It's been about a week-and-a-half now since Mitt Romney announced his running mate, Paul Ryan. The announcement came on the day I was leaving for Libya, so I haven't yet commented in this blog on the pick. So here goes.
First of all, you may remember that I blogged some months ago (April 11th to be exact) that I thought Senator Rob Portman would be a great choice for Vice President. As I'd commented then, Rob is honest, hard-working, smart, detail-oriented, a great debater (both John McCain and Dick Cheney chose Rob to prepare them for their debates), and would clearly help to carry the key swing state of Ohio. Further, I'd mentioned that if, God forbid, tragedy befell a Romney Administration and the Vice President had to step in, there would be no one more prepared to take on the awesome responsibilities of President of the United States than Rob Portman.
As far as I'm concerned, those things were all true then, and are just as true to this day.
Of course, Mitt decided to go in a different direction. He chose 42-year-old Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Here are my thoughts.
Some Democrats are salivating over the choice, because they think they'll be able to successfully revive their MediSCARE campaign against Paul Ryan, and by association, against all Republican candidates this fall. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan proposed a budget (the Ryan Budget), which among other things included reforms to the Medicare program designed to save it from going bankrupt (which will occur if we do nothing.) The ever-helpful Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, rather than work in a bipartisan manner to save Medicare, have participated in a partisan attack on Republicans of epic proportions. One of their liberal ally groups last year ran a TV ad of a Paul Ryan look-alike pushing an elderly woman over a cliff. They're truly shameless.
The truth is, if you're looking for deep cuts in Medicare, you'll find them in Obamacare. The President's health care bill cuts Medicare by over a half trillion dollars in order to partially pay for this massive federal takeover of health care in America.
Back to Paul Ryan. Despite the Democrats' salivation, and some Republicans who also worry that the coming barrage of MediSCARE ads will hurt Republicans this year (the Wall Street Journal has derisively referred to them as the "Republican bedwetter caucus"), I believe Paul Ryan adds a great deal to the ticket.
He's young, energetic, smart as a whip, understands economic and budget issues inside and out, is beloved by a broad section of the Republican base, and comes from a key state (although I'd of course argue that Ohio is more key) which is usually dependably Democratic, and Paul Ryan's choice may now put it in play. So, Mitt, well done.
Perhaps the thing I like most about the Ryan pick is that it has at least the potential to shift this Presidential race into one about "big issues." Too often, Presidential races end up being a series of skirmishes about trivialities, verbal gaffes, and he said, he (or she) said, distractions. And prior to Ryan's addition to the ticket, this one unfortunately seemed to be headed down that road.
Maybe, just maybe, this one will be different. Maybe it will truly be about the America we want for our children, and our grandchildren. Maybe it will be about how our nation can better compete, and prevail, in the world market. Maybe it will be about the appropriate size and scope of government. Maybe it will be about how we can responsibly preserve and strengthen critical programs like Social Security and Medicare, without digging ourselves deeper and deeper into unsustainable debt.
We can only hope.