As John wrote earlier today, liberals are convinced that Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate offers them a golden opportunity to savage the Republicans about the Wisconsin congressman’s budget plans. Predictably, the New York Times delivered one of the first such salvos in its editorial posted hours after Romney announced his pick in which it slammed Ryan as “callous” and claimed his attempt to control the nation’s out-of-control entitlements would leave the poor and the elderly sicker while also harming the unemployed and students. Not considering it advisable to even make a pretense of noting the GOP veep candidate’s strengths, the Times thought it advisable to go for the jugular first and worry about nuance later. We can expect the rest of the liberal mainstream media to do no less in the days and weeks that will follow.
However, it must be noted that the expectation by liberals that they can get away with such blatant demagoguery is not entirely without foundation. The pick of Ryan should energize the Republican base and will lend intellectual heft to a Romney campaign that has often seemed intent on merely waiting for the voters to fire Barack Obama rather than putting forward its own vision. But we know that “Mediscare” tactics employed by the Democrats have worked sometimes. And, as Times political blogger and statistical analyst Nate Silver pointed out on Wednesday, Ryan brings no obvious or immediate tactical political advantages to the Republicans. If Romney’s choice does anything it is to provide a test for the electorate. Are they prepared to listen to reasoned arguments articulated by Ryan about the need for entitlement reform, or will they succumb to simplistic liberal cant about pushing grandma over the cliff? As much as conservatives want to believe the American public is not so foolish or shortsighted as to simply accept the left’s defense of the status quo, we won’t know the answer to that question until November.
The selection of Paul Ryan has been greeted with a wild joy on Twitter, and not just by conservatives; I’ve seen hundreds of liberals celebrate the choice. A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jesse Ferguson, said this: “So this is what xmas morning feels like?” The idea here is that Ryan is the perfect target for Democrats because he has proposed specific budget cuts and the overhaul of Medicare, while supporting tax reform that would lower rates on the wealthy.
Doubtless, Ryan has provided some subject matter for Democratic attacks. But so, in different ways, would anyone else on Mitt Romney’s short list. Romney already opened himself up to assault on the Ryan budget by calling it “marvelous,” and it’s not as though the Obama campaign was going to stand on scruple and let him go on that because he hadn’t formally adopted it.
The other two exciting possibilities on the Romney list, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, are arguably more dynamic than Ryan—Rubio is probably the best speaker in the GOP, and Christie the master of the viral—but they too would have been put in the position of actually having to defend the supposedly draconian Ryan budget the Democrats were and are going to hang around the Romney campaign’s neck. And they would have been worse at it, obviously.
More important is the quality of the glee itself. It’s an ongoing liberal political-character flaw. So insulated a are many, if not most, American liberals that they simply presume that which they despise is inherently despicable, and that what they fear is inherently fearful. As they gather in their echo chamber, all they hear are voices resounding with the monstrousness of redesigning Medicare and the parlousness of cutting the federal budget. They genuinely do not know that budget cutting is popular, even if only in theory, and that tens of millions of voters do understand the notion that the government is living far beyond its means. From what we can gather, in fact, these are exactly the sorts of ideas that speak to independent voters and have since the days of Ross Perot.
Ryan is a formidable presence in American politics. Generally speaking, formidable players do formidable things. The glee of the Left suggests its folk are so excited by what the Obama campaign can dish out that they are unprepared for what Ryan and Romney can dish out right back.
The speech vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan delivered this morning gives a sense of the quality you get from being in a room with him: He’s not a fire-breather. He’s unflappable and unadorned, combining plain-spokenness with almost offhanded rhetorical hints of the deeper philosophy undergirding his opinions (“our rights are from nature and God, not from government”). This wasn’t a populist spark-plug of a speech the way Sarah Palin’s dazzling out-of-nowhere introduction to America was in 2008; it was a calm elaboration of themes already articulated by the Romney campaign. Most important, he and Romney both spoke of saving Medicare, indicating that they have already thought long and hard about the attack that will be waged against them because Ryan’s famous budget changes the structure of Medicare for everybody under 55. The line being proffered before the speech was that Mitt Romney had chosen a vice-presidential candidate who will effectively become the presidential candidate because Romney has no ideas and Ryan has a million. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the game going forward. Romney is the candidate, and he will pick and choose from Ryan’s ideas at will; it is Ryan who will have to say, as George H.W. Bush said, that he understands his ideas have been superseded by his boss’s. Remember, he’s voted many times for legislation he presumably didn’t really like (Medicare Part D, TARP, the auto bailout) because of political necessity.
In the May 2012 issue, James Pethokoukis offered a rich and illuminating portrait of Paul Ryan, the policy wonk.
It’s probably safe to assume that no elected official in America understands the ins and outs of the labyrinthine U.S. budget the way Paul Ryan does. The 42-year-old Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee has dreams of completing the small-government Reagan Revolution so that America might avoid repeating the “managed decline” of Old Europe. Ryan knows the numbers and projections and models backward and forward. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of his own arguments about reforming the Entitlement State and of those espoused by his opponents across the aisle and inside the Obama White House. He knows how the legislative process can breathe life into ambitious budget plans or, far more often, suffocate them in the cradle.
Ryan knows it all to a fine granularity. And that is not all he knows. As a veteran of the conservative movement who started out writing speeches for Jack Kemp and William J. Bennett at their joint think tank, Empower America, Ryan knows how three decades of off-and-on conservative governance in Washington have given credence to the notion that, in domestic affairs, Republicans understand how to cut taxes—and not much else. This has certainly been the case when it comes to fixing America’s social-insurance entitlements. Creating a financially sustainable safety net that does not sap America’s economic dynamism has been a political and policy puzzle, and repeated attempts to solve it have ended in economic or political disaster, or both.
You can read the rest by clicking here.