By Michelle Railey
In case you were under a rock today and hadn’t heard, Paul Ryan (R-WI) became the Chosen One today, the vice presidential pick for Team Romney. It’s just so exciting, isn’t it? Real News! On a Saturday! Not to take anything from the Iranians and their earthquake or the deaths by lightning strike in India, but ohmygosh, Mitt Romney has a running mate and it’s the physically fit, intellectual powerhouse from Wisconsin, House Representative Paul Ryan. The word of the day in the media is “energized:” the Romney campaign is energized, the Republican base is energized, the fiscal conservatives are energized. It’s almost as if the Romney campaign was lacking energy before or something.
Well, I know I’m breathless from all the excitement and coming up with something smart is going to be ridiculously difficult. Frankly, I’m just so excited and, well, teeming with energy, that I can’t really think straight. So I’m going to do a little P90X and then lay down in a hammock and try to calm down a bit. In the meantime, here’s the short list of highly-energized thoughts that have struck me in these few, electrifying hours since Paul Ryan was crowned the Republican Veep candidate.
The headline for today could also be “Mitt Romney Cedes Foreign Policy Issues in Presidential Race.” Sure, ever since the Republican Primary Show ended, Romney has been focused on the economy. His recent trip abroad was gaffe-filled and generally regarded as graceless, but “it’s the economy, stupid” and the polls show the 2012 candidates in a dead heat, so no big deal, one might say, if Romney puts most of his chips on the electoral kitchen table and talks almost exclusively about domestic issues, particularly the economy. Only, here’s the thing, international issues are still going to need debating. There’s governance to do after the election. That whole being-president thing doesn’t happen in an American vacuum. It might have been wise to choose a VP with some foreign policy credentials or some deeply respected positions on international issues. Instead, Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan is also primarily known for domestic issues, specifically the budget, and also his abs. So, two things there: one, Mitt Romney today looked at the upcoming debates and said “Eurozone crisis? Iran? Israel? China? Global trade? Global climate change? Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria? Boy, I don’t know. Let’s talk about something else, like maybe the economy. And the economy. We could also just talk about the economy. The one here.” And two, Mitt Romney basically admitted to the American public that he’s concerned with winning the election and not the 4 to 8 years that follow it. You know, those 4 to 8 years when he might actually have to deal with the rest of the world, too.
The GOP is energized, which is good, if you’re a Republican. But this makes Paul Ryan an even more interesting choice for candidate Romney. It’s possible that instead of Ryan electrifying Romney, he’ll simply electrocute him. Ryan’s speech following the State of the Union didn’t make a case for Ryan’s charisma or excitement factor. But he’s been the fresh new thing for the Republicans for awhile, one of the bona fide rising stars of the party. Romney, well, his singing skills aren’t great, that whole “I like trees” thing was possibly one of his most entertaining moments on the campaign trail, and Bill Maher, whether fairly or no, has referred to him as “The World’s Least Interesting Man.” So maybe Romney-Ryan won’t be the Dynamic Duo, but, if you’re Romney, do you want to run the risk of being overshadowed by the light of the newest, freshest, fittest star of the Republican party? It’s a question I would have asked if I were running the campaign.
The upside of the Ryan pick, though, is this and I think it could be good for everyone: Choosing Ryan ensures that some substance will find its way into the conversation. There will be no way to avoid talking about the budget and taxes. This is to the good. Now, for Republicans, my guess is this is the big reason they chose him. After the last election and Palingate, there had to be a smart pick for this election. It’s nearly impossible to read or listen to anything about Ryan that doesn’t include the effusive use of “serious” and “intellectual.” That’s largely due to his budget. Hopefully, there will actually be a real discussion of what Americans want for the country and how we pay for what we want. That would be refreshing.
For Democrats, if they are able to accurately and concisely slice and dice that Ryan budget up so that a fourth-grader can understand it, the choice could be like Christmas morning came early for the Blues. Matt Miller has called Ryan’s budget a “path to nowhere.” Martin Wolf referred to it as “a political fantasyland” and then said about it “You can only say that this is a revolutionary proposal. It would mean the U.S. is going back to the sort of country it was in 1900.” So further discussion about Paul Ryan and his budget, if it’s intense and if the public will sit still for it, could electrify the Democrats, Independents, and anyone else who might not cotton to a taxidermic approach to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Well, it’s a big “if:” serious policy discussions are much less entertaining than “Uz-beki-beki-stan-stan.” They’re mind-numbing in comparison to scandals, snark, and gaffes. And in that spirit, you gotta hand it to Paul Ryan. He began his campaign to become the next vice president with a gaffe of his own. “I’ve some good news and I’ve got some bad news. Why don’t we get rid of the bad news first, okay? President Obama is the president of the United States. And the good news is, on November 6, he won’t be any longer.”
Oh, Mr. Ryan, I guarantee you, even if you and Mr. Romney win the election, Barack Obama will still be the president on November 6. See, he’s the president until the new one is inaugurated. But I know, big guy, it’s been a very exciting day. Probably best to get your first Highly Public Gaffe out of the way early.