“If we play into his hands, we will betray the voters who supported us — and the country we mean to serve. We can’t let that happen. We have to be smart. We have to show prudence.”

Ryan took care to explain what he means by “prudence”:

What do I mean? Well, prudence is good judgment in the art of governing. Abraham Lincoln called it “one of the cardinal virtues.” And it’s our greatest obligation as public servants. We have to find the good in every situation—and choose the best means to achieve it. We have to make decisions anchored in reality—and take responsibility for the consequences. The prudent man is like a captain at sea. He doesn’t curse the wind. He uses it—to reach his destination.

I’m not saying we should be excessively cautious. When we see an opening—however small—we should take it. What I’m saying is, if we want to promote conservatism, we’ll need to use every tool at our disposal. Sometimes, we’ll have to reject the president’s proposals. And sometimes, we’ll have to make them better.