence, he said. The communist nation has a 10-year plan to be the leader in top-growing industries such as artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing and aerospace. It is also building military bases in Africa, where it is signing long-term contracts for raw materials used for cell phones and other communications devices.

“We live in a 24-hour news cycle. It scares the crap out of me,” he said. “We need to come together around some economic ideas and start creating jobs around the areas of the economy that are growing.”

Failing to capture and grow emerging technologies could lead to the Mahoning Valley again lead to a landscape that was seen post-Black Monday. The mills that closed then had technology from before World War I, he warned.

Among the industries Ryan is focusing on is electric vehicles, which has been a focus of his discussion with General Motors surrounding its plans for the idled Lordstown Complex. China now commands 40% of the electric vehicle market, he said, as well as 60% of the solar panel market.

In the next few years, additive manufacturing is projected to create 3 million to 5 million jobs. “I want that happening here in this community,” he said.

To promote these technologies, he wants to see more private-public partnership and to “cut the worker in on the deal,” he said.

Rulli, R-33 Leetonia, who was among the 90 in attendance, called Ryan’s speech the best he had seen in recent months.

“He’s the only guy that’s running on a national level that’s talking about civil discourse, about unity, about working together,” Rulli said.

Rulli also was impressed with Ryan’s focus on the GM plant. “We have to get something here, if it’s going to be electric cars or electric batteries for the cars or whatever the future is,” he said.

Ryan’s support for working in a bipartisan manner, adopting new technologies and planning beyond the immediate future stood out to state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58 Youngstown, as well.

“We need to look at the future seriously,” she said. “We need to protect and be careful with what’s left of our environment.”

Pictured: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan was the featured speaker at a lunch hosted by the Rotary Club of Youngstown Monday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.