Paul Ryan runs into trouble with AARP

Paul Ryan got a less-than-friendly response to his speech at the AARP convention in New Orleans.
(Bill Haber, Associated Press)

Rep. Paul D. Ryan was booed at the annual AARP convention Friday after saying that, if elected, their Republican administration would repeal the nation’s healthcare law as the best way to save Medicare.

Just five minutes into his talk at the gathering of the powerful 50-and-older lobby, Mitt Romney’s running mate — the architect of the Republican proposal to change Medicare for the next generation of seniors — was repeatedly interrupted as he criticized President Obama’s healthcare law.

“The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare, because it represents the worst of both worlds,” Ryan said as the crowd in New Orleans booed audibly.

“I had a feeling there’d be mixed reaction,” Ryan acknowledged, pausing briefly. “So let me get into it.”


But Ryan only drew further objections from the crowd as he provided a more detailed explanation for his criticism of the healthcare law.

When he suggested that Obama was cutting $716 billion from Medicare over the next decade to pay for the costs of insuring more Americans under the healthcare law, those gathered booed. Ryan’s own budget relies on using the same savings from Medicare, but he applies it to paying down the nation’s deficit.

Ryan also elicited a round of objections when he suggested that the healthcare law “weakens Medicare for today’s seniors and puts it at risk for the next generation.” The healthcare law reduces spending on Medicare payments to providers, which officials have said would add eight years to the program’s solvency, though it is still expected run out of money by 2024.

The talk by the GOP vice presidential candidate followed a video appearance by Obama, who blasted Romney’s plan to revamp Medicare and called the program an earned entitlement.


“Given the conversations that have been out there in the political arena lately, I want to emphasize: Medicare and Social Security are not handouts,” Obama said. “You’ve paid into these programs your whole lives. You’ve earned them. And as president, it’s my job to make sure that Medicare and Social Security remain strong for today’s seniors and for future generations.”

Obama’s remarks were a swipe at Romney, who earlier this week took heat for describing those who don’t pay federal income taxes as dependent on the government and “victims.”

Those nontaxpayers — representing nearly 47% of households — include large numbers of seniors who are reliant on Social Security and eligible for tax credits that whittle their federal income tax burden to zero.

Meanwhile, Ann Romney landed safely in California on Friday evening, hours after the 10-seat charter plane carrying her from Omaha to the West Coast filled with smoke and was forced to make an emergency landing in Denver.


Ann Romney’s spokeswoman, Sarah Haley, who was traveling with her and three other aides, said smoke began filling the cabin of the Canadair Challenger 601 about halfway through the flight to Santa Monica. The crew members conferred with the two Secret Service agents on board and “immediately made the call to land in Denver,” Haley said.

During the descent, which Haley said lasted about 10 minutes, the sole flight attendant used the fire extinguisher to try to control the smoke billowing into the cabin, which aides were told was probably caused by an electrical fire.

Romney, several of her aides, and her Secret Service detail disembarked using the plane’s stairs.

“Everyone remained very calm,” Haley said during a phone interview after landing in Santa Monica. “Everyone knew the situation was being handled the best it could be handled.... We were blessed to be that close [to Denver].”


Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Mitt Romney, said the candidate and his wife spoke by telephone immediately after the plane touched down.

The Republican presidential nominee campaigned in Nevada on Friday, holding a luncheon fundraiser followed by a rally in Las Vegas.