Early Saturday morning, Mitt Romney announced his pick of Paul Ryan to be his running mate.
Seriously Roms, the way into journalists’ hearts is not to make them get up early on a Saturday or cut off their vacations:
Remember weekends? #campaign2012—
Sarah Boxer (@Sarah_Boxer) August 11, 2012
Vacation abruptly over. Shaved. Kids and wife kissed. Driving all night.—
John Dickerson (@jdickerson) August 11, 2012
Besides, supposedly, the Congressman from Wisconsin needs his beauty sleep to boot:
Ryan students know he is MUCH better performer+handsomer when he gets sufficient sleep. Will be interesting to see if Boston executed that—
Mark Halperin (@Markhalperin) August 11, 2012
And sorry Paulie, but as I recently learned, your new boss’s religion forbids drinking coffee! (Romney might lose the election on that issue alone if word got out.) So, good luck perking up on those 18-hour campaign days ahead.
My lack of morning personhood notwithstanding, when word came late Friday night that Romney was naming his vice president in the AM, I joined the ranks of the curious. It would be in Virgina? In Norfolk? Could it be the state’s “overreaching” governor, Bob McDonnell? Or David Petraeus, based on the military locale? No. And hell no. A bit later, the specific venue was leaked: the USS Wisconsin. It had to be Ryan.
I watched Ryan speak. He delivered his remarks well, but there was one oral tick I noticed. Usually, when the crowd gets revved up and cheers, the speaker either waits and lets them clap and shout, or he/she uses their ovation as momentum to finish the statement robustly, riding the wave of excitement by speaking louder over them in a way that adds gravitas and serves as a strident capstone to the argument. You’ve seen it in just about every Obama speech. Ryan does the opposite, and it’s kind of funny: he speaks under the crowd. When the claps continue after he’s finished his sentence, he underlines it with quieter, ho-hum affirmations like “That’s right” and “That’s who we are” into the microphone. The whole speech is below. An example of the above begins with the sequence around 13:15:
Onto the repercussions of this choice for VP. His name, his vigor, and his dreamy blue eyes can’t help me from comparing him to Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan movies. (Okay, fine, Ben Affleck you can come, too, but this changes nothing between us: you can direct the Justice League movie, but don’t star in it.) Jack Ryan, the capable “old-enough-but-young-enough” hero, finds himself in some harrowing situations. Paul Ryan’s effect on the GOP ticket could make for the same:
Clear and Present Danger - Ryan is a self-avowed deficit nerd. With the imminent reunion of the Spice Girls set to close the Olympics this weekend coinciding with Romney’s pick, Ryan might want to consider calling Mel B (or C) to join in last-minute as Fiscal Spice (credit for that one belongs to my Irish bestie), and help revive the Romney campaign’s international image.
In any event, Ryan does rightly see the national debt as a major threat to the country’s well-being. However, to address this problem, he put forth a budget plan that is strikingly different than previous administrations on both sides of the aisle have proposed, and that is unabashedly conservative in its cutting and discarding of numerous programs that currently benefit tens of millions of Americans. The House passed it, and the Senate would likely turn Republican and do the same if Romney wins. Romney’s embrace of Ryan on that stage is an implicit embrace of these policies. Will voters choose Romney and the Ryan budget or the more moderate approach of Obama?
The Sum of All Fears - One of the key provisions in Ryan’s budget is an extreme alteration of Medicare and Medicaid. His plan calls for “shifting more costs onto individuals and essentially converting Medicare into a capped voucher program” where health care will cost seniors much more. Medicaid would become a “block grant” to the states. It could be argued that these changes are much more (detrimentally) significant to health care than those of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats will be all too eager to stoke that fire, accusing Romney and Ryan of gutting Medicare. This will cause fright among the elderly, who Romney needs to win, and who happen to constitute a crucial voting bloc in a certain battleground state 90 miles from Cuba.
Patriot Games - If you heard any of the speeches – McDonnell introducing Romney, Romney unveiling Ryan, Ryan accepting the honor – you might have noticed they laid the national pride on pretty thick. That’s to be expected. Ryan probably got the biggest applause from saying, “But America is more than just a place… it’s an idea. It’s the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.” I’m not going to unpack the whole line, but I will say that other countries have been founded on ideas; ours is just the best one yet.
Talking about God is not really something you do to win over independents. And with Ryan’s budget being so divisive already, it’s clear this pick was not a play by Romney’s campaign to do so. It’s a signal that Romney intends to rally a skeptical Tea Party/GOP base to turn out for him with what they perceive to be a “true” conservative, by tempting them with the boogeyman of a “failed” Obama, and touting these “real” American principles. Both sides often use the politics of patriotism genuinely and to their benefit, and it’s terrific we are all proud of our country. But this year an especially hard push seems to be a key component of the Republican plan for victory.
And of course…
The Hunt for Red October November - (Apologies for the above, the Brief Wit graphics department lacks The Daily Show’s budget.) The goal of Saturday’s decision, which I will concede I enjoyed more than Lebron James’ The Decision, is to shake things up so much that they paint the town red: Republicans in Washington keeping control of the House, eking out the Senate, and of course taking the White House.
It feels like an all or nothing proposition, though. Based on the drastic changes they would appear to be advocating, it’s hard to imagine many people stepping into the booth and taking a chance by voting for Romney/Ryan, while also choosing (former DNC chair) Tim Kaine for Senate in Virginia, for instance. Or Claire McCaskill in Missouri. Romney and Ryan have to win the argument convincingly, preferably with coattails.
I’m not sure if they can. It’s not only because Obama and Biden are not amateurs, or, for example, because after Scott Walker survived his recall in Ryan’s home state, voters still favored Obama.
Everyone’s pretty numb to risk after the last time around, but let’s face it, this is a risky pick. It’s not Sarah Palin-risky, but it ain’t Al Gore-safe, either.
Ryan may succeed in galvanizing the base for Romney (something Obama needs to crack the code on in his own right), but I can’t see either of these guys doing foreign policy, partially because they never have. (Biden complemented concerns about Obama, if you recall; he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.)
This is also the first non-Protestant ticket in GOP history. (Ryan is Catholic.) This isn’t JFK in 1960, but will evangelical Christians come out for these guys? They are already suspicious of Romney because of his Mormonism. I love the irony: of all four candidates, Obama is the only Protestant, but people think he’s a Muslim!
Finally, at 42, Ryan kind of looks like the sixth son Romney never had. (He is actually the same age as Mitt’s eldest.) Will citizens believe Ryan is prepared to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?
That’s all TBD. According to a number of reporters and pundits though, the upshot of this ticket is that due to the wide gulf between their intentions for spending and approaches to the role of government, that Romney/Ryan v. Obama/Biden will commence a real, substantive debate, that it has to.
I hope so, but it remains to be seen. Unfortunately, our political discourse tends to regress towards a mean of platitudes and faux controversy.
Supposedly, both sides are pleased with this choice. We’ll know who is most pleased in November.