The controversy: It's a scandal that threatens to rival the great John Edwards $400 haircut debacle of 2007. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), one of Washington's leading proponents of spending cuts and the privatization of Medicare, helped consume two $350 bottles of wine at a dinner in Capitol Hill last week. "The pomp and circumstance surrounding the waiter’s presentation, uncorking and decanting of the pricey Pinot Noir," caught the eye of a nearby diner, Rutgers associate business professor Susan Feinberg, reports Susan Crabtree at Talking Points Memo. Feinberg — who "quickly figured out" that the wine's value exceeded the weekly earnings of a "two-income family making minimum wage" — accosted the congressman, finding it "outrageous" that he'd indulge in such extravagance while advocating draconian budget cuts. A chastened Ryan, claiming he'd had no idea what the vintage cost, conceded that it's "stupid" to pay that much for wine.
The reaction: What hypocrisy, says Chris Ryan in America Blog. Politicians "make excuses for their oversights," but still expect voters to tighten their belts diligently. And as for Ryan's claim of ignorance over the price tag? "It's hard to see how anyone could mistakenly order two $350 bottles of wine." Still, counters Radley Balko in The Agitator, there's no rule that politicians "aren't allowed to spend their own money on good wine." It's not as if Ryan was rubbing his indulgence in the other diners' noses. This whole controversy is the product of snooping and "reeks of mindless partisan sniping."