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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beldar reads tea leaves on Ryan and finds subtle comfort

I've been posting a lot today about Paul Ryan. I'm increasingly convinced that I want him to be the next POTUS, and that he could beat Obama in a watershed election as big or bigger than 1980's was. Ryan says publicly, and many people take him at face value when he says, that he's not interested in running for president. But consider these lines from his superb speech today at the Economic Club of Chicago (emphasis Ryan's):

Now in criticizing the President’s policies, I should make clear that I am not disputing for a moment that he inherited a difficult fiscal situation when he took office. He did.

Millions of American families had just seen their dreams destroyed by misguided policies and irresponsible leadership that caused a financial disaster. The crisis squandered the nation’s savings and crippled its economy.

The emergency actions taken by the government in the fall of 2008 did help to arrest the ensuing panic. But subsequent interventions – such as the President’s stimulus law and the Fed’s unprecedented monetary easing – have done much more harm than good, in my judgment.

Ryan's in a safe district. His vote for TARP in 2008 is no threat to his reelection to Congress, and probably wouldn't be a threat to him were he to run for the Senate seat from Wisconsin coming open in 2012 upon Herb Kohl's retirement.

Ryan is a wonk, and maybe that's the sort of distinction he'd make out of a passion for accuracy rather than political motivation.

But it's sure also the sort of thing someone eying the GOP nomination for president would say if he wanted to self-inoculate against criticism of his TARP vote from the farthest right in a GOP presidential primary, isn't it?

Posted by Beldar at 02:07 AM in 2012 Election, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink

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Comments

(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | May 17, 2011 2:39:21 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: You are right to be posting on Paul Ryan. I'm not sure of him as a 2012 GOP standard bearer. Sarah Palin has been damaged (and it must be said, also enhanced) by being the veep candidate in 2008. Running before you are ready is an error. Is Ryan ready? Let's see:

In favor: 1. Ryan has a prominent position which allows him to get into public debates.
2. Ryan has great ideas, which are ripe for our time.
3. Ryan has experience in government.
4. Ryan has a great deal of energy and diligence.
5. Ryan is not touched with scandal, personal (e.g. Gingrich and his wives) or otherwise (The One, busily engaged in getting rich while in office.)
6. Ryan has taken advantage of the legislature's great developing power, and made himself expert in a serious way. Compare him to The One's laziness and indifference in the Senate, and Ryan's advantage is obvious.
7. Ryan will be 42 in 2012. It will be hard to cast him as an old fogey when he would replace Theodore Roosevelt as the youngest Prez ever.

Contra: 1. Ryan's experience is exclusively in government.
2. Ryan's experience is also purely legislative. Legislators, unlike executives, don't have to make things happen on the scale government requires.
3. Ryan has not had any hard knocks, in the manner of Franklin Roosevelt's polio, Richard Nixon's 1960 & 62 defeats, Reagan's collapse of his acting career and 1976 defeat. How does he conduct himself in defeat? We don't know, and maybe he doesn't either.
4. Ryan has no experience in foreign affairs. I tend to the Nixon idea that the country needs a President who is strong in foreign affairs. Domestic affairs can run themselves, said RN, but foreign affairs need a strong Prez. What are Ryan's views on foreign affairs? More than ever, foreign affairs affect what happens domestically e.g. gasoline prices or Chinese exports. It's true, the reverse is beginning to happen, in that federal spending is insanely out of control, and making the US dependent on foreign credit. Ryan's ideas would be a large help in fixing this particular difficulty. But what would Ryan do, say, about the disintegration of Mexico into a failed state? Economic theory isn't going to help much with that problem.

Something that works both ways is that Ryan is a star in Congress, but not a widely popular one. Certainly he makes Mitch McConnell uneasy.

So toss on this onto the scales, and where does the pointer go? If you think that 2012 is a watershed election, life or death for the country, that would work in Ryan's favor. Trouble is, when has there been an election where the country hasn't hung in the balance? Yeah, I can't think of one since 1928. I keep thinking about Sarah Palin, who would not have had a fraction of the troubles she has today if she hadn't been picked as veep in 2008. The GOP is paying a stiff price by sacrificing its "bench" to the exigencies of the moment.

But it's also true that 2012, at present, looks far more like a GOP year than 2008 ever did. The press will be in a weaker position this time, thanks to four years of blubbering for The One. Ryan's ideas are in tune with the times, no matter how much the liars in the press howl otherwise.

I think it's too early to be losing your heart to any candidate.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(2) ech made the following comment | May 17, 2011 3:18:05 PM | Permalink

IMHO, TARP was absolutely needed. I don't know if you read Megan McArdle's blog over at the Atlantic Monthly site, but she made it clear that we came within 24-48 hours of the US credit market freezing up. The commerical paper market would have stopped working and the consequences would have been dire, probably Great Depression dire. Was it well structured? No. Was it perfect? No. Was it about as good as could have been done given the time and political constraints? Yeah. Even an Aggie engineered kludge was better than nothing.

The later stimulus, the GM bailout, etc. likely did more harm than good.

I agree with Mr. Koster that Palin has blown her chance for further elected office. Resigning the governorship was, IMHO, the end of her chances for that. I fully understand why she did it - a son with Down syndrome and a choice between a couple more years as a governor vs. a chance sieze the moment, hit the road, and make millions. I'd have grabbed the cash, too. (Full disclosure: I have a brother-in-law with Down's.)

(3) Milhouse made the following comment | May 17, 2011 8:17:24 PM | Permalink

I fully understand why she did it - a son with Down syndrome and a choice between a couple more years as a governor vs. a chance sieze the moment, hit the road, and make millions. I'd have grabbed the cash, too.

Liar.

(4) ech made the following comment | May 18, 2011 9:34:18 AM | Permalink

@3 Millhouse
Liar.

I'm sorry, where did I lie? Or is this just an ad hominem.

(5) Milhouse made the following comment | May 19, 2011 1:05:04 AM | Permalink

Palin's reasons for her resignation are well known. For you to put your own spin on it is to willingly tell a falsehood. You're accusing her of lying; I'm returning the favour.

(6) Beldar made the following comment | May 19, 2011 7:13:57 AM | Permalink

Milhouse (#5), I appreciate your clarification, but I maintain a somewhat arbitrary standard here in which I'm more accepting of non-profane attacks on public figures than on other commenters. I appreciate that it was intended to make a point rather than as a personal insult, and it's fair to point out that Gov. Palin has a different explanation of her reasons for stepping down. Nevertheless, I hope you'll stick with your normal superb decorum that is a worthy part of what makes your comments here valued by both me and other readers/commenters.

(7) ech made the following comment | May 19, 2011 12:24:02 PM | Permalink

I went and read Palin's resignation speech. First, it's a pretty poor read. It reads like an outline for a first draft - very disjointed. She needed someone to go over it, polish it, and structure it along more conventional lines. Second, her reasoning seems to be: I'm spending too much time defending myself from these bogus ethics charges, it's costing me lots of money (several $100k in legal fees), it's costing the state lots of money. So, to remove the distraction from state business, I'm resigning and will work on making America better.

Note that she specifically talked about her legal fees. So, perhaps it wasn't providing a future for her son that weighed uppermost, but family finances was a factor. And as I said, I'd probably do the same thing in her situation. The chance to make your family financially secure is not something to pass up lightly, especially when you are piling up debt to lawyers.

However, I still think it has fatally poisoned her chances for another elective office. And the relentless, baseless hounding she got was certainly a black eye for the US political system. IMHO, the Republican Party sacrificed a rising star to make a fading star more palatable to some of the base. I think Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, and others have seen this and therefore are reluctant to throw their hat into the ring despite their current popularity.

(8) Milhouse made the following comment | May 20, 2011 12:26:15 PM | Permalink

She expanded on the topic in her first book. Not only were she and her staff facing bankruptcy, they were all working full time on answering the charges and had no time left to do their jobs. The business of governing was not being done.

And really the bankruptcy thing meant that she had no choice but to resign. And even if she could take that for herself and her family, how could she keep staff when they were being hit with the same harassment campaign? Who would stay in such a job?

(9) Gregory Koster made the following comment | May 21, 2011 1:32:19 PM | Permalink

Dear Milhouse: 1. This notion in your #5 is that : "Palin's reasons for her resignation are well known. For you to put your own spin on it is to willingly tell a falsehood."

Therefore we must take all politician's utterances at face value? I'm astonished that you, the exgeter of what was in the House GOP bill an effort that brought round at least two formdiable lawyers (Beldar and Patterico) would say this.

2. " Not only were she and her staff facing bankruptcy, they were all working full time on answering the charges and had no time left to do their jobs."

Could you show me a link to Governor Palin's official calendar for the last sixty days of her governorship? I don't believe the literal truth of "full time."

3. Bankruptcy. If this charge is true, it shows SP being remarkably silly. One of the tests of middle, let alone high, management is being able to organize what tasks you've been given so you don't have to do everything yourself. In the case of her legal expenses, this means a legal defense fund. It's true, the first attempt at such a fund was declared illegal but that fault was corrected and second fund set up.

Was SP facing a fierce, formidable, bad faith attack? Yes. But this attack is trifling in comparison to what one A. Lincoln faced for all but the last nine months of his administration. Ditto Franklin Roosevelt anytime in 1942. Ditto Lyndon Johnson in the summer of 1964 trying to get the Voting Rights Act through. Ditto John Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis. At any time, any of these chief executives could have said, it's too much for me, I quit. Where would their places in history be today had they done that? More to the point, where would we be, had any of them done that?

These four presidents faced the highest obstacles, far more formidable than any SP faced. But anyone vying for the presidency may face such obstacles. Having a quitter's reputation is a big drawback, and rightly so.

4. I've asked this next question many times on other fora, and have never gotten any answer from SP fans. Here it comes:

"In the two hundred odd years of American electoral politics, how often has a high office holder (e.g. federal Senator or Representative, federal Cabinet Secretary, or state governor) resigned from office for personal reasons, and later come back to the same rank of politics or higher?"at leat

I can only think of one example: Nelson Rockefeller, who quit as New York's guv, and was appointed Vice President by Gerald Ford. That's a dam poor precedent for SP. Remember this quote from THE PRINCE chapter 6:

"And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."

That's what SP is trying to do by resigning and coming back.

5. I've also heard it said that SP had completed her work as Alaska guv, and therefore could move on. Preposterous. There was at least one thing left undone: the revision of the ethics law that was tormenting her. SP was governor and faced a legislature that was at least nominally Republican (the state Senate had a rogue gang of GOP senators.) Why not change the law so she couldn't be deviled and tormented? Instead she left the job for her successors. To my knowledge, that law has not been amended, but lies around like a loaded gun waiting for the next gang of liberal bigots to destroy GOP officials. I think such a task is a prominient duty of any sitting governor. It would have been a hard fight, but success in it would a) have removed the reason for resigning, and b) decidedly expanded SP's rep as a tough, effective governor.

6. I've also heard it said that SP commands a formidable following. Really? It was not formidable enough to unseat the odious Lisa Murkowski, a dreadful hog sailing under false colors. Nor was there even an attempt to get rid of the corrupt Don Young. If she didn't try, she doesn't command much of a following. If she did try, it wasn't very effective. Neither answer has much appeal.

I've asked these questions before, and gotten precious few answers beyond "concern troll." That doesn't matter, because the questions I ask are real, and will be asked by those of good faith. The best answer I've seen to the quitter charge is that SP proved she wasn't a quitter by carrying Trig to term, after learning he was going to be a Down's baby. That's a good answer, that will resonate well emotionally, but it needs more backing. I think a good part of SP's support comes from her having the right enemies. That's not enough, as Richard Nixon discovered. It's also true that SP's skeptics have frequently underestimated her. I am guilty of that offense. I think commenter ech is too pessimistic when he writes that SP's chances are fatally poisoned. I would remeind him that John McCain was similarly written off in the summer of 2007. One year later he was the nominee.

Finally, Milhouse, you write in your #8: "And even if she could take that for herself and her family, how could she keep staff when they were being hit with the same harassment campaign? Who would stay in such a job?"

That's an invitation to Vladimir Putin, to say nothing of the Chinese, to drive SP out by making life tough for her. Imagine a string of terrorist attacks in the US, not on the scale of 9/11, but on the scale of what Israel went through in the last intifada. How would SP as Prez respond? Would she want to "stay in such a job?" Call me a troll, but that's the sort of pressures SP would face as Prez. Putin s not a troll. Nor is the Chinese leadership. They are enemies of the US who mean us harm.

SP's a formidable competitor in many ways. Is she formidable enough to face these challenges? Are her backers up to the job of answering these questions, no matter who asks them? You've proved your forensic skills with the House bill. Why not tackle these questions?

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(10) Beldar made the following comment | May 21, 2011 5:37:13 PM | Permalink

Y'all know I'm keenly interested in Gov. Palin.

But this post isn't about her. There will be posts about her, in the comments to which you can perhaps renew this discussion, in the future whether she throws her hat into the ring or not.

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