The revelation that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough had a successful secret beer date might be cause to fundamentally rethink skepticism that dinner diplomacy could end Washington gridlock caused by Republicans and Democrats holding diametrically opposed positions. It turns out it's really easy to get on Paul Ryan's good side.
The secret beer drinking happened April 10, Time's Michael Scherer reports, at a Belgian restaurant with 115 beers in the menu. Initially, things didn't go well, because Ryan's favorite beer is Miller Lite, and Brasserie Beck only serves classy brews. (Here, Ryan is absolutely correct: fashionable microbrews taste like mud with a lot of sugar in it.) But McDonough quickly smoothed things over. Scherer reports:
But it turned out McDonough had done his homework in other ways. He knew that Ryan had graduated from Miami University in Ohio the same year as his own wife Kari. Both men hailed from former frontier towns in the upper Midwest, and both had been drawn to Washington as young congressional aides. They were nerds, in the best sense of the word, and they were fierce competitors.
Although the White House chief of staff has access to the best intelligence services in the world, the casual reader can't help but notice that all of this "homework" could be done by gleaning facts from Ryan's Wikipedia page. In fairness, it's probably best to hide knowledge of Ryan's favorite Gchat emoticons, courtesy of the NSA, for the second beer date.
Ryan was pleased that McDonough took such an interest. "He's a Minnesota Irish Catholic guy, and I’m a Wisconsin Irish Catholic guy," Ryan told Time. "It quickly dawned on me that we can work together." They floated ideas about how to get a budget deal.
There have been other signs that top Republican officials are more easily impressed than the Obama administration might think. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she really liked how President Obama was OK with her taking off her shoes at a dinner with female senators. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker appeared to smile a genuine smile while playing golf with Obama this week. Perhaps a grand bargain can be reached after all, if enough White House aides memorize enough facts from Republican politicians' official bios.