Paul Ryan is neither a hero nor villain of conservatism

Ever since Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was floated as a potential candidate to succeed Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, as speaker of the House, it's had a polarizing effect on the Right.

The prospect of Speaker Ryan has pitted those who portray him as some sort of enemy against conservatism against those who try to defend him as an unimpeachable conservative icon.

In reality, neither of these views capture who Ryan is. In the many interviews I've conducted with Ryan over the years, what's been clear is that he is philosophically conservative and passionate about trying to translate abstract limited government principles into tangible policy solutions.

But at the same time, he's proved a willingness to be a loyal soldier and go along with the party, which at times has forced him to compromise on conservative ideas.

Ryan backed Social Security reform both before and after it was cool. He ran on reform in his first race for Congress in 1998, despite being in a swing congressional district. And he was still pushing for Social Security personal accounts well after President Bush's 2005 effort went down in flames and even many proponents gave up in the wake of the 2008 financial markets crash.