So here’s what I wrote last Monday: “It is still probably going to be Rob Portman.” Here’s what I wrote about Ryan:
Hey, Paul Ryan! People love that Paul Ryan! The only downside, with Paul Ryan, is everything he believes. The Obama administration cackles with glee imagining the opportunity to explain the contents of the Ryan budget to moderate voters. Ayn Rand starts showing up in Democratic attack ads if Paul Ryan is the running mate.
And then I concluded with, “please enjoy watching every pundit who confidently made a bullshit prediction pretend it never happened.”
I was wrong! (Though I think I’m right about the cackling, still.) I thought Romney was too smart and too risk-averse to go with an even slightly polarizing figure, but Romney made the “surprise” pick. Though, let’s be honest, Ryan is still a boring white guy, he’s just a boring white guy with excitingly far-right economic and budget policy preferences.
What I also couldn’t have predicted is that Romney would make his decision a Friday night news dump, leaking it too late for the evening news and announcing it on a Saturday morning when no one is paying attention to politics. He probably did this because he hates the press and he wanted to ruin everyone’s weekend. He seems to have given advance notice, though, to a few commentators, including his biggest media booster, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin. Rubin, as we all remember, is unable to, say, correct malicious mistakes in her posts while she is observing the Sabbath, but she was able, thank god, to write and schedule a post on the Ryan pick that went up at nearly 2 a.m.. She thinks the Ryan pick is a brilliant, canny decision, obviously. And it totally is, as long as no one successfully explains to voters what Ryan actually believes.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, August 11, 2012
As I noted earlier, Mitt Romney’s new vice presidential pick is “not a fan,” to use Paul Ryan’s words, of the former Massachusetts governor’s signature legislative accomplishment.
Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski dug up last week a 2010 Ryan appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal where he blasted the Massachusetts healthcare overhaul, which Romney oversaw as governor, as “a fatal conceit.”
Asked if he thought Romneycare (upon which Obamacare was based) works, Ryan responded:
Not well, no. Actually, I’m not a fan of the system. … I’ve got some relatives up there in Massachusetts. My uncle’s a cardiologist in Boston and I’ve talked to a lot of healthcare folks up there. What’s happening now is because costs are getting out of control, premiums are increasing in Massachusetts and now you have a bureaucracy that is having to put all these cost controls and now rationing on the system. So people in Massachusetts are saying ‘yes we have virtually universal healthcare’—I think it’s 96 or 98 percent insured. But they see the system bursting by the seams. They see premium increases, rationing and benefit cuts, and so they’re frustrated with this system. … They see how this idea of having the government be the sole, you know, single regulator of health insurance, defining what kind of health insurance you can have, and then an individual mandate—it is fatal conceit. These kinds of systems, as we’re now seeing in Massachusetts are unsustainable.
Of course it’s standard operating procedure that vice presidential picks have policy differences with the top of the ticket. See George H.W. Bush and “voodoo economics,” for example. But this disagreement is more pronounced because to date Romney has run a campaign light on policy details (the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein memorably described Romney’s agenda as being less actual policy proposals and “more like simulacra of policy proposals. They look, from far away, like policy proposals. … But read closely, they are not policy proposals. They do not include the details necessary to judge Romney’s policy ideas. In many cases, they don’t contain any details at all.”) In a stroke Mitt Romney made Paul Ryan the functional policy director of his campaign, making sharp policy disagreements like this one more than ordinarily salient. By the same token, it will be interesting to watch the conservative reaction as Ryan is forced to correct himself on this and any other areas of disagreement with the top of the ticket. Given the extent to which his nomination is meant to pacify a querulous base a muzzled or repentant Ryan could prove problematic.
(On the other hand, Romneycare’s broad unpopularity with his party—see the uproar this week when a Romney spokeswoman spoke positively of it—has left him largely quiet on the law’s virtues so maybe “fatal conceit” will become the campaign’s official policy position on the law.)
One other point worth mentioning on Ryan and healthcare costs: It’s interesting that he criticized cost controls since they are notably absent from his Medicare overhaul scheme. While his plan would lower spending it does so not by controlling costs but by shifting the cost from the government to senior citizens. What it does do, however, is keep the Obamacare Medicare cuts … which Romney grimly denounced in introducing Ryan. I guess that’s another area where we can look forward to a little policy back-tracking.
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, August 11, 2012
“Weakness In Romney’s Boldness”: Confident Candidates Don’t Go For Boldness, They Make A Choice For Balance
By making Rep. Paul Ryan his running mate, Mitt Romney guaranteed that this will be a big election. The Ryan budget plan will be front and center. Romney now owns its every number, policy and semicolon — unless he specifically says otherwise.
For that reason, the choice was bold. The 2012 election is now about whether the country believes that cuts in Medicare, deep reductions in programs for the poor and steep cuts in taxes for the wealthy are necessary for growth and prosperity. President Obama’s campaign is already running a sober advertisement framing the election as a referendum on this formula. For all the negative ads we will see, a great deal of substance — indeed, a fundamental choice — will underlie the rest of the campaign.
But Romney’s need to make such a bold choice is also a sign of weakness. Candidates confident in their position don’t go for boldness. They make a choice for balance, or to carry a state, or that reinforces their own persona.
Thus did Ronald Reagan pick George H.W. Bush in 1980 to appeal to GOP moderates. In 1992, Bill Clinton picked Al Gore to reinforce his own strengths: young, Southern, New Democrat.
But Romney picked Ryan because he was under intense pressure from right-wing elements of the Republican Party to prove, yet again, that he is truly a conservative. Romney has been trying to prove this ever since he announced his candidacy. Because he has been lagging in the polls, the right felt free to pressure him some more. Now, the right will back the ticket with enthusiasm. This really is the go-for-broke choice that conservatives were looking for. But the cost is that Romney will be unable to make a new appeal to the political center. And by passing on Sen. Rob Portman, Romney gives up an opportunity to strengthen himself in Ohio, a state that he absolutely needs to win and where he has been running behind.
The outcome of this election is now hugely consequential. If the Romney-Ryan ticket wins, conservatives will claim a mandate for Ryan’s radical budget ideas. But if Obama wins, conservatives will no longer be able to argue that the public was given a tepid choice by a philosophically inconstant Romney. A rejection of Romney-Ryan would be a huge blow to the conservative agenda. It will settle the argument over the role of government that we have been having since Barack Obama took the oath of office. This election really and truly matters.
UPDATE, 1:40 p.m.
The Romney campaign is clearly very sensitive about the argument that I made above — and that others, of course, are also making: that Romney now owns the Ryan budget. Here, courtesy of CNN, is a Q-and-A being distributed as part of the campaign’s talking points:
1.) Does this mean Mitt Romney is adopting the Paul Ryan plan?
Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.
Romney’s administration will go through the budget line by line and ask two questions: Can we afford it? And, if not, should we borrow money from China to pay for it?
Note that the campaign doesn’t actually give a direct answer to the question it asked itself.
And then there was this:
2) Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have different views on some policy areas — like Medicare spending, entitlement reform, labor, etc. — do you think those differences are going to hurt or help?
Of course they aren’t going to have the same view on every issue. But they both share the view that this election is a choice about two fundamentally different paths for this country. President Obama has taken America down a path of debt and decline. Romney and Ryan believe in a path for America that leads to more jobs, less debt and smaller government. So, while you might find an issue or two where they might not agree, they are in complete agreement on the direction that they want to lead America.
Again, the Romney camp does not specify in its answer exactly where Romney disagrees with Ryan. It just mentions general areas of disagreement in its question.
If Romney really wants to separate himself from Ryan’s views and his budget, he will have to get a lot more specific than this. And journalists, one would expect, will be pressing Romney hard to offer specifics on the very questions the campaign itself posed.
And thanks to my colleague Greg Sargent for pointing out the existence of these talking points in his own thoughtful take on the Ryan pick.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 11, 2012
For months, Mitt Romney repeated a common complaint about President Obama’s professional background: he’s spent his life in the political world, not the real world. While Romney’s a businessman (notwithstanding 18 years seeking public offices), Obama’s never run a business and never run a state. It makes Obama, the argument goes, a poor choice for national office.
Oddly enough, Romney hasn’t repeated that line of criticism in a while. I guess we know why.
[Paul Ryan] worked in politics his entire life, beginning as an aide to Sen. Bob Kasten, then working for Sen. Sam Brownback and as a speechwriter to Rep. Jack Kemp. He’s known as a relatively ideological politician who has put forward a detailed policy plan to remake the federal government. It’s a rather different message about what’s important. And how does Romney say the problem with Barack Obama is that he’s “never spent a day in the private sector” and then put Ryan a heartbeat away from the presidency?
Indeed, in May, Romney went so far as to say working in the private sector for “at least three years” should be a prerequisite to national office. Now, Romney wants to put Ryan one heartbeat from the presidency, despite the fact that Ryan’s adult life bears all of the characteristics of a background Romney disdains.
I don’t intend this as a “gotcha” moment, exactly, but rather, my larger point is I’m not exactly sure why Romney thinks Ryan should be the vice president, or would even be good at the job.
Everything we know about Romney — he’s a cautious, management-focused executive, who values experience and private-sector success — suggests Ryan’s the last guy he’d want as a governing partner in the White House. Putting aside the radicalism of the Ryan budget plan, at least for a moment, Ryan hasn’t run so much as a lemonade stand.
He’s a 42-year old, seven-term congressman who’s never even held statewide office and has no natural constituency. Ryan voted for every element of the Bush-Cheney agenda — including votes for the bank bailout, the massive Medicare Part D expansion that he didn’t see the need to pay for, and multiple increases to the debt limit.
Ryan’s also a very high-profile figure from the least popular Congress since the dawn of modern polling. He is, in other words, a professional politician who has played a key role in making Capitol Hill even more loathed than it’s ever been. Ryan, like Romney, also has literally zero background in foreign policy, national security, or international affairs.
What is it about this resume that Romney looks at and says, “Yep, that’s my kind of guy”?
The answer is, nothing. Romney was almost certainly pushed into this announcement by a conservative establishment that doesn’t trust him or feel excited to rally behind him, and Romney didn’t have the standing or intestinal fortitude to push back.
It’s a Quayle/Palin kind of decision that reinforces the perception that Romney is not only unsatisfied with the state of the race, but is starting to feel genuine fear about his candidacy.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 11, 2012