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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


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(1) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 12, 2012 1:59:05 AM | Permalink

There are assuredly others in the media and in the blogosphere who likewise promoted both Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan as potential Veep nominees. Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, and several other of their crewmates at the Weekly Standard immediately come to mind as having been at least as prescient, and vastly more influential, than me in my pajamas with my very humble blog. They should be having champagne tonight too.

(2) Dustin made the following comment | Aug 12, 2012 8:54:33 AM | Permalink

Very interesting prediction. I hadn't thought of this, but it makes a lot of sense. And frankly, Hillary would be a better president than Biden anyway.

If this comes true, the VP debates will be historic.

Romney's selection of Ryan has me much more excited about this election in more ways than I initially thought!

(3) Greg Q made the following comment | Aug 12, 2012 7:03:51 PM | Permalink

I blush. Thank you.

I have three problems with your prediction:

1: Obama KNOWS that the Clinton's are entirely about themselves. I'm not sure that he can trust their "help" to be worthwhile.

2: Obama lives in a pretty delusional bubble. Will he be willing to believe he needs help, and if he is willing to believe it, will he be willing to admit it? "He's LeBron, baby", he can do everything! Just ask him.

3: If Hilary joins the campaign and they lose, she's done. No? (The last losing VP to get the nomination was Mondale, and he got clobbered. And she'd not just be the "losing VP" she'd be "the person who was brought in to bring victory, and failed." Bush 41 became President while VP. Did anyone else in the 20th Century go from VP to P by way of an election? Let alone go from losing VP to winning P?) Hell, even if they win, her chances of winning election in 2016 aren't that great.

I'm just not sure there's anything in it for her.

(4) Greg Q made the following comment | Aug 12, 2012 7:36:14 PM | Permalink

More on "what's in it for Hilary":

VPs from FDR to the present (it's what I can remember w/o lots of research):

FDR: final VP Truman. Won re-election after FDR died.
Truman: Don't recall who VP was, but didn't get Demo nomination in 1952 (that was Adali Stevenson).

Ike won in 52, neither he nor Nixon were on the ballot in 48. His VP, Nixon, won teh nomination and lost the election in 1960.

Kennedy / LBJ won in 1960, neither were on the ballot in 56. LBJ won re-election after Kennedy died, his VP, Humphrey, lost to Nixon in 68.

Muskie (Humphrey's VP) did not get the Dem nomination in 72.

Carter / Mondale won in 76. Neither was on the ballot in 72. Mondale got the Dem nod in 84, and was crushed by Reagan / Bush.

Reagan / Bush won in 1980. Neither was on the 76 ballot. Bush won in 88, the only continuing VP winner since some time in the 1800's.

Neither Quayle nor Cheney even ran for the Republican nomination (96 / 2008). Gore got the nomination and lost the election in 2000. Lieberman didn't get the nomination in 2004. Edwards didn't get it in 2008.

Frankly, no matter what happens this election, Hilary's better off w/ Biden staying in at VP. If Obama loses, she's not tainted w/ the loss. If Obama wins, she's running from the outside in 2016, and so can run against anything unpopular Obama has done. If Biden tries to run for President in 2016, she'd destroy him. The Democrat bench is thinner than a crack addict who hasn't eaten in a week. Who would Obama replace Biden with if Hilary says no? DWS? Pelosi?

If I were advising the Clintons, I'd say "finish out as Sec State, hope that Obama loses, and hope that Romney doesn't make things better by 2016."

If she does take the position, I'm really glad I'm not on Obama's Secret Service detail.

(5) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Aug 13, 2012 1:36:20 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Oh come on, give up those modesty pills. Two for two. One more and Mickey Kaus will call you a trend...I am not so enthusiastic about Ryan as you are, but only because I see it as another case of the GOP calling people up before they are ready. Look what happened to Sarah Palin in 2008. Imagine if she was running with Mitt this year after 6 years as Alaska gov. I admit I snort at the savage attacks on "Ryan doesn't have enough experience" from liberal bigots who swooned over the Lightworking One in 2008 and are too embarrassed to admit they were wrong, and too foolish to shut up. I do think Ryan will more than hold his own on any discussion of issues, and the notion that the Democrats will hang Ryan around Romney's neck e.g. "He'll kill Medicare!" is silly. They were going to do that anyway.

Where I part company with you is in your astonishing notion that The Won is going to dump Biden. I ask you, when has a Prez ever done that successfully in the 20th century. Being somewhat better versed than my namesake Q, I will proceeed:

It's happened three times: a) Franklin Roosevelt dumping John Nance Garner in 1940 for Henry Wallace b) 1944 Roosevelt dumping Wallace for Harry Truman and c) Gerald Ford dumping Nelson Rockefeller for Bob Dole in 1976. Roosevelt's dumping made no difference to the campaigns, not least because in those days, Veeps were still seen as Throttlebottoms, mere ciphers. In between Roosevelt and Ford, Eisenhower wistfully thought about dumping Nixon in 1956, but kept him on in the end. All that happened there was Nixon's lasting paranoia and resentment were fed on royal jelly.

With Ford you have a different case. He dumped Rockefeller after having barely beaten a primary challenge from Reagan. Said challenge had left the conservative side of the GOP sore, and Rockefeller the quintessential big-government Republican, was an easy sacrifice. But it didn't help Ford much. Do you recall the Dole-Mondale debate that year? I don't either, except for the liberal bigots howling about Dole's "Nixonian viciousness" in said debate.

I think it's fair to say that dumping a Veep these days is seen a tacit admission that the original pick was a blunder. It can also be attacked as a sign of panic, rightly so. It's hard to imagine a scenario whereby Biden can be replaced. I offer this one to you to demonstrate how implausible it is: Biden is giving a speech when suddenly one of the whores the Secret Service put on the payroll in South America busts out yelling that her bill hasn't been paid. The Secret Service reacts in its characteristic professional way by trying to shoot her. She of course shoots back, and at the end, old Joe is found riddled with bullets. PS---The press starts squawking about the need for gun control until it's revealed that this chica was using a gun that was part of the Fast and Furious operation. Thus Joe is reported as mysteriously dying, thus leaving The Won free to pick Hillary.... Not gonna buy it, hey? I don't blame you.

Like Greg Q. I can't see what's in it for Hillary. The Won is not big on gratitude, and why would Hillary want to tie herself to a record that she can see is going to be bad at best, and disastrous at worst? Recall my old maxim that Presidential second terms are notoriously weaker, and try to imagine Hillary having to run in 2016 on The Won's record. Nope, can't see it.

As for The Won pivoting to foreign affairs, what foreign triumph does he have? Too, how does he pivot if the election is about the evil GOP doing away with Medicare while Paul Ryan chortles with glee? I could see an October surprise with Israel, terrified that The Won might pull it off, attacking Iran before it's too late. So much for the pivot. If they squawk that R&R have no foreign experience, replay the 2008 commercials about The Won's superior abilities,interspersed with such triumphs as a) going to Copenhagen to get the Olympics for Chicago, b) bowing to the Saudi princes c) returning the Churchill bust and then lying about it d) "The hell with you Canada, you're not building your dam pipeline through our country." e) placing all those abused Gitmo prisoners with other countries f) the "reset button" for Russia g) selling Eastern Europe down the river by declining to give them missile protection etc etc etc

Nope, Biden will be veep. Now it's up to Romney to beat The Won. Everybody pitch in.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

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