The selection of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate is a tribute to Mr. Ryan. This young man has been a true leader in Congress. He has taken on the fiscal problems of government without flinching. He has grabbed hold of the third-rail of politics — entitlement programs — and not been immolated. His boldness has been immunized somewhat by his superior knowledge of the fiscal problems and an obvious concern for the future of the country.
Paul Ryan is not a typical politician. His political career shows none of the caution that characterizes most. Ryan is no coward. He is a bright, knowledgeable and charismatic man who analyzes problems and comes up with solutions. His solutions are not designed to further his personal political career.
The choice of Ryan reveals a lot about Mitt Romney. Ryan was a bold pick, one that seems out of character for Mr. Romney’s cautiousness. Expectations were that someone like a Tim Pawlenty or a Mitch Daniels might be chosen. These were considered “safe” picks. Neither would overshadow Romney and both were uncontroversial. For Romney, the vanilla candidate, it was unexpected that he would order from off his usual safe menu.
Romney choosing Ryan suggests that he is truly interested in cleaning up the mess this country is in. Paul Rahe expresses my thinking:
… by making this choice, Mitt Romney is declaring war. There will be no evasion, no triangulation, no attempt to mask what is at stake in this election. Instead, Romney and Ryan will directly confront Barack Obama and call him to account for putting us on a ruinous course.
This will alter radically the dynamics of the race. The money spent by Obama trying to demonize Governor Romney will prove to be money entirely wasted. The election is not going to be about Mitt Romney. It is not going to be about the sexual revolution. It is not going to be about Bain Capital. It is going to be about the failed policies of Barack Obama, about their dangerous character, and about the sober, sound alternative the Republicans represent.
Paul Ryan or Mario Rubio likely could have produced this confrontation between the two parties. Rubio has obvious appeal among Hispanics and is an articulate spokesman for the American Dream. But Ryan, out of the Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan school of “hope and change,” is nearly a perfect pick given the financial condition of the country.
Romney would not have made a similar pick a decade ago in Massachusetts. Nor would he have made this pick four years ago, had he won the nomination. So, what changed and why this pick?
The deteriorating condition of the economy is obvious. Further, the spending-debt spiral that government has trapped itself into must be solved in order to right the economy. It may not be possible to escape this debt spiral before a complete economic collapse occurs. That Romney picked Ryan indicates that he understands the seriousness of the fiscal condition and intends to tackle this problem. Romney is (was) a turnaround artist at Bain Capital, which he left to turn around the floundering Los Angeles Olympics. It is what he knows and it is what he does. Few did it better.
Romney knows numbers and knows what needs to be done once he has the numbers. Ryan is the best numbers guy in the government. His understanding of the problem is on a par with David Walker’s, former US Comptroller General. His choice suggests to me that the fiscal and economic crisis will be dual priorities. There was no one in the Republican race for president with Romney’s skill set. Now he has augmented his skills with a sidekick who knows more about the fiscal problems than anyone else. Hopefully, they get a shot at turning the country around and take advantage of it.
There is another dimension to Romney’s choice that has political implications, although it was likely a by-product of choosing Ryan. Choosing Paul Ryan changes the entire dynamic of the campaign. As Michael Barone stated:
Obama’s side is relying on trash-talking ads. Romney’s selection of Ryan shows he wants a debate on whether America should follow Obama on the road to a European-style welfare state.
Both Romney and Ryan appear to be squeaky clean, immune from the dirt slinging Obama’s previous campaigns have used successfully. The choice of Ryan shifts the election to the big philosophical issue — what kind of country do you want? Do you want to be Europe or do you want to be America?
Obama cannot run on his record. He will find it hard to demonize his opponents (although he will try). Trash-talking is already growing old. There is not much else for Obama to do but face up to the philosophical issue, an issue he often talks about in vague terms such as “capitalism never worked,” “you didn’t build that on your own” and “not go back to the failed old ways.” All of these phrases lean toward the big philosophical issue – do you want freedom and prosperity or do you want security and poverty? Neither theory nor empirics are on Obama’s side in this debate. Nor is a large segment of the American population. If this debate is forced into the open, Obama loses and loses big.
The fiscal condition of this country is downright awful. The problem has grown beyond that which can be solved with a magic economic elixir. Proper economic policies can stop the economic deterioration, but the solution to the crisis necessitates a cutback in government and the welfare state. We spend too much money. We have too much debt. Both conditions must be addressed and remedied if this country is to return to normal economic conditions.
Paul Ryan knows what need be done with respect to government size. I suspect Mitt Romney chose him because of that. Yet the political push-back will be enormous. The math is simple. It is the politics that may be impossible.
I am hopeful given the candidates at this point, although fear politics may derail them.
Ultimately the survival and success of this country do not rest on Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney. Survival depends on rules and constraints. No man should be trusted with the future of his country. Regardless of how “good” a man may be, we must harness him with the limitations imposed by The Constitution. Had we not departed from this document, we would not be facing this existential crisis. Until we return to Constitutionally limited government, we will face continuing crises like the current one. Eventually, one will destroy the country.