Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beldar on the Ryan-Biden Veep debate

I'll give you even odds on whether the doctor who last adjusted Slow Joe's meds will be thrown under the Obama bus by Monday.

I started seriously touting Paul Ryan as the best potential GOP presidential nominee back on May 17, 2011; toward that end, I created a "Draft Paul Ryan" sidebar graphic on May 26, 2011. Every significant event since then, culminating in tonight's debate, has left me more convinced that he would be the best available person to undertake the world's most difficult job. But I will now settle with reasonable contentment for Ryan being the proverbial heartbeat away, and will cast my vote accordingly.

Strategically, big picture:

Biden over-reached, undoubtedly under prompting by Axelrod and the Chicago gang. He was not much more incoherent than normal, which is to say that when the Democratic talking heads who can still speak in sentences and paragraphs re-interpret and translate his remarks, they'll be able to pretend there's at least a kernel of reality associated with most of Biden's vocal shrapnel. I don't think he made the kind of gaffe that he's famous for; but he was never famous for making gaffes at debates. But instead, his bizarre behavior opened (or reopened) the most basic questions about his own temperament and competence. And it's much harder to spin bizarre behavior than sloppy factual assertions. There's nothing any talking head can ever say or write that could transform Joe Biden's performance tonight into anything remotely "presidential."

Biden put his own fitness as a potential presidential successor into issue. Ryan ended any remaining doubts about his. Therefore: GOP leads the series two to zero with two yet to play.

I think it's still a very close question whether the American electorate prefers the Obama-Biden ticket to the Romney-Ryan ticket. But only the most blind and stubborn of partisans — and I concede there are many such — can still pretend that anyone in America is anything but terrified of the words "President Biden."


UPDATE (Thu Oct 11 @ 10:45pm): By way of concluding postscript, from memory and without benefit of replay or transcript:

Ryan mentioned John F. Kennedy's tax cuts in 1961 and the resulting economic growth. Biden interrupted with what seemed to me to be a half-formed taunt along the lines of, "So now you're claiming to be Jack Kennedy?" I say "half-formed," because it was an allusion to, but without an explicit naming of, Lloyd Bentsen's devastating "Jack Kennedy was my friend, Senator, and you're no Jack Kennedy" put-down of Dan Quayle in their 1992 debate.

Ryan caught the reference and smiled, but tried to continue with his answer rather than responding to the taunt or following up on the allusion. And modesty forbade Ryan from doing the latter, I think.

But my immediate reaction was that Biden's instincts had caught him this once, and saved him from a possible disaster: He was wise to bite back the full taunt.

You see, unlike Lloyd Bentsen, Biden did not know Jack Kennedy personally or serve with him in the U.S. Navy. But if Biden had tried to say, out loud and in so many words, "Congressman, you're no Jack Kennedy," then I think that most of those Americans who can actually remember Jack Kennedy — those who can remember how articulate and poised and self-confident and self-deprecating Kennedy was at his best, and who can remember, more than anything else, his youthful vigor (or "VIG-gah" as they said at Hyannisport) — would have said to themselves, "Well, actually, Paul Ryan does remind me of Jack Kennedy!" It was best for Biden for his allusion to go unremarked and uncompleted, in other words, because it would have blown up in his face.

(As did Biden's first attempt to throw Romney's "47% gaffe" in Ryan's face. Ryan was obviously prepared, and his responsive sound-bite will be one of the most quoted and replayed lines from the debate. To all those who thought Obama was foolish not to have confronted Romney on that particular point during the first debate, I've always thought: Do you think Romney didn't have a super-polished focus-grouped response prepared for that? Do you think anything could please Romney more than having a chance to re-deliver and improve upon, during the debate itself, the walk-back he'd already been trying to get the press to cover? That was a deliberate choice on Obama's part, and in fact a wise one in context.)

I think, and certainly hope, that we saw the effective end of one long political career tonight, and the full unveiling of another whose potential is deep and vasty.

Posted by Beldar at 10:28 PM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Slow Joe seems secure

My blogospheric friend Dafydd ab Hugh asked earlier this week if I would be just a little bit disappointed if U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did indeed turn up in Timor-Leste and Brunei today, as scheduled, instead of in Charlotte, NC, to replace Slow Joe Biden as President Obama's running mate for the 2012 presidential election. As I answered him then,

I will be relieved if my prediction is false, not disappointed. I want Obama to lose, and I think replacing Biden with Hillary could and would help him win.

I'd like to be able to say "I told you so" if Hillary shows up on stage in Charlotte on Thursday night, but not remotely enough to wish, even a little, for something that would improve Obama's reelection chances.

I will concede only that if Obama does win, I would very much prefer for Joe Biden no longer to be first in the line of presidential succession....

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoys a cup of coffee as she tours the Timor Coffee Cooperative in Dili, East Timor, Sept. 6, 2012 (fair use photo credit: AP) via http://www.cbsnews.comMultiple news organizations are reporting that the SecState is indeed on schedule, and the AP photo at right purports to show Mrs. Clinton as she "enjoys a cup of coffee as she tours the Timor Coffee Cooperative in Dili, East Timor, Sept. 6, 2012." That is indeed enough to overcome my residual conspiracy-theory paranoia. Short of the Air Force strapping Mrs. Clinton into an SR-71 Blackbird, I don't think she could be in Charlotte in time to accept the Dems' nomination. That doesn't, of course, rule out a last-minute switch to someone else as a Biden replacement, but anyone else would be harder for the Democratic voting public to embrace spontaneously.

There is still a very, very, very remote chance that Obama could replace Biden before election day, but they're very close to ballot-printing deadlines across the country. If he had wanted to pull off a surprise comparable to the bin Ladin raid, the convention would have been the time for Obama to do it. So I think Slow Joe can breathe easy.

And as I predicted to Dafydd, I am indeed relieved, and I am very happy to contemplate, with chortles and chuckles, the prospect of the current Vice President debating he whom I believe should be the next one, Paul Ryan, in due course. Obama keeping Biden guarantees the maximum contrast in competency, and that Romney will get the most possible benefit from his Veep pick.

I think political wonks will someday mark this missed opportunity as the moment when Obama's political savvy finally finished turning from stainless steel to rust. The Dems will surely lick their wounds and re-write their convention rules and primary schedule and delegate selection procedures for 2016 — presumably to Clintonista specifications — during 2013-2014, when they take steps to prevent another accidental presidency by someone who's still coasting on fumes from one really good speech or exploiting one really appealing new angle. And some of them will wonder what might have been if only Obama had been slightly more adventurous, slightly more honest with himself about the risks of keeping Slow Joe, back in September 2012. As when the Dems recovered from the disastrous McGovern candidacy in 1972, as a party they'll surely tack more toward the center to return to competitiveness. That will probably be a good thing overall for the two-party system and for the country, and I support both.

"Bold and brittle talk, Beldar," you may say, "from one just proved so wrong." That may be, and this isn't the first time one of my predictions has come a cropper. But why should I lament the failure of my political opponents to exploit an opportunity that I saw, but that they, apparently, chose not to follow?

Just in case, though: I really, really do hope that President Obama has finally really given up smoking.

Posted by Beldar at 02:13 PM in 2012 Election, Humor, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sputtering Puffington Host gives Beldar a morning grin

I opened my browser today to the Puffington Host for the specific purpose of seeing how badly "on tilt" the Lefties are after Paul Ryan's speech. Here was my answer:

screencap of the Puffington Host's front-page early on Aug. 30, 2012

Immediately I thought back to Datechguy's rallying cry, upon close observation of Team Obama and its partisans: "Ride right through 'em, they're demoralized as hell!"

I confess that I did not read the Puffington Host post linked from that dramatic headline. Perhaps in the Puffington Host's alternate universe, the Democratic whom Obama appointed to co-chair the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, Erskine Bowles, never gushed about fellow commission member Paul Ryan thusly:

Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you, this guy is amazing. I always thought I was okay at arithmetic, this guy can run circles around me. And he is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget, and it cut the budget deficit, just like we did, by $4 trillion.

The president came out with his own plan. And, the president as you remember, came out with a budget. And I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97-to-nothing.

Perhaps in the Puffington Host's alternate universe, that GM plant is actually still open, and America's credit rating was never downgraded. Perhaps there, water flows uphill, Obamacare didn't raid Medicare, and one of the most reflexively liberal political blogs at the Washington Post never ran this headline and story:

screencap of the Washington Post's 'Wonkblog' article on Aug. 14, 2012

But regarding those voters who are firmly tethered to this universe, I think Paul Ryan had a very good night, and the hysterical confabulation of this Puffington Host front-page makes me even more confident of that than I was last night.

Posted by Beldar at 07:11 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Beldar reviews Wednesday night's GOP convention speakers

Tonight I recorded, and just now finished watching, the GOP convention speeches given by Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM), former Secretary of State Condi Rice, and, of course, the newly official GOP Vice Presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). I watched C-Span's coverage because I'm hard-core enough in my politics that I will even sacrifice HD just to avoid interruptions by insipid talking heads and toilet bowl cleaner commercials.

Susana Martinez opened a lot of eyes tonight. I know the Dems will inevitably label as "tokens," "sell-outs," or worse essentially every woman, and certainly every non-white person, who speaks at the GOP convention. But if you're actually listening to these speakers, I can't imagine how you could continue to insist that these non-WASP Republicans are just eye candy and time-fillers. My reaction to Gov. Martinez is like my reaction to U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz: "Stronger'n train smoke!" They are no one's clones, every one of them has a compelling personal story, and they radiate both authenticity and competency. The GOP has developed a deep and talented bench, folks, and it's been on display last night and tonight for anyone who cared to invest the time to look.

I have long been, and remain, among Condi Rice's fans. She is a prodigiously gifted writer and wordsmith, and she is commanding in one-on-ones and small groups, but she is not a career politician, nor a naturally confident public speaker in large venues. When I thought I heard an occasional nervous quiver in her voice tonight, I loved her for it all the more, because it simply highlighted the willpower and determination that have characterized her remarkable life story: she couldn't eliminate her jitters, but she relentlessly mastered them with every line of her speech.

Secretary Rice's critique of the Obama Administration's foreign policy was measured and substantive, if not very deep on details — which is to say, it was appropriately pitched for the audience and purpose at this nominating convention. But what was most noticeable and surprising to me — and this may have been something which came through better on C-Span, I don't know — was how very warmly the convention audience responded to her.

The Bush Presidents, with whom Rice is closely associated, and their spouses appeared only briefly tonight, and that in a brief, pre-recorded, and mostly sentimental video tribute. It was probably focus-grouped within an inch of its life to ensure its complete inoffensiveness. And everyone in the GOP — including the Bush family and all their allies and supporters — understands the decision Gov. Romney made long ago, back during the earliest pre-primary campaigning, to begin writing a new chapter of his own. There was no downside to de-emphasizing either Bush-41 or Bush-43, and no likely net benefit from highlighting them.

But the people in that convention hall are, for the most part, the GOP faithful. Thus, when Condi urged the audience to recall and appreciate "the will to make difficult decisions, heart-wrenching choices in the aftermath of 9/11 that secured us and prevented the follow-on attacks that seemed preordained at the time," the audience responded powerfully, with authentic affection that I believe was intended not just for her, but also for He Who For Purposes of Political Expediency Must Barely Be Named, the President in whose cabinet she most recently served. Even still, that applause was dwarfed by the approving roar she got from these lines (punctuation mine):

And on a personal note: A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the most segregated big city in America. Her parents can't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant. But they make her believe that even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter, she can be President of the United States. And she becomes the Secretary of State!

That applause all belonged to Condi — because, as she went on to say, "America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect. But of course it has never been inevitable." Many other people and circumstances made her career possible, but she is who actually made it happen. She built that career, one might say. And the audience just adored her, not just because they agreed with what she was saying, but because they approved of the fine and fierce example she has set.

Not a single word in Paul Ryan's acceptance speech surprised me, but that's because I've been listening closely to his public speaking for a couple of years now. I was, for example, utterly unsurprised that he did not back away a millimeter from his dogged commitment to make this election a debate over spending, the debt crisis, and the on-rushing collapse of our national safety net under the Democrats. But there were a few particularly well-crafted lines in this speech that I hadn't previously heard. My personal favorite among them was this:

None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers — a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.

For tonight, I am content.

Posted by Beldar at 01:07 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Best line of Tuesday evening's GOP convention speeches

There are several good contenders, but for my money, it was this one, from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's keynote speech:

You see, Mr. President — real leaders don't follow polls. Real leaders change polls.

Christie's remarkable and transformative success in blue New Jersey gives him the credibility to say that. It is a combined diagnosis and prescription that, alas, can be fairly directed not only at President Obama, but also at many other politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Chris_christie_at_rncBut no one has ever accused Paul Ryan of tailoring his politics to anyone's public opinion polling — and as Prof. Reynolds frequently and aptly notes, picking Ryan was Mitt Romney's first presidential-level decision. Picking Joe Biden was Obama's, and that contrast gives me hope for success in November.

My read on the subtext of Tuesday night's proceedings: Every speech had clearly been prescreened and edited to minimize any kind of negative campaigning directly against Obama. Romney-Ryan is obviously confident that the GOP is unified behind it, so it will focus essentially all of its own campaigning, including everything in this convention, on influencing independent and swing voters in battleground states. Those states quite literally contain the polls — the electoral kind, not the public-opinion kind — where the GOP strategists believe the election will be won or lost, and therefore those are the polls the results of which (per Gov. Christie's prescription) Romney-Ryan must change through a show of leadership. The Romney-Ryan campaign will rely on surrogates and outside groups to rally the base from now on; they're serving little to no red meat at this convention, but it will be served up, in more targeted campaigning, by others to those who want it or can be influenced by it.

Posted by Beldar at 04:38 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, August 24, 2012

Did you take my advice to bookmark my post on April 3, 2011?

I've been re-reading some of my old posts under my blog's Paul Ryan tag, which only dates back to April 2, 2011. I'd mentioned Ryan before then, but mostly in passing. Nevertheless, by the next day, I had posted this bit of political fortune-telling:

[Y]ou can bookmark this post: If Paul Ryan is the GOP Veep nominee, Obama will either dump Slow Joe Biden (probably through some contrived health or "more time with his family" excuse) or at least find another excuse for there to be no vice presidential debate. Because Paul Ryan would eat Joe Biden's lunch and then drink his milkshake.

I'd forgotten that. If you're not familiar with my "milkshake" movie allusion, here's the scene from "There Will Be Blood."

I'm still hoping that my speculation about the Obama-Biden[?] 2012 ticket dumping Slow Joe will be proved wrong, but that particular ax is still suspended in mid-air as far as the public has been made aware. Perhaps it will end up missing outright.

I do confess that I laughed aloud at a sharp-but-juvenile joke about the Vice President that Peggy Noonan related yesterday. I just wonder if President Obama is still finding his Veep's verbal adventures very amusing.

Posted by Beldar at 04:41 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hewitt interview focuses on Paul Ryan's early life — even his job at Mickey D's

Either the transcript or audio of my friend Hugh Hewitt's radio interview yesterday with prospective GOP Veep nominee Paul Ryan is educational. Hugh chose to focus on some details of Ryan's early background that give insights into his character today. Here's a sample:

HH: ... [D]id you go to parochial school?

PR: Yeah, I went to Catholic school from first through eighth grade, and then I went to public school after that.

HH: Now which, what was the name of the parochial school in Janesville?

PR: St. Mary’s Catholic School.

HH: And did you play youth sports?

PR: Yeah, of course. I played basketball, soccer, track, all correct.

HH: And what was your first job?

PR: Well, you can get a job as a very young kid in Wisconsin in detasseling corn. So for people not in the Midwest, what that means is you walk down a corn row, and you snap the tassels off the corn to help pollinate the corn. I had a lot of landscaping jobs, a lot of lawn mowing jobs. I worked at McDonald’s, waited tables, was a fitness trainer, sold meat for Oscar Meyer, I had a lot … I painted houses, lots of different jobs.

HH: You worked at McDonald’s?

PR: Yeah, I was, you know, a funny story is the manager said I didn’t have the social skills to work the front, so he put me on the quarter pounder grill.

HH: (laughing)

PR: So now I’m in Congress, I say. It’s kind of funny.

Read the whole thing. There's nothing exotic about Paul Ryan's past. There's nothing radical or strange about his background. Paul Ryan's personal history is typically American — and it is one that will resonate as strongly with black or Latino families as with whites.

Not all Americans will agree with him, ever. But lots of Americans may be surprised to find themselves liking and respecting and approving of this young man. Some of them, I think, will also be surprised to find themselves listening to him, rather than just reading what his frantic political opponents say about him. And that's all to the good.


UPDATE (Fri Aug 24 @ 1:55am): Sometimes it takes my old neurons a while to make a connection between two different things I've seen on the internet, and perhaps my orientation as a heterosexual male was a disadvantage in making this particular connection, but:

For those of you who noticed "fitness trainer" in that list of jobs, there's this from the campaign trail:

Paul Ryan campaigning

And this:

Ryan campaigning on crowd line

I noticed way back in April 2011 that if you mussed Paul Ryan's hair a bit, gave him a five-o'clock shadow, and maybe put a broken nose somewhere in his past, he'd look an awful lot like actor Patrick Dempsey (a/k/a Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd on "Grey's Anatomy").

Posted by Beldar at 10:28 PM in 2012 Election, Politics (2012), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Assault into the Mediscare ambush

Fight fear with facts. And when appropriate, bring your mother.

Medicare and Social Security can be saved. They can even be improved upon, without diminishing their reliability. But you can't do it by pretending that they can go on forever, or even more than a small handful of years, without major structural changes.

We need to have this debate. We're glad to have this debate. And we will win it, not just because we have the better debaters — and now, we finally do — but because we have the truth.

Posted by Beldar at 05:31 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 16, 2012

You see, what the Vice President really meant to say was ...

The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper passes along along news "that aides to Vice President Joe Biden have taken the unusual step of wrangling the press for edits to pool reports." Quoting a source I don't choose to link, this post explains that "attempting to intervene in the drafting of accounts that reporters share with one another is all but unheard of," not just regular spin. The quoted source goes on to say that this "reflects the deep concern Biden’s team has about offering any fodder to the opposition."

In other words, the political pros are trading favors and using all their influence to get friendly reporters (i.e., virtually all of them) to take it easy on Slow Joe. They are literally telling the reporters how to do their jobs in a way that will benefit the Obama-Biden[?] campaign.

("Obama-Biden[?] campaign," with that question mark in brackets, is exactly how I'm going to refer to the prospective Democratic ticket for the next three weeks or so. Feel free to do likewise, or not. I'm not in the business of telling my readers how to do their jobs.)

It's hard to imagine a more dispiriting job than being one of Joe Biden's handlers. I'm sure they tell themselves that they're star performers at the circus. In their dreams, they're high-wire performers, or perhaps trapeze artists, always skillfully recovering from desperate peril at the very last moment. But everyone else can see that they're the guys with push-brooms and wheeled trash cans who follow the circus parade to deal with the poop it's left in the streets.

The notion that Obama might replace Biden is spreading, and in addition to Hillary, New York governor Andrew Cuomo is also being floated as a possible replacement. Cuomo is indeed a rising star of the Democratic Party, but he's still a very young man. He is not yet widely known outside New York, and has never run in any sort of national campaign before; we might predict that he'd do well when rolled out, as Paul Ryan has, but Cuomo has only a tiny fraction of Hillary's current name recognition and approval nationally. Cuomo also has many future presidential election cycles in which he might plausibly compete; he's surely ambitious, but the calendar isn't his enemy like it is Hillary's. If (and I don't assume that at all) Cuomo thinks Obama is going to lose this year regardless of whether Biden's replaced, Cuomo might well think it in his best long-term interests to pass on a chance to be the Veep nominee this year. But that's a luxury I don't think Hillary has, as I've previously explained — no more than LBJ could resist JFK's offer in 1960.


UPDATE (Thu Aug 16 @ 10:08am): Meanwhile, it turns out that my whimsical title on yesterday's post has been proved prophetic: Even as I write this update, Obama, Biden, and Clinton are huddled together in the Oval Office. Doubtless the POTUS and SecState are merely drawing upon the VPOTUS' vast foreign policy experience — in which case we should expect an announcement this afternoon that Iraq is being partitioned into three parts.

Or maybe they're having a conversation that includes the phrases "take one for the team" and "good sport."

Is anyone monitoring the lockdown status of Wikipedia's entries on Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton?

Whatever other consequences might flow from Obama picking a different Veep nominee to run with him in 2012, and whatever someone like Hillary might bring to the ticket that Biden cannot, the one thing that Obama can be reasonably certain of is this:  Dropping Joe Biden won't cost Obama a single electoral vote. Biden has no constituency; so long as Biden exits with reasonable grace, even the voters of Delaware — probably including Biden's close friends and family — will still vote for Obama-Whoever in at least the same numbers as they would if Biden remained on the ticket.

Posted by Beldar at 09:11 AM in 2012 Election, Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Madame Secretary, please hold — the President says he needs to speak with you urgently

On Sunday, I predicted that Obama will replace Biden with Hillary, and I explained why I think that:

... Paul Ryan's selection just moved Hillary Clinton from "possible" to "probable" as Biden's replacement on the 2012 Dem ticket. Look for Slow Joe to find a sudden yearing to become an elder statesman who has more time to spend with his family. I'll bet Hill & Bill are having champagne tonight. Even most of my Democratic friends will admit, if pressed, that it would be a good thing for the country to get Joe Biden out of the line of presidential succession....


Pawlenty, Portman, or even Rubio would have whipped Biden in the Veep debate and as a campaign surrogate, but not so badly as to make Biden look much worse than Biden does even with no active opponent. If Romney had chosen one of them, then keeping Biden would have been a closer call. But recall that Paul Ryan is the only Republican politician in the last two years to have obviously bested Obama himself in face-to-face argument in a public forum. And whether you credit Obama with modest or supernatural eloquence, he's certainly aware that Biden isn't in his own league, and he surely knows that Ryan will disarticulate Biden, both stylistically and substantively, in the Veep debate.

Biden turns 70 in late November, and his medical history includes two brain aneurysms. The rationale for him being on the ticket in 2008 (that he would offset Obama's foreign policy inexperience) no longer exists. He brings no constituency that Obama doesn't already have on his own now; among young voters, whose participation Obama wants desperately to encourage, Biden is very nearly as much a standing joke as he is among Republicans. There has always been a decent chance that Obama would dump him in 2012, but of course that would never conceivably have happened until Obama first saw who Romney picked, in order that Obama could know who Biden's successor would be up against. Now he knows.

The best chance the Dems have to respond to the Ryan selection would be asymmetric political warfare — which translates quite neatly into replacing Biden with the most ambitious and most popular Democrat in the country, Hillary Clinton. Indeed, that will mesh like clockwork with the coming Obama pivot to foreign policy as the best possible distractraction, and the only substantive distraction, from the economic ruin he's wrought. The rest of the Obama-Clinton campaign would largely consist of heaping calumny on Romney-Ryan and Mediscare — Dems cannot talk about the economy in anything but the most simplistic, jingoistic talking points, because anything else is poison to Obama's campaign — but SecState/Veep nominee Clinton, along with a newly energized Bubba, would surely be employed to highlight the relative lack of traditional foreign policy credentials on the part of both Romney and Ryan.

A couple of my very articulate readers left comments containing thoughtful counter-arguments and skeptical observations.

Since then, though, Biden has, in short order, told the citizens of Danville, Virginia, that "With you, we can win North Carolina again," and that Romney's "gonna put y'all back in chains."

The only thing remarkable about the latest Biden gaffe is how routine these gaffes have become, and what a cosmic double standard everyone in the public eye — the press, both campaigns, everyone but the general public and its snarky bloggers — employs to avoid asking the question, "Just how panicked would we all be if Barack Obama suddenly had chest pains?"

Meanwhile, as Prof. Reynolds notes, The Onion has some pretty funny insights into the new dynamics of this race since the Ryan pick.

I could well be proved wrong. I'm out alone on my limb, it would seem. But I'll bet you there are back-up provisions in the election laws that, in the event of a convenient "health crisis" involving V.P. Biden,* or perhaps simply a decision by him that he wants to forego the nomination so he can spend more time with his family, would still let Obama pick a replacement even after the Democratic convention. I don't think he'll wait that long because Obama will want to use the convention to squeeze one last sentimental appearance out of Biden as he goes to pasture, and more importantly, to rub some of Hillary's popularity back off onto himself.

And when you say "sure, Ford changed Veeps, and FDR switched Veeps like he changed his underwear, but the Dems couldn't replace a prominent candidate this late in a major federal election these days," I have one name for you: Bob Torricelli.

If you think Hillary would say no: The conventional wisdom is that that's what "everyone" thought LBJ would say when JFK offered him the Veep nomination at the Democratic convention in 1960. Robert Caro's newest volume in his phenomenal biography of LBJ takes a fresh look at that historical surprise and concludes that it made perfect sense from both JFK's and LBJ's points of view. Caro also convincingly debunks the later attempts by the Camelot Crew (led by Bobby) to claim that JFK had only offered Johnson the spot as a "courtesy," and that JFK had been stunned when Johnson accepted, but too polite to withdraw the offer. Instead, Kennedy offered the spot to Johnson not out of any courtesy at all, but because without Johnson on the Democratic ticket, Jack Kennedy thought Nixon would probably win — it was exactly that simple, and Jack knew it whether Bobby could come to grips with it or not. The notion that Jack Kennedy would have taken on a Veep for four years who he didn't really think was the best choice, simply to avoid offending Johnson, is risible.

It will come down to one two-part question: Does Barack Obama think he'll have a better chance to win this election by replacing Biden with someone else — and if so, with whom? And as with JFK's pick of LBJ in 1960, it's exactly that simple.


*(Lest anyone think or suggest otherwise, I stress that I wish the Vice President a long and healthy life, whether in or out of politics, as his wishes and the fates decide. I bear him no personal ill-will. This is simply about him being an anchor dragging back the Obama campaign, and whether it makes political sense for Obama to replace him.)

Posted by Beldar at 04:37 AM in 2012 Election, Books, History, Obama, Politics (2012), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Romney picks Ryan

On my recent post entitled Paul Ryan on entrepreneurial capitalism vs. crony capitalism, reader Greg Q commented today: "So, why aren't you gloating yet about Romney picking Ryan?" And my dear friend DRJ, recalling my support for Sarah Palin in June 2008 and my support for a possible Paul Ryan presidential campaign earlier in this election cycle, inquired today in the comments on that same post: "Has any other blogger picked two VPs in a row? Well done, Beldar."

DRJ gives me too much credit: Although I'm happy to see this selection, and I certainly favored and tried to promote both Palin and Ryan as potential Veep nominees months before either was selected, I didn't go on record with a prediction as to whom Gov. Romney would pick this time. And in fact, I'm mildly surprised that he did choose Paul Ryan, although I'm obviously delighted by the choice.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan campaigning by the battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, VA, on August 11, 2012On a superficial level, Ryan is more widely known throughout America now than Sarah Palin was in 2008. As Stephen Hayes wrote in the Weekly Standard on July 23, since John McCain's defeat in November 2008, Paul Ryan has become the intellectual leader of the Republican Party. Speaker John Boehner wields more raw power in the House, but he has relied heavily on Ryan. Boehner deliberately (and commendably) has placed Ryan at the forefront of the House Republicans' opposition to Obama, especially since the GOP recaptured the House after the 2010 mid-term elections. The Dems had already started their slurs campaign against Ryan just based on the threat he posed to Obama from his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee, and when I read Ryan Lizza's grudgingly admiring but fundamentally dishonest profile of Ryan in a recent issue of the New Yorker (which I'm not going to link), I knew the Dems were taking him seriously as a potential GOP Veep nominee.

Nevertheless, to all but perhaps the 10% of American voters who closely follow politics even outside election season, the depth and substance of Paul Ryan and his political philosophy are still largely unknown. Between now and the conventions, the Romney-Ryan campaign will seek to remedy that, and the Obama-Whoever campaign will do what it always does, which is to tell lies designed to frighten and confuse people.

I will go on record with a Veep prediction now, though — not about Ryan, but about his counterpart in the race: If Romney had chosen Rob Portman or Tim Palenty or Marco Rubio instead of Ryan, then Slow Joe Biden and his boss could both have breathed easier. In my view, however, Paul Ryan's selection just moved Hillary Clinton from "possible" to "probable" as Biden's replacement on the 2012 Dem ticket. Look for Slow Joe to find a sudden yearing to become an elder statesman who has more time to spend with his family. I'll bet Hill & Bill are having champagne tonight. Even most of my Democratic friends will admit, if pressed, that it would be a good thing for the country to get Joe Biden out of the line of presidential succession. 

To answer Greg Q's question, though: The enthusiasm with which I might otherwise be greeting this pick is not diminished, but is nevertheless deeply tempered, by my conviction that things in America are today much worse than they were at this same time in 2008 — or even, for that matter, than they were in September 2008 during the financial system's near meltdown. We no longer have to speculate how badly a generic Democrat would do as Dubya's successor. We know exactly how abysmally the actual Democrat who succeeded him has performed, and there is absolutely not a reason in the universe to think he will be a whit better or less disastrous if he's permitted four more years to continue dismantling the American Dream.

Romney's choice of Ryan gives me grim satisfaction, then, rather than elation or surprise. It does give me new hope insofar as it demonstrates Gov. Romney's willingness to take on the biggest issues and to move this campaign cycle beyond the ridiculous trivialities that Obama counts upon to distract Americans from his own conspicuous incompetency, his own insufficiency for the office.

But the Dems can't compete with Ryan's principles, which are, very fundamentally, America's principles too. So to keep the conversation on other topics, as they are desperate to do, the Dems will have to pull out all the stops.

Barack Obama's reelection campaign is already the most shamefully dishonest in my memory, which dates back to LBJ vs. Goldwater in 1964. It is about to get much, much worse.

Fortunately, and may God continue to bless him in this regard, one of Paul Ryan's most defining characteristics is his unflappability. Many call Ryan's style "Reaganesque," and it is indeed cheerful and passionate and hope-filled — but Reagan never had Paul Ryan's handle on details.

Those who think the Ryan selection is risky essentially base their projections upon a very poor opinion of the American public's intelligence. But I believe, as did Ronald Reagan, that almost all Americans understand that we can't live forever in a world of magic unicorns and "free" stuff from the government. The magic dust that Obama sprinkled over Americans in 2008 — the magic that he told them could make them fly if only they thought happy thoughts and held Obama's hand — has now all worn off. The entire audience can see the wires, and that most of them are broken. The gap between the Lightworker character as written in Democratic fiction and the tired political hack now playing that part has become more obvious than Mary Martin's bosom. I believe that enough Americans know that it's time to exit the theater as grownups, and to get back to work in the real world.

Batten down the hatches, then, folks. The deluge is here, and the Obama campaign is going to make sure we're all at least waist deep in fecal matter before the voters send that campaign back to the sewers where such nastiness belongs.


UPDATE (Sun Aug 12 @ wee-smalls): I asserted that Ryan's selection improves the odds that Obama will dump Biden for Hillary, but I didn't explain why. The short version is: Pawlenty, Portman, or even Rubio would have whipped Biden in the Veep debate and as a campaign surrogate, but not so badly as to make Biden look much worse than Biden does even with no active opponent. If Romney had chosen one of them, then keeping Biden would have been a closer call. But recall that Paul Ryan is the only Republican politician in the last two years to have obviously bested Obama himself in face-to-face argument in a public forum. And whether you credit Obama with modest or supernatural eloquence, he's certainly aware that Biden isn't in his own league, and he surely knows that Ryan will disarticulate Biden, both stylistically and substantively, in the Veep debate.

Biden turns 70 in late November, and his medical history includes two brain aneurysms. The rationale for him being on the ticket in 2008 (that he would offset Obama's foreign policy inexperience) no longer exists. He brings no constituency that Obama doesn't already have on his own now; among young voters, whose participation Obama wants desperately to encourage, Biden is very nearly as much a standing joke as he is among Republicans. There has always been a decent chance that Obama would dump him in 2012, but of course that would never conceivably have happened until Obama first saw who Romney picked, in order that Obama could know who Biden's successor would be up against. Now he knows.

The best chance the Dems have to respond to the Ryan selection would be asymmetric political warfare — which translates quite neatly into replacing Biden with the most ambitious and most popular Democrat in the country, Hillary Clinton. Indeed, that will mesh like clockwork with the coming Obama pivot to foreign policy as the best possible distractraction, and the only substantive distraction, from the economic ruin he's wrought. The rest of the Obama-Clinton campaign would largely consist of heaping calumny on Romney-Ryan and Mediscare — Dems cannot talk about the economy in anything but the most simplistic, jingoistic talking points, because anything else is poison to Obama's campaign — but SecState/Veep nominee Clinton, along with a newly energized Bubba, would surely be employed to highlight the relative lack of traditional foreign policy credentials on the part of both Romney and Ryan.

Posted by Beldar at 12:02 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Paul Ryan on entrepreneurial capitalism vs. crony capitalism

Worth your four minutes and twenty-one seconds:

(Hat-tip Robert Costa at NRO's The Corner.)

You want a "jobs bill"? Reform the tax code — flatter, simpler, fairer, with lower rates but no loopholes. Return federal government spending as a percentage of GDP to its historically successful and sustainable 19% level instead of the current ruinous 24-25% that has produced Obama's multi-trillion dollar deficits. Tax compliance will improve (i.e., more people will feel the system is fair and that they have less of an excuse to cheat; simple rules mean easy and more effective enforcement against those who do cheat); productivity will soar (as resources previously used to beat the system are redeployed to create wealth and jobs); and discontent with government will justifiably drop. Tax revenues will soar — and deficits will shrink — which will permit us to reform and save our safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security by increasing individual choice and by reintroducing market economics to healthcare generally and elder-care in particular. The pie will once again start growing for everyone's benefit as free-market transactions create wealth: TANSTAAFL, but every such transaction, by definition, leaves both sides holding something they value more than what they just traded away, and that translates into jobs, savings accounts, investments, and progress.

This photo (lifted from a Richard Brookhiser post at The Corner) —


— nicely illustrates the biggest and most obvious lie told in the Twenty-first Century so far:

"We've tried our plan — and it worked!"

Remarks by the President, Oakland, CA, July 24, 2012.

Posted by Beldar at 04:34 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2012), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Cruz' big win foreshadows watershed election in November

My prediction had the right result, but the final totals were not nearly as close as the five-point difference I'd predicted: As of this moment, with 100 percent of precincts reported, it's Cruz 56.8% versus Dewhurst 43.19% in a blow-out.

David Dewhurst may want to reconsider even running for reelection to his current spot as lieutenant governor. He and Rick Perry both look like yesterday's news.

This gives me all kinds of warm-and-fuzzies for the November presidential election, friends and neighbors. Texas isn't in play, nor is it a mirror for all of America. And the total GOP turnout was quite high for a primary runoff, but still represented only 8.6% of the state's total population of 13 million registered voters.

But for perspective on that: The Dem run-off for this U.S. Senate seat drew a truly pathetic 1.8% of the registered voter total, a mere 235,708 voters compared to 1,106,224 voters in the GOP runoff. The Dems' run-off winner, in other words, should simply be listed as "Who Cares?"

And here's the genuinely amazing statistic: Ted Cruz drew only 480,558 votes out of 1,406,648 total voters (34.16%) in the May 29th initial GOP primary. In this run-off, he drew 628,336 votes out of 1,106,224 total voters (56.8%). Almost as many Texas Republicans voted in the run-off as in the primary, but Cruz' relative performance among them simply skyrocketed. Cruz' net improvement (147,778 votes) was nearly two-thirds of the total Democratic runoff turnout!

This result bespeaks a well-informed populace among whom highly motivated constitutional/movement conservatives are getting incredible traction. This result sings one word to me: "Watershed." It makes me, again, wish that the national GOP had Paul Ryan at the top of its ticket, because he and Ted Cruz are both emblematic of the party's new generation, the "Young Guns" who, ironically, will return America to sustainable principles and limited government. And I think the hunger for that extends far beyond Texas' borders.

Perhaps Gov. Romney will take the hint.

Posted by Beldar at 03:59 AM in 2012 Election, Politics (2012), Politics (Texas), Romney, Ryan, Texas | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Paul Ryan: "America Deserves a Better Path"

In my view, the GOP should nominate for President the single currently most consequential Republican leader, the one who's most doing the most, and proving the most effective right now, on the most urgent issues threatening our country — not someone who merely has served in a single state, or whose service was mostly or entirely back in the 1990s. With due respect to Speaker Boehner (who actually I'm pretty sure would agree with me on this), the currently most consequential Republican leader is not him. And again, with due (but sincerely calibrated) respect to them, it's certainly not any of the current candidates.

It's Paul Ryan.

As the tag-line suggests, this video is intended as a preview of what Chairman Ryan plans to do with his House committee, and with this year's revised version of the Path to Prosperity, between now and Election Day. Make no mistake, this is targeted at Barack Obama and his Democratic cohorts.

But I agree with the Weekly Standard's Mark Hemmingway when he titles this "the best political campaign ad of 2012." Hemmingway's wistful subtitle: "Unfortunately, he's not running."

The only thing entirely certain about the GOP convention is that it has to produce a nominee for President and Vice President. In some parallel universe in which candidates could put aside their personal ambition — even the kind of driving, compulsive, relentless personal ambition necessary to campaign for President of the United States — in favor of the good of the Nation (and, therefore, the good of the Grand Old Party), I would hope for a brokered convention at which, on the 10th round of deadlock, some combination of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrinch, and Ron Paul would implore all of their original delegates to cast their next ballot for the chairman of the House Budget Committee. But in this universe, I've still not been persuaded to change my sidebar by anything any of those candidates have done since ... well, since ever.

Ryan, by the way, hasn't endorsed anyone, and has promised not to (he says it would be a conflict with his party fundraising position). Wisconsin is a purplish state that's in play. And his pre-Election Day work for the Budget Committee will necessarily be complete or nearly so by the time of the GOP National Convention in Tampa, after which he's going to be campaigning anyway, if (probably) only (sigh) for his current House seat.

Posted by Beldar at 11:06 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Can Romney's commitment to expediency be a substitute for reliable conservative instincts?

I was intrigued by Fred Barnes' essay in the online Weekly Standard entitled "More Conservative Than You Think: The New Mitt Romney." Barnes marshals solid evidence to support the premise that — based upon Gov. Romney's current positions —

[Romney is] at least as conservative as his GOP rivals on jettisoning Obamacare and more conservative than some on entitlements, national security, and immigration. He’s no match for Gingrich on taxes, but that’s about it. Overall, he’s to the right of Gingrich.

Nevertheless, Barnes immediately notes, "Romney wasn’t always there" — and then Barnes proceeds to acknowledge some of the landmarks from Gov. Romney's political record which may indeed have reflected the preferences of Gov. Romney's constituency in Massachusetts, but which are considerably to the left of the national GOP mainstream.

Barnes' concluding lines are especially apt, but they don't necessarily support the essay's title thesis and, indeed, they may undercut it:

[Romney]’s neither a movement conservative nor an ideological conservative. He’s a pragmatist for whom conservatism makes the most sense. That it helps him politically no doubt makes sense, too.

And therein lies the best comfort for American conservatives who are wondering whether they can generate enthusiastic support for Gov. Romney if he becomes the nominee: If you think he values expediency over principle, then take comfort that the choices a President Romney will find expedient will indeed be conservative ones — if he wants to be re-nominated by the GOP in 2016! Besides, the Tea Party-influenced conservative "Young Guns" who've been driving the national policy debate from the House GOP since January 2011 — and yes, I'm referring specifically to the guy who my sidebar still urges we draft in lieu of anyone now running, but not only to him — would drag any GOP president in mostly the correct direction if the GOP can also recapture a working majority in the Senate. 

The reason Romney has continued to hover in the mid-20% range in the GOP national polls, of course, is not because GOP voters disagree with the substance of the policies he's endorsing now. Their concern is that, like George H.W. Bush when he went back on his "Read My Lips" pledge, Romney will get talked out of his current positions — that he'll get suckered by the Dems the way Bush-41 did.

My own concern, however, is actually a variation of that.

Gov. Romney's main credential is as an "executive," in multiple senses of that word: as a business executive and turn-around specialist at Bain Capital; as the executive who took charge over the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics (another turn-around job); and as chief executive of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He demonstrated genuinely impressive management skills in each of those jobs. Certainly we need a well-managed turn-around from the disastrous path the current White House has put the country on.

What I fear, though, is that in addition to bringing well-honed management skills, Gov. Romney may also bring the East Coast/Ivy League confidence in technocracy. I specifically fear that Mitt Romney shares with Barack Obama an over-confidence in his own — and indeed, in anyone's — ability to use the federal government to solve problems.

I don't want a clever president who just does different things than Obama's been doing. I want a president who's wise enough to know that what's most important now is for the federal government to do less: to spend less; to tax no more; to meddle and nag and intrude less; to quote-unquote "protect" me from myself less (e.g., "protecting" me from making disfavored decisions on what kind of light bulb to buy); to stop trying to transfer wealth; to quit trying to pick losers and winners, and enforce those picks despite (and sometimes contrary to) the Rule of Law; and to quit trying to "manage" the economy, but to simply be predictable and get the hell out of its way.

Put another way: I fear that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have more in common with each other than either has in common with Calvin Coolidge. And we need the discipline of Calvin Coolidge. We need fewer 49-point programs and more zero-point (as in, "we're getting the federal government out of this") programs.

Simply undoing all the bad that Obama has done is a huge management challenge. That's a lot of what needs doing. But it's not the hardest part of what, unfortunately, must be done: Without fundamental entitlements reform, our government will absolutely, positively be bankrupt before this decade is out. The reforms must be in the direction of replacing government top-down controls and Washington management with free-market competition and individual liberty; no other reforms can lead to anything but shared scarcity and progressive impoverishment of the entire nation. Managing those reforms will require as much competency and energy as Romney or anyone else could muster.

There are at least a half dozen conservative leaders whom I'd rather see as the nominee than Mitt Romney precisely because I'm confident they "get" all this. I am confident, based on their performance in office, that they understand the limited role of government in general and the federal government in particular. But none of them are presently running for president.

Of those who are running, Perry gets this (in its broadest outlines) but can't win. Nor Laup gets it but is crazy, mean, and isolationist, and can't win. Santorum claims to get it, but we have to take his word for that (just like Romney's) because when Santorum was in office, he was a big-government Republican too. And Gingrich gets it, but only three days a week. (Then Newt's on the Beltway couch with Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry for three more days, and then on one of the moons of Jupiter for each seventh day.)

I'm not hoping for a stand-off through the primaries and for a floor-fight leading to a brokered convention. But on the other hand:

Most delegates awarded through the primaries are only pledged for a limited number of ballots and/or days, and many of them aren't pledged beyond the very first ballot. We just saw Rick Santorum come from months of single-digit polling to tied-for-first in a matter of days — and do we count him as the fourth "not-Romney" to become the flavor-of-the-week, or is he the fifth? I've lost count. If Romney can't nail down a first-ballot nomination before the convention, could the final flavor-of-the-week end up being someone not currently running? Someone who wasn't in the primaries at all?

Probably not. But I'm not quite ready yet to take down my sidebar.

Posted by Beldar at 05:35 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Could "None of the Above" still join the race for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination?

Conservatives like me who haven't quite gotten comfortable with any of the existing GOP presidential candidates yet may be intrigued by Larry Sabato's analysis of the obstacles and odds that would confront a late entrant into the race. 

The current selection system guarantees that a relatively small number of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have a wildly disproportionate impact every single election cycle. They've seized this power arbitrarily, and they maintain it for absolutely no reason other than that they've threatened to hold their noses and turn blue (i.e., hold their 2012 primaries in 2011) if their childish demands for primacy aren't respected by everyone else. This is profoundly anti-democratic (small "d"), and I will work to reform and replace that system regardless of the results of this cycle.

For now, speculation like Sabato's remains improbable. But it's a good excuse for me not to change my side-bar endorsement ("Draft Paul Ryan") for at least a few more weeks.

Posted by Beldar at 07:05 PM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Beldar's last-ditch plea to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI): Accept a GOP presidential draft from the conspiracy of present circumstances

Chairman Ryan, I already credit you with being a true public servant. You are already deeply involved in a career that demands inordinate personal and familial sacrifices. I'm a father of four, mine slightly older than yours, and I know that Duty (Writ Large) has already claimed more than its share of your life, at the expense of time spent with your family and friends. I can only imagine how little time you ever have left just for you.

Your countrymen — all of them who care to look — do indeed see your sacrifice, and we applaud it, and we are grateful.

Yet history's greatest civilization today stands essentially leaderless. You understand perfectly both the perils it faces and the urgency of those perils.

You have not been unreasonable to hope that someone else of your approximate caliber, with your same general mix of philosophies, capabilities, and principles, would step forward to lead our party in November 2012, and then our Nation and the world. You've had good reasons to hope you could defer the most severe of personal sacrifices for a few more years, until your kids are older — and it's not like you've been slacking in your current day-job!

But we approach the absolute drop-dead deadlines for 2012 presidential candidacies to announce. And Mr. Ryan, while we have several plausible candidates for our party's nomination, all of whom would be a substantial improvement over Obama, none of them, frankly, is of your caliber. And you know that. They all have in common a burning desire to be president, a quality conventionally thought (with good reason) to be an essential prerequisite for a candidate. But in most other respects, and specifically on the issues on which the 2012 election ought to be fought, as a potential nominee of our party you would surpass any of them.

And here's the clencher, Mr. Ryan: Not one of them has your capacity to parlay a transformational, watershed election victory into a transformational, watershed presidency, because none of them has your capacity to lead a leaderless country into the difficult reforms that are essential to rescue our civilization.

The circumstances of the 2010 election conspired to put you in the chair of the most important committee of the only part of Congress controlled by our party — to do there the most important work that could possibly be done now, which has been to tourniquet the worst of our federal fiscal hemorrhages, and to lay out a credible alternative to the Democrats' continued pillaging of our national fisc and our children's futures. Speaker Boehner has been in the role of Gen. George Marshall, to your Gen. Dwight Eisenhower at D-Day. And you've been nothing short of brilliant in that role. 

But November 2012 is first and foremost about regaining the presidency. The leadership which is essential for those reforms to be implemented must come from the White House. Again, you know this perfectly well — as well or better than anyone.

Despite your reasonable hopes, no one of your caliber is stepping up in the required way, to the required degree, for that job. And you have always been best-positioned among them anyway.

Circumstances have naturally and irresistibly conspired to draft you, Mr. Ryan — to take you from the chair of the House Budget Committee into the 2012 presidential race, and thence to the White House in January 2013. Fate is screaming at you, Mr. Ryan. Unplug your ears, and even though it is more than we can in good conscience demand of you, be true to your own destiny and do now the necessary.

Accept the draft of circumstances. Or resign not just your own children, but all of ours, to a fate in which they're to be led, if at all, only by people chosen from a preselected pool comprising only those who desperately want that job (regardless of their qualifications for actually doing it).

Posted by Beldar at 04:38 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Obama, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Ryan reviews Sachs' ode to nanny-statism, "The Price of Civilization"

Politicians are often credited with op-eds that are published in their names, and that may indeed express their views, but that were mostly written by a staff member or aide. This has been true at least since the days of the Greek and Roman democracies.

When I read Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent and much-discussed op-ed about Obama's hostility to Israel, my assumption was that Perry didn't write its first draft, and may not have changed a comma in what someone else wrote on his behalf. Perry is nevertheless politically accountable for what it says to the same degree as if he had written it, and there's no reason to think his own views differ a whit from his ghost-writer's. (Indeed, the ghost-writer has failed in his job if his work varies from his principal's views.) Jen Rubin at the WaPo snarked that a "ghostwritten piece so far above [Perry's] current abilities highlights the concern" that "his own foreign policy views are rudimentary." I think that's harsh, but I take her point. Like all governors who run for president, Perry will have to struggle to establish foreign policy bona fides, and that can't be done solely through ghost-written op-eds.

But I was reminded of this topic — politicians and their ghost-writers — just now when I read this review of Jeffrey Sachs' new book, "The Price of Civilization," by someone of whom Ms. Rubin and I are both big fans: Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee. Having heard Mr. Ryan speak extemporaneously, I have no trouble believing that he, personally, penned lines like these:

In "The Price of Civilization," Mr. Sachs is asking the right questions. What is a life well lived? What should our government's role be in building a more virtuous society? What policies should it pursue to promote fulfilling lives for its citizens? If such questions direct us to the moral wisdom of our cultural traditions, they can indeed help to balance the excesses of capitalism and so help us to extend its benefits to all.

Yet Mr. Sachs's gospel of happiness draws not on the inspired tradition of the Founders but rather on the Utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham. In the 1780s, Bentham proposed that "happiness," which he equated with "pleasure," could be mathematically measured. It was not sufficient, he thought, for government to protect our rights if it was to vouchsafe our pursuit of happiness. Government must instead quantify "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" and set policies and goals accordingly. There was a science to satisfaction, Bentham claimed, and it was a puzzle that trained experts could solve.

Channeling Bentham, Mr. Sachs calls for the establishment of a national metrics for life satisfaction and sets a 10-year goal to "raise America's happiness." Although the specific measures are hazy, the steps are clear: For people to be happy, their government must increasingly shield them from the challenges of life. The good life is thus defined as one of ever-more pleasure at the expense of work.

But happiness in this world results not from avoiding challenges but from meeting them. Happiness is the recompense of real effort, whether intellectual or physical, and of earned success. It comes from achievement — from doing something of economic, artistic or emotional value. The satisfaction to be taken in producing valuable things brings with it a lasting sense of personal fulfillment. Mr. Sachs's design for paternalistic government will only impede the pursuit of happiness.

Read the whole thing. This man has a talent for communication, and a passion for the ideas he's communicating, but the delivery is simple, fair, and respectful to the views of the skeptical reader. I think that's the secret to Ryan's effectiveness — not just as an explainer, but as a persuader.

And I still wish he were running for POTUS. So this blog's official position continues to be:

Draft Paul Ryan.

Posted by Beldar at 09:28 PM in 2012 Election, Books, Budget/economics, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, September 26, 2011

Barone: Oh yes, there's still room for Daniels, Ryan, or Christie

In this perceptive essay on the state of the GOP presidential field, Michael Barone's concluding two paragraphs make a point that also explains why I haven't changed my "Draft Paul Ryan" sidebar:

Could another candidate give a better performance than Perry and deliver more sustainable responses than Romney? To judge from their performances in various public and private venues, the answer is yes for Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and Chris Christie.

Each has taken himself out of the race. Each still has time to get in. Most voters are ready to reject Barack Obama. But not necessarily for one of those on the stage Thursday night.

I think that's about right. And if I had to guess, I'd guess that Speaker Boehner and other GOP leaders in Congress are continuing to quietly twist Paul Ryan's arm.

Posted by Beldar at 12:12 PM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Strategic vision in short supply at the White House and

Ponder, if you will, this strategically clueless bit of punditry from Carrie Budoff Brown and Ben Smith at, as part of an essay entitled "President Obama's deficit plan puts him back in sync with progressives:"

[Obama's new] mocking tone toward Republicans, along with the sharp left turn in his policy prescriptions, aimed to send an unmistakable message to voters who have increasingly questioned the strength of Obama’s backbone: Congress won’t push him around any longer. If Republicans want a deal, then they’re going to have to compromise, too.

That last sentence might have been better written, "If Republicans want to deal, then they're going to have to compromise, too." And therein lies the mistaken premise. The only leverage that Obama and the Democrats had during July's struggle arose from GOP legislators' legitimate concerns that they'd be blamed for the interruption of government services that might have attended a failure to raise the national debt ceiling.

Now Obama and the Democrats face an even more united opposition that includes an absolute majority of the House and, on these issues, probably a working majority of the Senate. They believe that everything which Obama has just proposed — including the many recycled proposals which are so lame that Obama couldn't pass them even when the Dems controlled both chambers of Congress — would make things worse. So no, they don't want a "deal" on these measures, and neither do they want to deal on them: There's neither carrot nor stick in Obama's hand, just crap that he's throwing out there again for the sole purpose (a wholly and transparently political one) of making his base think he's talking and being tough.

That's a very tactical response to Obama's present problems. A strategic view would caution him against such short-term tactics, however: Certainly by November 2012, even Obama's base will have recognized that once again, Obama has failed to deliver on any of the wild promises that he made to make them (briefly) happy again back in September 2011.

If there's anyone at either Politico or the White House who's thinking strategically at all, they would realize that the smartest thing Obama could do now — both for the health of the national economy and for his own political prospects — would be to shut up and do nothing for a few months. That golf game will get rusty if it's not continuously polished, you know. America needs a president who can play a good round of golf more than it needs a president who can dish up the kind of nonsense we're hearing from Obama.

There's indeed a chance that if Obama will shut up, some legislation might pass both chambers of Congress which would reduce undue government burdens on the economy and, as part of an overall revenue-neutral flattening and broadening of the tax base, close tax loopholes. See my immediately preceding post regarding House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's broad reform and rescue plan, the Path to Prosperity. Parts of that plan, or analogs thereof, could probably make their way separately through both the House and Senate, via the proposals of the "supercommittee" or otherwise. By getting government out of the way, that legislation would actually stimulate the economy (or, much more accurately, permit it to begin healing itself). And if Obama would just shut up, then when and if such legislation passes, he could (and doubtless would) claim a share in its prospective success. And there might, for a change, actually be some success to take credit for!

But it doesn't take much strategic vision — or, really, anything other than my ordinary spectacle-assisted vision — to recognize that my speculation has an impossible premise, too: The earth will reverse its own rotation before Obama manages to shut himself up, ever, about anything.

Posted by Beldar at 11:37 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ryan reacts to Obama's "jobs plan"

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is making it really, really hard for me to give up on him as a potential 2012 GOP presidential nominee.

His quarter-hour interview this morning with Chris Wallace was another tour de force: transcript/video. I commend it to you in its entirety.

Chairman Ryan is always utterly consistent and thoroughly well-informed on fiscal matters, and much of what he said this morning about Obama's "new" job plan was no surprise because Obama has just recycled past policies (e.g., a temporary cut in payroll taxes) that have been repeatedly tried by both Democrats and Republicans, but that have always failed. Ryan's response is a clear, vital statement of specific principles and ideas, and those who've heard Ryan speak in the past will recognize much of what he had to say about those failed policies, and their alternatives, today.

I was struck in particular today, though, by Chairman Ryan's calm, lucid response to one of the most effective parts of Obama's and the Democrats' class-warfare demagoguery, the "Buffett's Secretary" argument:

WALLACE: Let's turn to taxes and there's a lot to talk about. I want to break it down in some bite-size pieces.

First of all, what do you think to all — over the papers today, I guess, the New York Times reported that, first, this idea of a new minimum tax rate for millionaires to insure that they pay at least the same percentage of their money that they get their income as middle income taxpayers?

RYAN: Great. So, I guess what he's saying he's going to raise on capital at ordinary income tax rate, raising capital gains and dividends. Look, if you tax something more, Chris, you get less. If you tax job creators more, you get less job creation. If you tax investment more, you get less investment.

At a time when experts are telling us, including, I said the fiscal commission, we should lower tax rates on investment and job creation by getting rid of all of the loopholes so we can create economic growth. So, we think this is going in the wrong direction. Let's not forget that under the current law that the president has already passed, the top tax rate on individual and small businesses in 2013 goes to about 44.8 percent.

So, we have employers in Wisconsin that pay that tax rate are competing against countries that are taxing their businesses from 16 percent in Canada, almost 21 percent going in England, 25 percent in China. The world taxes their businesses at about 25 percent and he's saying we're going to tax these job creators at above 45 percent with this new tax. What it does is it adds further instability to our system, more uncertainty and it punishes job creation and those people who create jobs.

Class warfare, Chris, may make for really good politics but it makes a rotten economics. We don't need a system that seeks to divide people. We don't need a system that seeks prey on people's fear, envy and anxiety. We need a system that creates job and innovation, and removes these barriers for entrepreneurs to go out and rehire people. I'm afraid these kinds of tax increases don't work.

WALLACE: But, Congressman, this is being called the Buffett rule, because it comes after Warren Buffet, the multibillionaire owner of Berkshire Hathaway said, I end up — because I get so much of my money from capital gains — I end up paying a lower tax rate than my secretary who gets her money in salary. What about the question — what about the question of fairness, sir?

RYAN: So, what he's saying, what he forgets to mention on that, that's a double tax. Capital gains and dividends are taxes on money that has already been taxed once before based on income. So, a person who's paying an income tax is paying the first level of tax on that money and then when you pay capital gains and dividends tax, you are paying that tax again on that money that earns it. What it does — and we've done this before — we have raised capital taxes gains and dividend taxes, we hurt economic growth, we stifle investment in our economy. So, if we tax investment in job creation more, you will get less of it. Like I said, this is — this looks like to me not a very good sign, because it looks like the president wants to move down the class warfare path.

Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn't grow the economy.

Go to and see a video we put up that shows a common sense idea that has a lot of bipartisan support in Washington these days to lower tax rates on these things by going after the loopholes.

Here's the video he just referenced. I think it's both simple and brilliant. And if the notion of the current tax laws letting General Electric Corp. get away with paying no federal income taxes nearly makes your head explode — a feeling shared by many Democrats, Republicans, and independents — then you should definitely watch this video:

I want this man to be president. This unflappable competency doesn't just appeal to me, it sings to me in ways that, frankly, neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Perry has yet been able to do.

Posted by Beldar at 10:03 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Non-candidate Ryan continues to draw lots of attention

The NYT has some interesting factoids about and quotes from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The bow-hunting and budgetary-wonk comments may appeal to slightly different audiences, but I suspect there actually may be a lot of cross-over appeal.

Ryan insists he's not interested in running, and indeed, that he's unwilling to be drafted. But when Gov. Rick Perry telephoned Ryan from the campaign trail this week, the substance of the report necessarily highlighted ... Ryan:

Perry also said he spoke Friday with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and backs the House Budget Committee chairman’s fiscal proposal.

“I talked with Paul Ryan today and told him that I thank you for standing up and having the courage and I’m proud to join you in having this discussion were having with America.”

This is further confirmation, folks, of what I wrote back on May 17th: Ryan's plan is the plan for the GOP in 2012. There is no practical choice in the matter, given the House's overwhelming and repeated record votes approving it, the large numbers of GOP senators who voted in its favor without success, and the large volume of other GOP leaders who've endorsed at least its broad outlines.

However, by genuflecting in Ryan's direction (albeit over the phone) and, more importantly, by publicly embracing the Ryan budget, Perry may also be trying to soothe any remaining itch that Ryan might still feel to test the presidential waters.

Posted by Beldar at 05:57 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ryan elaborates on decision not to run for POTUS

I credit House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) with complete sincerity in this video clip (hat-tip The Right Scoop):

But it's a long time before the first primary vote will be cast, and I'm a stubborn cuss, so I'm not quite ready yet to change out my sidebar endorsement.

Posted by Beldar at 09:33 AM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, August 22, 2011


I hope this and this are somehow wrong. But they're probably not.


UPDATE (Mon Aug 22 @ 8:00pm): From Ryan's statement today on his congressional campaign website:

I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party's nomination for President. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress.

Not quite Shermanesque, but close enough that in context, I'm persuaded that he means it.

Being stubborn, though, and as my own personal motion for reconsideration, I just sent $20.12 to Ryan's reelection warchest. 


UPDATE (Mon Aug 22 @ 8:35pm):  I'm reprinting here, without blockquoting them, some comments I've left on a post by Aaron Worthing at Patterico's:

I respect Chairman Ryan’s decision, although I’m very disappointed by it....

I’m really sad today, for my party and my country. I know Chairman Ryan has already devoted his life to public service, and that his family has already paid a price for that. And anyone with the burning passion in his or her belly to be POTUS has to be at least slightly insane; Ryan is the most sane politician I’ve ever seen, but I had hopes he might still respond to a draft, and I thought was sensed that coalescing this week.

I know Rick Perry’s record and I believe I know what he’s made of, and I believe he would be a fine president, but I’m not yet convinced he can overcome the anti-Texas/anti-Dubya bigotry in a national election in 2012. I’ll probably get aboard his campaign bandwagon anyway. But frankly, the kind of bigotry that the Dems will exploit and encourage if Perry gets the nomination is a lot harder to fight with facts and education than the “Mediscare” tactics they’d have used against Ryan. So I’m going to take the week to mumble and mutter and confuse my dog (who thinks I’m mad at her, which then makes me feel guilty, and appropriately so). She cuts me more slack than I’m due, so I beg that of the rest of you too today....

[Actually, who I owe the biggest apology to is my daughter Molly, for upon seeing the first report of Ryan's announcement this afternoon, I got distracted looking for confirmation, and I was therefore late picking her up. Molly cuts me more slack than I'm due, too. And yes, I see the irony in my being late to pick up my daughter while being disappointed that Paul Ryan won't subject his much younger children to the stresses of a POTUS campaign.]

I’m very sure that [Ryan's] decision wasn’t based on a failure to consider and weigh all the relevant factors. He’s been quite literally toe-to-toe with Obama, and I’m sure he can easily imagine himself in Obama’s shoes, doing a vastly better job for the country. And I know he’s confident in his own abilities and in his core philosophy. His ego is in tight control, but he does have one, and he’s not unaware of his relative strengths and weaknesses as a potential presidential candidate.

I’m reasonably sure that among the people who’ve been encouraging him to run, he received credible assurances of support, including serious promises of the sort of fund-raising that would have immediately made him competitive with Romney or Perry on that score.

I think large numbers of Republicans would have become enthusiastic supporters when they heard him speak in primary debates. By no means was this too late a date for him to join the race.

I’m sure he will do his very best as a non-candidate, but still as a leader of his party at the center of its most consequential current power (i.e., as head of the House Budget Committee) to affect the election. But that’s a distant runner-up to the influence he could have had as a candidate, even if he didn’t get the nomination, and not even in the same league as the influence he could have had as the GOP nominee.

And I’m still hopeful that whoever does get the nomination will look to him as a potential Veep choice.

Posted by Beldar at 03:38 PM in 2012 Election, Family, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Ryan's candidacy would force the 2012 election campaign beyond platitudes about the debt crisis

This report on a conversation between Paul Ryan and Chris Christie strikes me as important — indeed, electrifying (emphasis mine, elisions in original):

[S]ome of the most interesting developments last week took place away from the cameras in the solitude of the Rocky Mountains, where Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan consulted with friends and family about whether he should join the race. Ryan has been quietly looking at a bid for nearly three months, since Indiana governor Mitch Daniels called him to say he wasn’t running. But that consideration took a serious turn over the past two weeks, following a phone call with New Jersey governor Chris Christie in early August.

Ryan and Christie spoke for nearly an hour about the presidential race, according to four sources briefed on the conversation. The two men shared a central concern: The Republican field is not addressing the debt crisis with anything beyond platitudes.

Ryan, on the other hand, is the author of the detailed “Path to Prosperity” budget that passed the House last spring. His plan proposes structural reform to ensure the long-term viability of Medicare and other entitlements.

Christie has echoed Ryan’s concerns. In February, he gave a tough speech at the American Enterprise Institute, chastising Republicans for their timidity on entitlement reform and spending. “Let me suggest to you that my children’s future and your children’s future is more important than some political strategy. .  .  . We need to say these things and we need to say them out loud. When we say we’re cutting spending, when we say everything is on the table, when we say we mean entitlement programs, we should be specific,” Christie lectured. “Here is the truth that no one is talking about: You’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security.... We have to reform Medicare because it costs too much and it is going to bankrupt us... And we have to fix Medicaid because it’s not only bankrupting the federal government, it’s bankrupting every state government. There you go. If we’re not honest about these things, on the state level about pensions and benefits and on the federal level about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, we are on the path to ruin.”

Gov. Christie was characteristically blunt in that speech. And his very point is that bluntness is not only worth the risks, it's not only the right thing to do, it is absolutely essential.

Anyway, as they say, read the whole thing, and decide for yourself. But it sounds to me like both Gov. Christie and Chairman Ryan are coming to a shared conclusion that events — and even destiny — are impelling a Ryan candidacy. And they are right.

Let me say something else just as important, and just as blunt:

Barack Obama is going to base his 2012 campaign on demagoguery against the Ryan budget whether Paul Ryan is the GOP nominee or not.

Pretending it didn't pass the House, pretending it wasn't voted for by most GOP Senators — these are not options on the table. And you are simply delusional if you think Obama is going to fail to get the best possible use he can out of the Ryan budget as a political weapon, or that there's any way the GOP nominee can keep Obama from his best efforts.

So our choice is who we want to have as our side's spokesperson in defending and, indeed, advocating the Ryan budget.

The truth, if communicated clearly and forcefully, is a platform we can indeed win on. The Ryan budget would have kept our national debt rating from being downgraded. The Ryan budget would actually save Social Security and Medicare from the collapse that is a mathematical certainty under existing law. The Ryan budget will dispel the cloud of dread over the economy, and free the private sector to restore job growth and prosperity, thereby resulting in more government revenue collections without any increase in tax rates or brake on productivity. It's not perfect, and in some respects it may not go far enough, and it contemplates a slower rate of change in the national direction than many conservatives want. Nevertheless, it is real, and it is specific, and it is on the table. The medicine it contains will be bitter but we can honestly expect it to be effective, and there are no other alternatives.

Our side owns it. If you can't see that, you've had your eyes closed and your head in the sand since at least February. And given that we own it, we must not fail to make the best use of it that we can — boldly and without any trace of shame, for what is shameful are those who deny the problems and seek to maintain the status quo!

In poker, you want to be pushing all your chips in when you have a "monster hand." You may still lose. But that is the way you win big. Election Day in November 2012 will be the showdown, folks. So yeah, I'm not just willing to take the risk of doubling down on the Ryan budget by nominating Paul Ryan for POTUS — I'm eager to do that. I'm eager because it's the rational, logical, calm choice for this situation.

Or if you want, in honor of the changing season, a football metaphor instead: Sometimes you decide not to play it cautious, and you don't keep that blocking back in to guard against the maximum blitz that you know is coming. Sometimes you smile when your QB spots that blitz, and because he is the team captain and a star in whom you have more confidence than anyone on your team, you want the ball in his hands to exploit the vulnerabilities created by that blitz. Paul Ryan is our Roger Staubach or Joe Montana. (Or being from Wisconsin, maybe he'd pick Bart Starr or that Brett whatever-fellow. You know what I mean.)

Conservatives must take their counsel on this matter from George S. Patton (himself quoting Danton or perhaps Napoleon or Frederick the Great): "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!" If we are not bold enough to tell the truth, we will not win, or deserve to, and we cannot put things right.

Posted by Beldar at 12:38 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ryan's cheerful spirit

An astute reader and sometimes-correspondent emailed me to say this of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), in response to my latest post urging Ryan to run for president:

He is equipped to persuade and inform. He is able to maintain a cheerful spirit as he argues his position.

That last is a point I've not made here adequately, to my embarrassment. I replied:

That cheerful spirit is an underappreciated key. I think it will become more obvious if he gets into the race, because I think he will start getting the kind of reaction from thirsty conservatives that will start a feedback loop.

Righteous competence and authenticity are a great foundation, and when you put the cheerful spirit above it — I just think it could be as genuinely transformative as Reagan in 1980.

Ryan comes across immediately, almost overwhelmingly, as superbly informed and relentlessly common-sensical. But there is a vein of quiet passion that peeks out, a static electric charge of patriotism and Reaganesque faith in America that sometimes attends his best public speaking. And it's not something he's reading from a teleprompter, or that any speechwriter has polished for him to recite. It's something that's thoroughly imbued in his character.

It's not flashy. It's certainly not contrived. But after four years of very contrived flash from 1600 Pennsylvania, I think America is likely to be receptive to Paul Ryan's cheerful spirit.


UPDATE (Mon Aug 22 @ 1:25pm): Mona Charen at NRO argues persuasively that being a "nice guy" is, indeed, Paul Ryan's "secret weapon."

Posted by Beldar at 07:17 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Beldar on Ryan's vulnerabilities

John McCormack has an eloquent analysis on the Weekly Standard's website entitled "Paul Ryan's Vulnerabilities: Are they any worse than Romney's or Perry's?" I commend it to you in its entirety, in part because I think the conservative pundits McCormack is quoting and responding to have themselves made thoughtful and articulate points, but more because I think McCormack's responses about Ryan are persuasive. (I don't agree quite as much with McCormack's comments about Romney's and Perry's vulnerabilities, but I agree with his premise that all candidates have vulnerabilities.)

My own highly selective take on two of these arguments:


On my friend Ed Morrissey's "executive experience" issue, take a step back and ask yourself this: Why exactly do we value this?

The simplest and obvious answer is: "Because the American Presidency is an executive office." It's a true answer. It's only a partial answer, though, because no other executive office of any sort or position can ever be more than fractionally as challenging and important as the POTUS.

For all the other types of executive experience in positions other than POTUS, we're just using executive experience as a predictor of, and to some extent a proxy for, the ability to exercise POTUS-caliber executive responsibility.

Nevertheless, I humbly submit that we value executive experience in general because it often correlates with effectiveness in identifying problems, finding solutions, and then effectively implementing them. People who effectively enlist others to join together to accomplish those things thereby prove themselves as leaders. This is true when running a business, or when running an armored division, or when running a state government's executive branch.

A typical legislator from either chamber of the U.S. Congress is, by definition, one of a very large crowd. But occasionally — rarely in the last few decades, but more often earlier in American history — a legislator stands out from that crowd through conspicuous leadership and accomplishment. And I don't mean leadership to the press microphones, either, or empty speech-making. I mean identifying problems, finding solutions, and then effectively enlisting others to join together to implement them.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, I do not disparage anyone else on the national stage, including any of the other existing or rumored candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, when I say this:

Paul Ryan's crafting and shepherding of the Path to Prosperity (a/k/a "the Ryan Budget") through the U.S. House of Representatives this year, followed by his vital participation in the subsequent passage of "Cut, Cap & Balance" in the House, have been the most important and most impressive acts of conservative leadership and accomplishment on a national stage of the past several years.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI)

Now, technically speaking, that was not "executive leadership," I guess, because it's been happening under the Capitol Dome instead of in some other Washington building. But the vast bulk of our team's practical political effectiveness during the last two years — relying on political power gathered through the coalescence of the Tea Party movement and then the 2010 elections — has been focused through the House of Representatives and, specifically, the House Budget Committee. Paul Ryan's committee. That's exactly where the walk's been getting walked, as best we can walk it with the Senate and the White House still in the hands of the Democratic Party.

It's no knock on Rick Perry or Mitt Romney to point out that neither of them has yet done anything as consequential on a national stage as Paul Ryan has done just in this calendar year. So sure, their careers give us important indicators from which we can draw inferences about their potential executive abilities as POTUS. But in sharp contrast to the situation with all those legislators who've merely been great talkers in Congress instead of great doers — and I'm thinking in particular of a certain short-time U.S. Senator from Illinois who accomplished nothing and led no one as a legislator — we do in fact have ample indicators of leadership from Paul Ryan's career and accomplishments.

That's precisely why other GOP congressional leaders like John Boehner have been urging Ryan to get in the race: They've had the best opportunity to view and appreciate Ryan's leadership abilities in the most important and urgent recent events on the national political stage.

So if there's anyone whose demonstrated accomplishments ought to qualify for some "advanced placement credit" to make up for another sort of past accomplishment as an "executive," it's Paul Ryan. Simply put, we already know that Paul Ryan can lead, because he's been conspicuously busy all this year — leading.


As for my friend Allahpundit's "crippling the cause" argument: I'm sorry, but that's just backwards. To complete the four-year project that began the day Obama was elected and that can't be finished until the day he's defeated, and to change the direction of this country, we can't run a cautious campaign. We must win a mandate. We must have an ideas and values election, a watershed election with the same degree of political repudiation that voters delivered to Jimmy Carter in 1980 and reaffirmed when Carter's Veep, Walter Mondale, tried again in 1984.

We don't win by running away from entitlement reforms. We win by being the grown-ups, which means by exposing and confronting the problems, and by demonstrating that we have detailed and common-sensical solutions to them. We win by being honest, by promising to make choices that are hard but necessary, and by freeing the economy so that Americans — not their government, but Americans — can again create the growth and jobs essential to our hopes and futures. Ryan articulates that vision in measured, realistic terms, without sugar-coating but also without despair. He is convincing in explaining why the Democratic alternative is a vision of a declining America, of shared scarcity, of government-dictated rationing and control and leveling by driving everyone downward. 

We must educate and persuade. We must prepare for, and withstand, the most incredible blistering demagoguery that the Democratic Party's spin-doctors can concoct and spew forth — and it will make Niagra look puny, friends and neighbors, and it will be 24/7/365 from all the usual suspects every day until Election Day 2012.

If fiscal sanity can triumph, it will be through the patient persistence of Paul Ryan as its champion. The idea that he will be of more value to our team by staying in the House grossly understates the importance of the presidency in our fundamental constitutional structure, and the idea that we ought to groom him for another four years is just cowardly unless you're already fully resigned to more Obama hopey-changitude through late January 2017. Conservatives need our most effective national leader in the most consequential national office. And ultimately, that is the most powerful argument for a Ryan candidacy.


UPDATE (Sat Aug 20 @ 6:45pm): Further thoughts, prompted by a comment below:

As I've said here before, I've voted for Gov. Perry many times, going back to his first state-wide Texas race for Agriculture Commissioner; I've also voted for Sen. Hutchison many times, but I voted for Gov. Perry over her in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary; and I can easily imagine circumstances in which I'd vote for Gov. Perry again. I'm keenly aware of Gov. Perry's flaws — not because they are terrible, but simply because I've been watching him closely for so many years, and he's human — and I disagree with a few of his substantive positions. But at some point, if Chairman Ryan persuades me that he really won't accept a draft from his party and his country to run for POTUS in 2012, then I'll have to choose among the other GOP candidates then in the race, and that may indeed turn out to be a choice for Gov. Perry — in which case I would enthusiastically support him and campaign for him in both primary and general elections. I don't think it's terribly likely, but Ryan and Perry would actually make a strong and balanced ticket.

But with Ryan, we don't have to just imagine how he would stand toe to toe — and win convincingly — in a debate with Barack Obama on a topic like Obamacare. Anyone who cares to watch can see that, because Ryan's already done it — on camera before a national audience while literally on Obama's home turf at the White House. Watch for the look on Obama's face starting just after 1:40 in that clip, right after Ryan declares of Obamacare that "what has been placed in front of them [i.e., the Congressional Budget Office] is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors." You can read Obama's thoughts: "He's got me. I'm busted."

A mere two minutes later (at 3:38 in the video clip), after Ryan has masterfully exposed Obamacare's most shameful gimmicks with precision and utter clarity, Obama looks exactly like a man who's been exposed for having crapped his pants in church and who therefore can't wait for his first chance to rush out of the room:

Cut-away shot of Obama listening to Ryan's exposure of Obamacare's gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors at the White House Healthcare Summit in 2010

Folks, in my 30 years of practicing law, I've seen this sort of look over and over again from the witness stand — always from someone who's been caught in a series of lies, and who's about to double-down with more lies when he stops hiding his mouth behind his hand and again begins to speak. Behind those narrowed eyes is fear, and the reason he needs his hand covering his mouth is to help himself master a wave of panic.

And the 2010 performance wasn't a fluke or a one-off: Ryan did it again when he faced off against Obama in June of this year — so effectively, so audaciously, that Ryan received a standing ovation from all of his GOP colleagues who were with him there in the room. As Jennifer Rubin notes today:

[T]hose who don’t understand what all the buzz is about should take time to go back and watch or read the transcripts of [Ryan's] debate with Obama at the health-care summithis SOTU response, his debate with David Brooks at the American Enterprise Institute, his response to Obama’s GMU tirade on the budget and his speech at the Alexander Hamilton Society. Then, they might understand why enthusiasm runs high for him among the best and the brightest in the GOP. Is there a single candidate who could have done all that, plus constructed a budget, devised a tax reform scheme and presented a Medicare reform plan? Republicans better hope there is, be it Ryan or someone equally impressive. Otherwise, as scary as the economy is and as devoid of ideas as the president is, he may get himself reelected simply by pointing at the other guy and saying, “Do you really think this is presidential material?”

Could Barack Obama, hailed by his fans as the greatest debater and orator in the history of the Republic, actually refuse to debate Paul Ryan in the general election if Ryan becomes the GOP nominee? Why, that's unthinkable! Exactly as unthinkable, indeed, as was the possibility in 2008 that while excoriating Republicans for trying to buy their way into power, the Democratic nominee might forego federal campaign financing that he'd solemnly promised to accept, and to instead use shady credit card contributions, including from illegal foreign donors, to outspend said Republicans by a three-to-one ratio.

On the national political stage, Ryan has already emerged as his generation's most effective leader, and not just in word but in deed. I can applaud and approve of the leadership and state-level accomplishments of Gov. Perry, or of other governors like Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Nikki Haley, or Scott Walker. I can appreciate the skill with which Mitt Romney rescued the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, succeeded in business, and swam upstream as a GOP governor in the bluest of blue states. They all have executive experience that, objectively, Ryan lacks. But they all lack the national-level experience that Ryan has. And no one, at any level in or out of government, has the incredible mastery of national domestic policy and the ability to effectively change it for the better that Ryan has already shown.

We don't have to speculate on whether Ryan could perform as POTUS. The actual legislation he's already written and passed through the House would already have turned this country around. All that stopped him was a handful of Democratic senators who lacked the courage to break party discipline and a president who can't be voted out until November 2012. Already, with only one-half of one of the three branches of the federal government behind him, Paul Ryan has performed courageously and brilliantly; his near-miracles in the House are achingly close to being absolute miracles for the country as a whole. And no state governor, no matter how experienced or effective as an executive, can make that claim.

The GOP has developed a "deep bench" during the eight years that George W. Bush was in the White House and the three years since then — and I'm very proud and excited about that. But Paul Ryan is the MVP.

Posted by Beldar at 03:43 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Friday, July 29, 2011

Let's cover the moon in yogurt

I want this man as my party's presdiential candidate and then, our country's president.

He is the anti-Obama.

(Hat-tip to K-Lo at The Corner.)

Posted by Beldar at 08:26 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ryan outlines "serious flaws" in Gang of Six proposal, promotes Cut, Cap & Balance instead

I had a violent negative reaction to the "Gang of Six" from the moment I heard of it. I expressed my political concerns about it on Monday when I called the Gang's GOP members "chumps," and I feel even more convinced of that having learned more details.

The devil, of course, is always in the details. But I trust House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's command of them, and I therefore commend to you his take on the so-called "Gang of Six" plan. (Hat-tip to the indispensable Jennifer Rubin at the WaPo.)

Ryan notes that "[t]he plan is not a budget. It is a set of talking points and graphs that outlines an ambitious proposal that has serious flaws but also the potential for worthwhile budget and tax reforms." He then gives this executive summary:

The proposal put forward by a group of seven senators today is a useful addition to the budget debate. I share the frustration that these senators appear to have with the U.S. Senate’s inability to pass a budget in over 800 days. While the proposal lacks detail in many respects, it includes some reforms that could help put our country on a sounder fiscal footing. Most importantly, it reflects a bipartisan recognition that lower tax rates are essential to help spur economic growth. Unfortunately, it increases revenues while failing to seriously address exploding federal spending on health care, which is the primary driver of our debt. There are also serious concerns that the proposal’s substance on spending falls far short of what is needed to achieve the savings it claims. Nevertheless, this effort serves as a sign that we can work together on a bipartisan basis to make a serious down payment now to avert the debt-fueled economic crisis before us.

As always, Ryan has numbers where numbers are to be had, and a sharp eye for puffery and flim-flam from the Dems; he's actually fairly diplomatic in this analysis, and he takes care to point out and give credit for the good ideas and positive developments that can be spotted amid the dross. But it's mostly dross.

The Gang of Six proposal doesn't even qualify as voodoo economics. It's just an outline, a prediction of future voodoo that can't possibly even be turned into a real plan by August 2. So yeah, we're not being offered even the beanstalk. It's all about the magic beans, a promise, and a wink from the likes of Dick Durbin (if the membranes that protect his reptilian eyes could actually retract for him to wink).

This is not something on which the GOP members of the Senate ought to continue investing time and energy. There are still moves to be made, but they're going to come from the House, not the Senate, and the GOP senators need to swallow their damned egos and get in line. They're not covering themselves with glory, they're tripping over their own feet. We expect and deserve better from them. And we specifically need them to be trying to build public awareness of, and support for, Cut, Cap & Balance:

I think Paul Ryan may be the only guy in America who I don't mind hearing use the phrase "cash-flow" as a verb. This is seven and a half minutes of distilled common sense, and I think it's worth your time to listen to it.

No, Cut, Cap & Balance won't pass the Senate. But what happens to it in the Senate is important: In the dance of negotiations and legislation that will take us to November 2012, it's not the last step, but it is indeed the very next step. Senators of both parties need to be forced to go on record on it because, yes: Names are being taken, and those GOP legislators who fall short of our justified expectations are going to have to answer for that.

Posted by Beldar at 02:02 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Obama vs. Ryan: Fake vs. real "adult discussion" of the budget. [Update: Obama announces Medicare eligibility age to drop to 60, or something]

This week, President Obama has deliberately, consciously tried to seize recognition as "the grown-up in the room" during contentious meetings over the debt ceiling and budget.

My Democratic friends are convinced that's accurate. They believe — they insist — that Obama's offered up meaningful cuts in entitlement program spending for Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. They believe that just because Obama says it. But he hasn't offered up meaningful entitlement spending cuts; Obama's just talked about doing so, without actually committing to any specifics (except for specifically and categorically ruling out any reforms to any Obamacare provisions).

I think that falls in the category of pretending to be a grown-up. It works on those who want to believe it and who aren't very diligent in looking at supporting facts (or their absence).

So once again, I offer you Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP chairman of the House Budget Committee. Ryan has instant recall of all the important data, and a thorough and deep understanding of competing policy arguments and considerations. I commend to you in its entirety the transcript of Rep. Ryan's appearance on my friend Hugh Hewitt's national radio show Thursday. A sample (boldface mine):

Look at the difference between our two parties. Look at what we’re fighting for, and look at what they’re fighting for. We want to limit government, and we want to cut spending. We don’t want to raise taxes in this economy or at any time on people, because that’s not the problem. What are the folks on the other side of the aisle, our friends on the other side of the aisle, want to increase spending, want to increase taxes. I haven’t seen a time where the contrast and the difference between two philosophies has been more clear. That’s what I would look at over the next two weeks. We will hopefully, next week, show you how we would fix this problem with our cut, cap and balance plan. It’s a plan to fix this mess, this fiscal mess, to deal with this debt limit. You’re seeing what the other side wants, just let’s just borrow more money, okay, we maxed out this credit card? Let’s go get another credit card. And that’s the basic two positions. So what does that tell you? We have divided government. Are we going to get everything we want? No. We have the House. We don’t control the Senate or the White House. Will the Democrats get everything they want? No, because they don’t have the House. So you’re going to see a product of divided government come in the next two weeks. But let’s not lose the forest for the trees, and that is where do we stand on the issues, and how would we fix it if we had our druthers, and where would they go if they had their way.

"No-Drama Obama" may be the least deserved nickname ever given an American president. This week he's tried to play the role of "Father Knows Best (Now Shut Up Dammit Before I Shred Grandma's Social Security Check)." I credit a great many other GOP leaders with trying their respective bests in what's increasingly become a muddled approach. But in my opinion, Ryan is the consistently adult voice from either side on all these issues. And in any policy debate setting that prevented Obama from having the Marine Band interrupt with "Ruffles and Flourishes," Ryan would eat Obama's lunch and then drink his milkshake.


UPDATE (Sat Jul 16 @ 4pm): I asserted above that Obama has refused to commit to any specifics on cuts to entitlements, while pretending to have done so and insisting that he's done so. But look at the weasel-wiggling when ABC News' Jake Tapper put the question to Obama very directly yesterday (boldface and italics mine):

[Tapper:] You’ve said that reducing the deficit will require shared sacrifice. We know — we have an idea of the taxes that you would like to see raised on corporations and on Americans in the top two tax brackets, but we don’t yet know what you specifically are willing to do when it comes to entitlement spending. In the interest of transparency, leadership, and also showing the American people that you have been negotiating in good faith, can you tell us one structural reform that you are willing to make to one of these entitlement programs that would have a major impact on the deficit? Would you be willing to raise the retirement age? Would you be willing to means test Social Security or Medicare?

THE PRESIDENT: We’ve said that we are willing to look at all those approaches. I’ve laid out some criteria in terms of what would be acceptable. So, for example, I’ve said very clearly that we should make sure that current beneficiaries as much as possible are not affected. But we should look at what can we do in the out-years, so that over time some of these programs are more sustainable.

I’ve said that means testing on Medicare, meaning people like myself, if — I’m going to be turning 50 in a week. So I’m starting to think a little bit more about Medicare eligibility. (Laughter.) Yes, I’m going to get my AARP card soon — and the discounts.

But you can envision a situation where for somebody in my position, me having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays or things like that would be appropriate. And, again, that could make a difference. So we’ve been very clear about where we’re willing to go.

What we’re not willing to do is to restructure the program in the ways that we’ve seen coming out of the House over the last several months where we would voucherize the program and you potentially have senior citizens paying $6,000 more. I view Social Security and Medicare as the most important social safety nets that we have. I think it is important for them to remain as social insurance programs that give people some certainty and reliability in their golden years.

But it turns out that making some modest modifications in those entitlements can save you trillions of dollars. And it’s not necessary to completely revamp the program. What is necessary is to say how do we make some modifications, including, by the way, on the providers’ side. I think that it’s important for us to keep in mind that drug companies, for example, are still doing very well through the Medicare program. And although we have made drugs more available at a cheaper price to seniors who are in Medicare through the Affordable Care Act, there’s more work to potentially be done there.

So if you look at a balanced package even within the entitlement programs, it turns out that you can save trillions of dollars while maintaining the core integrity of the program.

[Tapper:] And the retirement age?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to get into specifics. As I said, Jake, everything that you mentioned are things that we have discussed. But what I’m not going to do is to ask for even — well, let me put it this way: If you’re a senior citizen, and a modification potentially costs you a hundred or two hundred bucks a year more, or even if it’s not affecting current beneficiaries, somebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more.

The least I can do is to say that people who are making a million dollars or more have to do something as well. And that’s the kind of tradeoff, that’s the kind of balanced approach and shared sacrifice that I think most Americans agree needs to happen.

"I'm not going to get into specifics." That could, and should, have been Obama's entire answer, because he once again refused to give any specifics at all. They maybe might "go in the direction" of raising eligibility ages, huh? As someone currently 53, that's an absolutely content-free statement of zero use to me in planning for my retirement. I am sure, however, that "We're willing to look at [fill in the blank]" amounts to a current savings of zero dollars in government expenditures. It's a promise of exactly nothing. It's an insult to your intelligence. It is something only said to stupid people to placate them.

Americans are left to parse this one peculiar bit of specificity from Mr. Obama: "[S]omebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more." Really? So we're going to lower the eligibility age to 60?

We have a president of the United States who thinks it's entirely cool to hold a press conference where he just makes up transparently silly numbers on the spot and spews them out into an uncritical media for eager consumption by eager-to-be-fooled groupies.

The only thing this long, rambling answer does is renew some familiar class-warfare themes and repeat always-broken promises of savings through magical (and soon-to-be-found! any day now!) efficiencies. We're once again assured that Barack Obama is all about punishing people for being prosperous. But solutions?

None. Nothing resembling substance. Just petulance, arrogance, class warfare, and smug self-righteousness.

PRESS: Be specific about structural cuts to which you're willing to commit!

OBAMA: Hey, guys, how about a joke about me joining AARP? I'm almost 50!

Posted by Beldar at 02:41 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Obama's airplanes and hedge funds fairy tale

This piece by John McCormack in the Weekly Standard, which is based in part on this piece by ABC News' Jake Tapper, is a superb short-form breakdown of the $418 billion in tax increases that Obama wants as a condition for going along with any significant spending cuts.

It's stunning — shocking, appalling — to compare the numbers to Obama's demagoguery.

Obama wants Americans to believe he and his party are only trying to close loopholes and make bad guys contribute their fair share. The numbers first expose, then destroy, that fairy tale.

If we're to demonize corporate jetsters, that will bring in all of $3B.

The price of being in the "hedge fund" industry will shoot up another $20B.

We start to get to significant numbers, finally, with "$45 billion by eliminating oil and gas company subsidies." Okay, so now our national demons are supposed to be those who work and invest in the American energy industry? That would be the same industry we'd like to see make America more energy self-sufficient, as a national security matter, wouldn't it? We want to punish our domestic energy industry so that, what, foreign energy companies can do better in comparison? The same industry Obama has already punished brutally through restrictions on off-shore drilling, and offshore and onshore drilling in Alaska? The same industry whose shareholders include vast numbers of private pension funds, mutual funds, 401k plans and IRAs, and retirees? And the same industry that happens to be most concentrated in the states (like Texas) least likely to vote for Obama in 2012? So are we to hope that our energy industry (and the jobs it represents) are to be crippled? Or are we instead to hope that these $45 billion in tax increases are simply passed along to American consumers in higher energy costs?

I'm thinking that $45B in tax revenues is a drop in the national bucket of our overal fiscal situation, but when targeted as punishment to be inflicted upon a single critical industry, it's significant enough to do some serious and long-term damage to the national economy, quite probably in a substantial multiple of that $45B.

Even in the face of a fragile and stagnant national economy with massive unemployment, Obama wants to add almost a third of a trillion dollars in new taxes. Obama wants to impose those hundreds of billions in new taxes not just on billionaires, or on millionaires, or on oil companies or hedge funds or jet owners — but on ordinary American individuals who earn $200,000 and couples who earn $250,000. We're going to punish them by restricting their deductions for some seriously antisocial fat-cat behavior: owning their own homes and making charitable contributions. The nerve of those filthy rich quarter-millionaires!

That's an income level which would fairly be considered "handsome" in a place like Houston. But it would be middle middle-class in many American cities with much higher costs of living. And all over America, that's gonna hit lots of middle-aged, utterly middle-class couples with college-aged kids. That's gonna hit a huge percentage of small business owners. That's going to hit two-income couples comprising teachers and nurses and firemen, bank assistant managers and car salesmen, farmers and bookkeepers and lab techs and QC analysts and ... well, pretty much the most individually productive people in the country.

The effects of these tax increases won't be measured in missed meals, no. But those effects will be measured in postponed or abandoned dreams-come-true that ought to have come true, and could have and should have: Dreams of hard-working not-rich people. Dreams whose realization oftentimes would've supported or even created jobs for quite a few very-not-rich people.

And what comes next? Do the math on the future interest costs of the borrowing to support these deficits. Taxing those who make merely $200k quickly stops making even a dent. And so next it will be individuals making $100k, and couples making $150k, whose taxes must be increased. And so on. It is mathematically impossible to tax our way out of this problem. That's a spiral down into national bankruptcy.

So Obama needs a class war to divert attention from all that. The pool of enemies who must be punished, those who must see more of their wealth confiscated to feed the government's maw, is expanding. If your family isn't in it yet, you may be on the edge, or you've been aspiring to be in that territory, or you at least know many families who are — families whom you've never before thought of as "rich," much less "evil" and needful of national punishment.

One would have to be not only mathematically challenged, but utterly innumerate, to believe Obama is being candid in the way he's trying to sell these tax increases. It's not just a regular smoke-and-mirrors trick. No, Obama's trying to knock us unconscious by beating us over the head with the mirrors, and to force us to inhale so much smoke that we pass out or hallucinate.

If you can't see through this blatant class warfare to recognize the economic reality beneath it, you really ought not be trusted with a credit card or a checking account.

Paul Ryan is right: Obama and the Dems are entirely committed to the notion of a declining America, ever more thoroughly taxed and regulated, compelling shared scarcity as we become just another country — another Belgium, maybe another Greece.

We've got to insist on better. We need a GOP presidential candidate who can stand toe to toe with Obama while calmly, methodically, and accurately exposing his lies and his exaggerations, whether it's on taxes, spending, health care, government regulations, or foreign policy.

Posted by Beldar at 11:14 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Ryan on American exceptionalism

Referring to Paul Ryan's detailed and thoughtful speech on Thursday to the Alexander Hamilton Society — in which Ryan used historical parallels to reaffirm the critical importance of American exceptionalism in the modern world — the esteemed Michael Barone asks (rhetorically but pointedly):

By the way, how often do House Budget Committee chairmen give speeches about foreign policy?

(Hat-tip Instapundit.)

Posted by Beldar at 03:01 PM in 2012 Election, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Ryan, preeminent champion of fiscal sanity (and the GOP), again goes unblinkingly toe-to-toe with Obama

I don't know, but I'm guessing that since she's technically writing a "blog" for the Washington Post, the WaPo editors permit Jennifer Rubin to write the headlines for her "Right Turn" feature. I'm a fan of hers, and we're both fans of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), as per this post of hers titled Paul Ryan stands up to Obama on Medicare reform:

At the meeting between House Republicans and President Obama, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) again demonstrated that he is the head of his party, and the most effective combatant to go up against Obama in 2012. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, got a standing ovation from his colleagues during the meeting....


Obama-paul-ryan_300x300 ... Obama, when presented with the facts, is hard pressed to repeat his demagogic talking points because he knows Ryan is fully capable of calling him on it. The president refuses to give up the fiction that Ryan’s plan is a voucher system when in fact the money doesn’t go to Medicare recipients. One supposes that ignoring reality will be a mainstay of the Obama reelection campaign.

The GOP presidential contenders should be on notice. Unless they have a precise grasp of the president’s plan (handing Medicare over to an unelected 15-member board to curb care) and an alternative plan they can spell out in detail, they’re in for a rough time. Come to think of it, does anyone but Ryan currently meet that description?

Ryan has faced down Obama before in pretty much this same manner — maybe before you were paying attention? — in 2010, during Obama's stage-managed "White House Health Care Summit." There are several other capable debaters in the GOP race, or speculated as being interested in entering it, and I'm not implying anything negative about any of them, but:

Doncha know, friends and neighbors, that Obama would have flop sweats imagining himself debating Ryan for all the marbles in November 2012?

Events are choosing the candidate, if we will only heed them. To a considerable degree, 2012 will be a referendum on Obama; but to win that referendum, the GOP must also present a serious, detailed, and grown-up alternative. We have such an alternative, and its author can not only use it effectively to educate the public, but he can also explain in precise detail why the Obama/Dem alternative (including but not limited to Obamacare) is indeed the direct path to the cliff's edge and then over it.

Posted by Beldar at 08:50 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Despite history, a Ryan presidential candidacy from the House makes sense for 2012

I commend to you this thoughtful and articulate post (including its comments) by my blogospheric friend Dafydd ab Hugh of Big Lizards. Dafydd considers my arguments in favor of drafting House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, but finds himself unpersuaded.

One of Dafydd's minor points is a better-argued variation on a theme that's been sounded fairly frequently about presidential candidates who are sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including such recent historical footnotes as John Anderson and Dennis Kucinich (Dafydd's boldface & italics omitted here):

Look, I like Paul Ryan, and I love his plan to rescue the budget and economy. But I'm nervous about him being the GOP standard bearer next year — given that the last time anyone went directly from the House to the White House was James Garfield in 1880.

A representative running for president was of course far more common in the nineteenth century, and the House was held in much higher regard than now. Too, Garfield was a nine-term congressman first elected during the Civil War; and he served for five years as Appropriations Committee chairman. But in 2012, Ryan will be a seven-term congressman who will have served as Budget Committee chairman less than two years....

(Dafydd's post continues with a series of other well-made arguments that I think are more specific to Chairman Ryan. I've addressed some of them briefly in comments on his blog, and I may eventually expand on those arguments, or address other points, in future posts here. I intend to confine this post, however, specifically to the argument that Ryan's poorly situated to run from the House.)

For several reasons, I'm less impressed by this "nobody's won from the House in decades" argument in this particular year. For one thing, we don't have a GOP candidate with high federal executive experience this cycle — none of the three theoretically eligible GOP ex-Veeps (Quayle, Cheney, and yes, think about it, Bush-41) are plausible candidates. The two most recent GOP presidential nominees drawn from the Senate, Dole and McCain, ran awful campaigns that made everyone wonder why we couldn't find a better nominee. Rick Santorum is running on the strength of his two terms in the Senate, but he was defeated in 2006. And since John Thune's decision not to run, no sitting GOP senators have been overtly preparing for the race or even generating any buzz — and no one seems to regret that at all this year.

State governors at least have executive experience, but not at the federal level. There are vast differences between governing even a very large state and serving as POTUS, and state governors almost inevitably lack even the foreign policy experience of the lowliest Congressman, who's at least had occasion to consider and vote on foreign policy legislation. But I agree with Dafydd that there are several plausible candidates, existing or rumored, who have as strong credentials as any state governor is likely to ever have, and they're serious candidates. (They'd also nicely balance Ryan's federal legislative experience if one of them were his Veep nominee; or, I concede, vice versa.)

Nevertheless, and more importantly, I believe we are on the cusp of an electoral revolution comparable to that which the Reagan-Bush ticket accomplished in their 1980 defeat of the Carter-Mondale ticket. Certainly several sitting state governors are playing high-profile roles in dealing with their respective states' analogs, at the state level, to the federal problems being hashed out in Washington. But as a direct consequence of the 2010 off-year elections — in which the White House was not in dispute, and the GOP failed to recapture the Senate, but quite dramatically regained control of the House — the House has been where the action's been since January 2011. The Senate, by contrast, continues in near paralysis.

Up through and including the November 2012 election, the House GOP members will continue to apply essentially all of the pressure which will drive (or undo) potential compromises elsewhere. Indeed, conservatives have to depend on the House GOP members to keep the pressure up on not only Senate Dems and Obama, but on Senate Republicans.

For the 2012 election, then, more than most others, I think it makes particularly good sense to consider, and properly appreciate, the leadership Ryan has shown, and continues to show daily, from the House. You find your most effective leaders by going where the conflict is most stark and checking to see who's following whom. For this cycle, the most critical action is in the U.S. House, and in overwhelming numbers the House GOP members are following Paul Ryan's lead.

Posted by Beldar at 12:23 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Foreign Policy, History, McCain, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BeldarBlog's new sidebar endorsement

Some readers may recall my sidebar endorsement of Sen. John McCain after he sewed up the GOP presidential nomination in 2008:


After Sen. McCain chose Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, my improved view of the combined ticket was reflected in a different sidebar endorsement that I ran through the November election:


My new sidebar endorsement is, like the others, an unpaid, spontaneous, and independent expression of my First Amendment rights. It has not been coordinated with or sponsored by Chairman Paul Ryan or anyone else: 


I assert no copyright to the words or the public-domain photo, and anyone else who wishes to urge Chairman Ryan to run is welcome to copy and republish this .jpg with my enthusiastic blessing. This endorsement implies no disrespect to any of the other existing or rumored candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. 

I'm in, Mr. Ryan. Consider me a pre-charter member of the "Ryan for President 2012 Campaign."

Your party and your country need you — not just as House Budget Chair, but in the White House — and we're calling!

Posted by Beldar at 06:00 AM in 2008 Election, 2012 Election, McCain, Palin, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The inevitability of a Ryan draft

I've heard others make the argument before, but none better than Dr. Krauthammer in these lines:

[J]ust because the Republican Party lost the [congressional] special election [in New York], it doesn’t mean it is completely a lost cause for the party going into 2012. Krauthammer said the GOP can make it a winning issue. But to do that, he said, it requires Ryan running as a presidential candidate to expertly explain his policy proposal.

“People are now writing, ‘Well Ryan — the boomlet for Ryan to a candidate is over,’” he continued. “I would say exactly the opposite. You now own this. Get the one man who can explain it, argue it and actually change minds on this. You need leadership on this or otherwise the Republicans are going to sink on this.”

I'd add this: The GOP needs Ryan promoting the Path to Prosperity from the GOP presidential nominee's position because otherwise, entitlements will not be reformed. The stakes aren't merely the GOP's success in retaking the White House, nor even the GOP's broader failure or success nationally in both federal and state elections, but rather our nation's basic solvency.

The rationale for Ryan's candidacy springs directly from the election result of 2010 that returned control of the House to the GOP. And lo and behold, we have a GOP Budget Committee Chair who's a grown-up, who's doing his job — who's leading. He is the most articulate and effective policy debater of either party since Bill Clinton when he was at his very best. And in fact, we've seen Ryan stand up for himself and his ideas quite powerfully in a head-to-head, no-teleprompter debate against Obama during the infamous White House Health Care Summit in February 2010. Friends and neighbors, that's what we call dramatic foreshadowing.

Since then, Paul Ryan has become the most consequential GOP politician in the country. We recognize our leaders by the fact that they're leading and, yes, being followed. As of Wednesday's Senate vote, more than 96% of the GOP members of Congress are on record voting for the Ryan budget, the Path to Prosperity. As was frequently exclaimed among the tractor-back philosophers on the prairies of west Texas whence I sprang, "Quod erat demonstrandum!"

It's just a question of whether and when people's perspective on the presidential election catches up with that reality.

I wasn't alive in January 1952, mere weeks before the New Hampshire primaries, when Eisenhower finally revealed that he was a Republican and permitted himself to be drafted for a run at the GOP nomination. There were other formidable candidates, including Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, Gov. Earl Warren of California, and ex-Gov. Harrold Stassen of Minnesota. But Ryan's position now seems to me like I think Ike's candidacy must have seemed then: The situation has chosen the man.

Posted by Beldar at 12:58 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Watch the media spin hard to stick to their "GOP senators bail out on Ryan" narrative

Democrats and the main pundits of the mainstream media — but I repeat myself — have been saying for weeks that there would be huge GOP defections when, as a symbolic gesture, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) put the House's budget (principally authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan) up for a vote in the Senate.

Idiots and the main pundits of the mainstream media — but I repeat myself — might think this vote is somehow meaningful, and they indeed will insist that it is meaningful, whether it is or not, because that is their agreed-upon narrative. To them, facts and events don't matter; only their interpretation.

But here's the undeniable fact about today's events: That the GOP would lose this vote was conclusively determined in November 2010 when the GOP failed to retake the Senate.

When the outcome of a vote is 100% preordained, as the outcome of this one has always been, party leaders will often decide not to "whip the vote," meaning they decide not to twist any arms of their party's legislators, and not to waste political capital. If voting with the party would put a particular legislator at risk of losing reelection, then keeping the seat becomes more important than a symbolic show of unity.

Democrats and the main pundits of the mainstream media all understood this as recently as the House vote on Obamacare, in which then-Speaker Pelosi discreetly "released" several House Democrats to vote against it: No one has ever doubted San Fran Nan's ability to count noses and votes, and she and her crew knew exactly how many of their majority they could cut slack for without it becoming a close result. No one in the press or the punditocracy declared that the Dems had suffered some enormous schism. But now when Senate Minority Leader McConnell does the exact same thing, they manage to forget that rationale entirely. Thus, for example, a WaPo political blog post that treats a one-vote difference between the number of House and Senate GOP defectors as a sudden and ominous development for the GOP:

The budget plan, which was drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and which passed the House in April with the support of all but four Republicans, was rejected by the Senate Wednesday on a 40-to-57 vote.

As was the case in the House vote, all Democrats present in the Senate voted against the measure; they were joined by five Republicans, a sign of the wariness with which some Republicans have come to view the budget plan, particularly members who may face tough reelection bids in 2012.

The Republicans voting against the plan Wednesday were moderate Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), as well as conservative freshman Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who argued that the plan did not go far enough in cutting spending.

Back in November 2010, even when they were flush with the glow from the GOP's landmark victory in re-taking the House, if you had asked most Republican strategists the likelihood that by late May 2011, all but nine of the 288-or-so Republicans in Congress (i.e., more than 96%) would go on record voting for a serious, grown-up, transformative, but therefore politically risky budget — one that actually addresses the explosive growth in entitlements — they'd have laughed at you. "Maybe the young guns and the freshmen Tea Party products might go out on that limb," they'd have said, "but not practically the whole House and Senate GOP." But if you had somehow persuaded them to take you seriously, then they probably also would have been able to predict at least four of the GOP senators who wouldn't go along.

Sens. Snowe and and Collins from Maine and Sen. Brown from Massachusetts have purple constituencies. Their voting with the Senate Dems today surprised absolutely no one in the Senate, and shouldn't surprise you either. Sen. Murkowski, of course, famously couldn't win her home-state GOP primary; her defection is no surprise either.

And the Paul family, father and son, together represent a quarter of the GOP's House defections and a fifth of the Senate's — both of them because they think the Ryan budget doesn't go far enough. They obviously share a bull-headedness gene, and I wish they would figure out that voting with the Democrats is almost never, ever a useful way to demonstrate one's adherence to conservative principles. Obviously, however, if you want an accurate head-count of who wants real budget cuts and spending reforms, you subtract both Paul votes from the anti-Ryan headcount and add each to the enormous majority of GOP senators and representatives (with those two, over 97%) who've gone on record voting for Chairman Ryan's Path to Prosperity. 

I'm altogether pleased with this vote. And of course, there was this other event in the Senate today that you will tend not to see emphasized in headlines, that you will instead tend to see downplayed or left entirely unexplained, and that you will probably tend to see mentioned "below the fold" — if at all — by the mainstream media (boldface mine):

Immediately after the vote on the Ryan budget, the Senate unanimously rejected President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal. The Obama budget did not secure the support of a single lawmaker, with all 97 senators present voting “no.”

I humbly submit that any news report which contains that fact ought to be headlined something like, "Lightworker drops to zero-wattage output."

Again, as a matter of substance, this is no surprise: The Obama budget was dead on arrival. But you're lookin' for symbolism? The Senate, under exclusively Democratic leadership and almost exclusively with a Democratic POTUS, has now gone 755 days without approving a budget for a full fiscal year — and before we're done, it will probably have gone longer without approving a budget than the entire Kennedy administration lasted. And now not a single U.S. Senator of either party will cast even a symbolic vote in favor of Obama's budget, and yet there is no Democratic alternative at all.

So indeed, one party, in frantic fear of further electoral backlash in November 2012, is backpedaling furiously from its conduct between 2009-2010 and now. (I expect that any day now, it will be revealed that it was false intelligence from the CIA that lured all those Democrats into voting for the 2009 "stimulus" — undoubtedly false intelligence whose seeds were planted by Dick Cheney, perhaps in collaboration with Osama bin Laden, who's conveniently unable to deny anything anymore.)

The other party is actually hanging pretty tough for the most part, and pretty much on track. Oh, there's a whole lot more to be done: The Dems' fiscal recklessness, and what it's doing to our economy and our future, will be the key issue on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. We need to wrap that issue around Obama's and the Dems' necks on every one of the 531 days until then.

Posted by Beldar at 07:52 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, History, Mainstream Media, Obama, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ryan's silver lining in l'affaire de l'explosion Gingrich

John Hinderaker at Power Line has posted an interesting analysis by an unidentified reader on the subject of Ryan versus Gingrich. I'm not assuming that Mr. Hinderaker thereby necessarily agrees with everything (or even anything) his reader has written, but among his reader's most provocative assertions was this initial one:

The Ryan budget represents, in part, a political power play by its author. Ryan understands that his plan has no chance of becoming law this year or next. His goal is to shape the budget debate and, if possible, dictate the Republican position in that debate. I have it on very good authority that Ryan specifically intended through his budget proposal to constrain the eventual Republican presidential nominee on the core issues that his plan raises.

If I understand this correctly, it amounts to a grave charge that Paul Ryan is mounting a well-conceived, practical, and sustained effort to be, as the chair of the House Budget Committee, a national leader in passing the House budget into law as soon as that can be accomplished. If true, this seems to me a very desirable feature, not a bug. I'm unconcerned and, instead, favorably impressed by these accusations of competency and effectiveness. Is there something not to like about those qualities, or Chairman Ryan's demonstration of them?

Mr. Hinderaker's reader goes on:

[F]rom the perspective of a legitimate contender for the Republican presidential nomination[,] ... Ryan's power play seems unwelcome. A rational candidate would always want the maximum freedom to stake out policy positions. And he certainly would not want to come under pressure a year and a half before the election to take a potentially unpopular position on Medicare reform.

Rational (in the short run) and gutless, perhaps.


Friends and neighbors, we can't kick the can down the road to some time past the 2012 presidential election before we come to grips with the entitlement programs that most imminently threaten our national solvency. We can't put the showdown off until some future election.

To win the 2012 election, to re-take the White House and re-take the Senate with a decent majority, we must —
  • hold Obama and his party accountable for their dismal economic record since January 2009;

  • prove that the GOP has a rational, detailed, and credible plan to fix things (a "path to prosperity"), even though it (like any such plan) must contain hard and unpopular choices that the Dems will relentlessly (and transparently) demagogue regardless of their substance; and

  • vividly confirm that Obama and his party blocked the GOP plan even though they have nothing to offer but more of what we've seen since January 2009: the same old tax-spend-and-regulate, albeit on a scale that would have staggered even Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt.

For all that to happen, it is absolutely essential that long before November 2012, and certainly by the end of the GOP primaries, the GOP's congressmen, senators, and presidential candidate all speak with one voice on the federal budget. Whether Ryan's that presidential candidate (as I'd like to see) or not, because of the House vote, it's already essentially certain that — perhaps with GOP senators' tweaks and improvements — the Path to Prosperity will be the substance of what that one voice needs to be saying.

In law, there's a concept called "ready, willing, and able." Sometimes one side to a proposal or a contract will demand that the other demonstrate that it can actually perform in accordance with its representations. To satisfy that demand, the other side demonstrates that it stands ready, willing, and able.

So simply put, unless and until someone on the GOP side comes up with improvements to the House plan or something to replace it outright, the GOP needs to make the strongest possible showing that before the November 2012 election, the GOP, as a party, stood ready, willing, and able to pass the House budget and send it to Obama. To the credit of Chairman Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and nearly the entire House GOP, the House has already done that with a message-sending record vote in which all but four GOP representatives voted for the Ryan plan.

It was already improbable, but the recent collapse of the Gang of Six makes it nearly certain that Senate isn't up to independently replicating or superseding Chairman Ryan's and the House GOP's work. I hope that some GOP senators may suggest useful improvements or modifications to the Path, and I'm certainly not ruling out that possibility. (Nor are Chairman Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and the House GOP.) But the election results from 2010, plus the four-year presidential election cycle, effectively dictated the relative potential contributions of the House and Senate GOP contingents for the leadup to the 2012 election.

The 2010 election also put the resulting GOP Chairman of the House Budget Committee into position as the House's key member on the 2012 election's key issues — and Chairman Ryan is performing appropriately, I'd even say superlatively, from that position.

Now we must put every Democrat in the Senate on record on cloture votes — repeatedly — on not only the House budget and any proposed improvements to it, but also as many other spending votes as possible. And it's entirely likely that we'll have several more opportunities for that: In addition to whole debt ceiling issue, we're likely to have several more continuing resolution struggles while the Senate remains deadlocked, all the way through Tuesday, November 6, 2012, on any comprehensive budget for FY2012 (much less FY2013, which begins on October 1, 2012). 

So I respectfully but emphatically disagree with Mr. Hinderaker's reader: It's entirely rational to expect serious GOP presidential contenders to start taking definitive positions on entitlement reforms now, early enough in the primary process for it to matter. If any rational candidate has an equally detailed budget he or she wants to offer up in lieu of the Path to Prosperity that the House is now committed to, then great — just lay it out there, take the same risks that Chairman Ryan, Speaker Boehner, and the House Republicans have, and act like a grown-up who's deserving of the public's respect.


But Mr. Gingrich laid out neither improvements nor credible alternatives. He didn't contribute to solving any problems, he just tried to sprint in the opposite direction from Chairman Ryan because he (Mr. Gingrich) was afraid that taking a stand would make him politically radioactive. To clean up a bawdy Texas idiom, Mr. Gingrich stomped on his own genitals in the process, and then sent his flak out to proclaim, "Oh, but look — through the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia! — at how surpassingly fine and big those genitals are!" Brave Sir Newt, ex-history professor and author who now demands script approval and re-write privileges from history. Real life doesn't offer the same opportunities to "revise and extend remarks" that the House or Senate traditionally, and by unanimous consent, permit their members to use to massage the Congressional Record.  

I'm not saying Mr. Gingrich is into, or even close to, John Edwards territory yet in terms of self petard-hoisting, but I can't see how he salvages his campaign. Who's going to write this guy a campaign check now? Only those who also bet on 90-to-1 longshots at the horse tracks, methinks.


Apart from any remaining insinuation that there's something wrong with Chairman Ryan doing his job in pushing for the House budget, I do agree with Mr. Hinderaker's reader's observations in his or her penultimate paragraph, and in part with the observations in his or her concluding paragraph (link and ellipsis in original):

Where do things stand now, In light of the well-deserved backlash? Just about where Ryan wants them to stand, I believe. As the estimable policy star Yuval Levin, one of Ryan's biggest cheerleaders, put it yesterday, "Whatever else may be said about this week's Gingrich contortions, one thing is clear: Paul Ryan and the House Republican budget have the strong support of an exceptionally broad array of conservatives — from the DC establishment to the talk radio world to the grass roots and the Tea Party.... All contenders for the Republican nomination should take note."

They should, indeed. But those contenders with a serious chance of facing the full electorate, not just a broad array of conservatives, should proceed with caution. It was Gingrich's rush of blood to the head, not his instinctive understanding of the risks associated with unequivocal support for the Ryan budget, that landed him in so much trouble.

This pre-primary season is turning out to be — appropriately! — the Season of Political Land Mines. I am grudgingly grateful to Donald Trump for throwing himself on the Birther landmine and thereby simultaneously removing both the single most ridiculous issue and candidate from the GOP fold.

Mr. Gingrich's explosive misstep, by contrast, didn't spare the rest of his party from collateral damage, but rather inflicted it in non-trivial amounts, and on an issue of surpassing importance. And Mr. Gingrich has no legitimate excuse for such clumsy fratricide; if he wanted to remain gutless on entitlements reform for some further weeks or even months, he ought to have had the political skills and sense to simply remain vague. I agree that Mr. Gingrich was rash, but I disagree that other candidates ought to consider emulating Mr. Gingrich's substantive gutlessness, whether rashly or not.

Ultimately, however, I agree that the silver lining in l'affaire de l'explosion Gingrich is indeed that it's helping focus the party on, and unite the party behind, the Path to Prosperity. That makes all the more compelling the potential — albeit still entirely hypothetical — presidential candidacy of the Grand Old Party's best spokesman on the Path. With no implied disrespect to Speaker Boehner, I agree with Yuval Levin that Chairman Ryan is increasingly revealing himself to be the GOP's most consequential and even indispensable national leader. 

Posted by Beldar at 06:13 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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 | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Beldar to Newt: Ryan's plan is the plan

In the category of "brutally harsh but on target within micrometers," Dr. Krauthammer has fairly chronicled Newt Gingrich's self-immolation over the weekend.

We might think of the political parties as two rival crowds cheering opposing teams at an athletic contest. I'm thinking Texas/OU in the Cotton Bowl every fall, but pick your own favorite rivalry as you follow me in this metaphor.

There's a point in every play when the ball has already been snapped, and it's too damned late to call an audible. If one of the players (or would-be players) ignores that, and tries to change the play after it's already begun, that can result in nasty things, like a fumble that is returned for an easy touchdown by one's opponents.

Newt's singular credential is as the ex-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first GOP speaker in decades.

Members of his same party, in that same House, have already voted for the Ryan budget. All but four voted for it.

Gingrich himself had said that he'd have voted for the Ryan plan if he were still in the House. He knew what the play was.

But anyway, come last Sunday, there was ole Newt — and well after the ball has been snapped, he's doing something completely different. He's fading back for what, a Statue of Liberty toss-back? He's yellin' "Red-Blue! Social Engineering, hut!" And he trips and stumbles into the whole rest of the backfield and knocks down half the offensive line. Eventually Newt is standing 40 years back behind the line of scrimmage, right next to — you guessed it, Ron Paul, who was one of the four GOP House members who voted against the Ryan plan. (From the opposing team, Jerry Brown floats out somewhere to the left, where he's become entangled with the Goodyear blimp, which has been hijacked by Ralph Nader.)

Now, don't misunderstand. This was a spectacular screw-up by Newt, but for the rest of the team, the play's not over. It's not even a busted play yet.

But Newt has fully earned the boos he's getting from his team's fans. If I were coaching, I'd send him to the bench.


UPDATE (Tue May 17 @ 1:55am): Dr. K's on-target, but Ace wins for snark: "I'm just saying, right now, I'd like to see some of the same authenticity and realness in Gingrich that I see in Mitt Romney."

Posted by Beldar at 12:49 AM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, May 16, 2011

Health-care reform in two sentences


Our plan is to give seniors the power to deny business to inefficient providers. Their plan is to give government the power to deny care to seniors.


The reason health-care costs are out of control is because no centralized command and control system — including the existing Medicare and Medicaid schemes — can be effective at allocating resources effectively. Only a competitive marketplace can do that. But as long as individuals can insist, "I want everything, without regard to cost or benefit," they will so insist. And the Dems will let them do that forever, until the money runs out (at which point the system will collapse) or until the government-imposed rationing leads to a miserable lowest-common denominator sort of healthcare for everyone.

Inform people. Empower people to make choices. Hold people responsible for their choices. Rinse and repeat. Healthcare will get better and cheaper as a result. The example of how that works is the computer (or smartphone or iPad or whatever) set-up you're reading from right now — a combination of high-tech goods and services which provides power and convenience that was inconceivable at any price thirty years ago, but that's now priced so low that almost everyone in our society can find some access to it, with prices continuing to drop as quality and variety continue to increase.

Individuals, even brilliant individuals, cannot possibly be smart enough to make the right choices as regulators for everyone. Aggregated populations of health-care consumers, in a marketplace that's competitive and with a free flow of knowledge and free choices, will allocate resources more efficiently and — because competition includes (but isn't limited to) price — will end up making better care available to everyone over time.

Some people will make stupid choices that will result in bad consequences. Thus it has always been, and will always be, and no legislator or bureaucrat can change that. But even those bad consequences will be less harsh than what everyone will suffer if we continue on the path of pretending that government can provide everything and make everyone's choices.

Posted by Beldar at 08:02 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Friday, April 08, 2011

Obama takes ownership of every penny of federal overspending

From Obama's televised speech tonight on the short-term budget agreement (my transcription from DVR, italics mine):

Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful. Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances.

Obama's handlers obviously didn't have time to polish the narcissism from this short speech, but now we know exactly what Barack Obama thinks of Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats: They're an extension of his will, puppets dancing at the end of the strings he alone holds.

I think Obama's assessment is actually pretty accurate — he's the proverbial 800-pound gorilla among a troop of preening baboons, and whenever he stirs himself to smack them around or goads them into a shrieking frenzy of poop-slinging, they do what he bids.

But the side effect of this is that Barack Obama can no longer hide behind the fig leaf of separation of powers. Obama can no longer plausibly claim to be representing the interests of the entire American people — just the interests of his party and its motley collection of special interest groups. When, for example, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-FL) asserts of the GOP House's "Path to Prosperity" that "This plan would literally be a death trap for seniors," that is — not literally (which doesn't mean what she thinks it means) but politically — Barack Obama himself engaging in the most egregious and obvious fear-mongering and demagoguery. And if you're not among those he's already invited to the graft-and-handout trough, then you're on the other side.

Politically, if there was any doubt remaining among the naïve, that doubt has been conclusively erased:

Barack Obama is personally responsible for every penny of federal overspending. Period.

Posted by Beldar at 11:30 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Current Affairs, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Beldar assesses risk to the GOP from a government shutdown to be lower now than in 1995

I've previously argued here, and in comments I've left on other blogs, that the House GOP ought not force a government shutdown over whether an interim funding bill includes controversial de-funding of particular programs like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS/NPR) or Planned Parenthood. Rather, my advice has been to defer those measures to the fight over the FY2012 budget. Some have misunderstood me to be suggesting we delay those fights until some time in calendar year 2012, but that's not at all what I've said or meant.

Rather, since the premiere this week of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) amazingly ambitious budget for FY2012 (which starts on October 1, 2011), we're already embarked on that fight — and that fight is vastly more consequential in the big picture than anything that is going to be done through interim spending bills. Insisting on cutting those controversial programs now gives the Dems undeserved and repeated opportunities to demagogue, and that may permit them to repeat their political triumph from the government shutdown in 1995 (which effectively guaranteed Bill Clinton's reelection).

Instead, the time to fight those fights — and they'll always be controversial, I don't dispute that — is as part of the fight on the FY2012 budget that, if handled right, will produce hundreds of billions of cuts in current spending, and trillions over the next decade. There are a lot of voters who will swallow hard at GOP cuts to programs those voters personally favor, but who will nevertheless choke them down if and only if they're part of a big dose of essential medicine that will genuinely restore financial sanity to our government. And you can't win over those voters through a hostage-taking strategy that shuts down the government over only a few billion dollars.


What Speaker Boehner and the House GOP are doing now, however, isn't necessarily inconsistent with my proposed strategy. Indeed, he's right not to back off on those hot-button issues until he's used them to extract every penny of spending cuts he can through these stopgap funding bills. The one-week extension passed through the House today is consistent with that strategy. And ultimately, if a few tens or even hundreds of millions in continuing expenditures on noxious programs is the cost of another $8-$10 billion in cuts above the $33B the Dems are already on board with, that's a very good trade in the short term.

However, you can't push to the limits at the negotiating table unless you're genuinely serious about facing the possibility of a shutdown. There's reason to hope that we're better prepared for that now than we were in 1995 (when it seemed we were completely, and recklessly, unprepared). But neither side knows, nor can know, how the public will react, and what political risks for November 2012 that presents. To extend my poker metaphor from last week, we've seen the flop, but we're still waiting for the turn and the river.

I'm no pollster, and in fact I'm intensely skeptical of public opinion polling as a proxy for the only polls that count — electoral polls on election day. But I think there are two fundamental differences between now and 1995 that both reduce the political risk to the GOP now, as compared to then:

First, notwithstanding what the public opinion polls may say about the number of "independents" or "swing voters," America is more polarized now than it was in 1995. That's the result of the Clinton impeachment, the 2000 election contest, the anti-war protests during the eight years of strong leadership on the Global War on Terrorism that George W. Bush gave us, and — more than all of the above put together — the systematic, unrestrained, and rapacious looting of the public fisc in which Barack Obama and the Democrats have been continuously engaged since January 2009. I just don't think there will be as many voters swayed by a shutdown as there were in 1995 — and of those who may be, quite a large percentage of them are Obama voters from 2008 who've since already realized that his halo is made of tin foil.

Second, although one can correctly point to a long list of contributing causes, any third-grader should be able to understand that the most obvious and direct cause — what lawyers would call the "proximate cause" — of a shutdown now would be the Democrats' explicable and inexcusable inability just to do their damn jobs last year.

Not a single voter sent Obama and his partisans to Washington with a mandate not to pass a budget for FY2011. The Dems controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress until January 2011 and yet couldn't pass a budget; indeed, they didn't even make a serious attempt. And that's just dirt-simple, and as obvious — and as obviously embarrassing — as a loud fart in church.

I will grant you that there are millions, and probably tens of millions, of voters who don't meet my hypothetical "any third-grader" standard in their political sophistication.

But they're already part of the Democratic base anyway.

Posted by Beldar at 08:05 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

House GOP's budget cuts $6.2 trillion over 10 years

So we now know exactly how good a poker face Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has: The eye-twinkle and the very, very slight hint of a smile when Chris Wallace was quizzing him on Sunday morning about the size of the House GOP's proposed budget cut gave away nothing. But Rep. Ryan must have been mightily amused when Wallace managed to pry out of him that the cuts might be somewhere north of $4 trillion.

In fact, as revealed in Rep. Ryan op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal (no subscription required), the House GOP's budget for FY2012 promises to cut $6.2 trillion over 10 years as compared to the federal budget proposed by President Obama. That such enormous cuts can be contemplated is, of course, a function of the gigantic increases in federal spending already made since January 2009 and expanding over the future in the budget proposed by President Obama.

The details will be the basis for intense — and emotional — debate over the coming months. Absent another 9/11-scale surprise, I expect it will become the single most important issue in deciding the 2012 election.

Path_to_prosperityI've reprinted above the chart from Rep. Ryan's op-ed. It focuses on how this budget will compare to Obama's when measured by federal debt as a percentage of gross domestic product. Don't be disappointed by the fact that there isn't a sharper drop-off to a negative slope in the green-colored portion: Current spending in absolute dollar terms will indeed show a much greater drop.

The op-ed is pretty good, albeit necessarily wonky. Read the whole thing, because I couldn't possibly summarize it here.

I'm reminded of the line variously attributed to Frederick the Great or French revolutionary leader Georges Jacques Danton, but in either event much beloved by U.S. Gen. George S. Patton: "L'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace!" This is indeed audacious. This is a fight worth having, and vitally worth winning.

Posted by Beldar at 02:59 AM in Budget/economics, Congress, Current Affairs, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Beldar on Ryan and Rubio on Fox News Sunday today

Having now watched the promised appearance of Rep. Ryan and Sen. Rubio this morning on Fox News Sunday, I have this to say:

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) I've seen Sen. Rubio do a much better job responding to probing questions in the past than he did in responding to Chris Wallace's questions this morning. Rubio frankly looked over-coached and nervous today. So I'm going to reserve judgment about his prospects for being on the 2012 GOP ticket (which, of course, he continued to insist are zero, while expressing respect for the voters' choices in such matters).

But I thought Rep. Ryan was amazingly good. "We don't need a good politician, we need a strong leader." That one-liner left a mark, and Ryan wasn't making it by way of a personal comparison between himself and Obama. But the rest of his presentation which screamed — in subtext — "I am indeed just such a strong leader!" I literally found myself holding my breath (since guys, even very handsome guys with really sparkling eyes, don't make thrills run up my leg).

I haven't seen anyone I like as well yet for the top of the ticket in 2012, but I'm concerned that it may not be possible for Ryan to both lead the budget fight in the House and lay what is, sadly, essential groundwork in early primary states. If that prevents him from considering a run, I could respect and concur in that decision. But I'm here to tell you, and you can bookmark this post: If Paul Ryan is the GOP Veep nominee, Obama will either dump Slow Joe Biden (probably through some contrived health or "more time with his family" excuse) or at least find another excuse for there to be no vice presidential debate. Because Paul Ryan would eat Joe Biden's lunch and then drink his milkshake.

I haven't watched the panel discussion yet, so I don't know whether Kristol renewed his pitch for the Ryan-Rubio ticket. But I'm definitely warming to at least half of that idea, and still intrigued by all of it.


UPDATE (Sun Apr 3 @ 11:00am): I realize this is very superficial, but am I wrong to think that Rep. Ryan and television actor Patrick Dempsey (a/k/a Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd on "Grey's Anatomy," below left) could be brothers whose dad only convinced one of them of the importance of daily shaving?

television actor Patrick DempseyU.S. Rep. Paul Ryan

As I was looking for a photo of Dempsey to make this comparison, I came by chance upon another one which also reminded me of both Ryan and Rubio:

actors Taylor Lautner of 'Twilight' and Matthew Morrison of 'Glee'

Rubio turns 40 this May, but he's almost as young-looking as actor Taylor Lautner of "Twilight" fame (above left). And I don't know that Ryan can sing or dance as well as Matthew Morrison (above right) of "Glee," but then again, I don't know that he can't. In any event, I have to commend both politicians on overcoming their tragic good looks to make a career in politics.

Posted by Beldar at 10:23 AM in 2012 Election, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Ryan and Rubio on Fox News Sunday tomorrow

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — otherwise known as Bill Kristol's proposed 2012 GOP presidential and vice-presidential ticket — are going to be on Fox News Sunday. I usually record it, but I'm sufficiently intrigued that I may just get up in time to watch it live.

Posted by Beldar at 08:35 PM in 2012 Election, Mainstream Media, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack