Mark’s Latest Dallas Morning News Column
Paul Ryan offers a one-two punch
12 August 2012
In the days leading up to Paul Ryan’s selection, I joined the “go bold” coalition of Republicans looking for a Romney running mate more riveting than Ohio Sen. Rob Portman or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
This took me to moments when I wistfully imagined Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the VP candidate. I could see a convention floor exploding with appreciation for the values and life story of Rubio or the fighting spirit and winning personality of Christie.
But there is something more important than convention floor adrenaline. It is what happens after the delegates disperse. And while Rubio would have yielded many inspiring moments, and Christie would have been a daily effective sound bite machine, Mitt Romney has made a choice that borrows brilliantly from both wishing wells — the wish for a fresh, exciting face and a solid, established campaign partner.
Paul Ryan is 42 and looks a decade younger, a congressman since the Clinton years, winning his House seat at 28. He has a voting record full of satisfying conservatism and a personal life free of land mines.
He has established a substantial track record, nailing down the trait any running mate should display first: readiness to be president. But he also has fresh-face appeal, climbing to the front of our minds only last year as House Budget Committee chairman.
Since then, his sharp mind on budget matters has won him fans on the right and grudging deference from the left. He has been a loyal booster for Romney and, maybe even more importantly, a thorn in the side of the man they seek to beat.
A YouTube video called “Hiding Spending Doesn’t Reduce Spending” shows a portion of the bipartisan health care summit that Obama thought would be a great idea in February 2010. But its most memorable stretch is the five-minute lecture delivered by Ryan to Obama on why the so-called Affordable Care Act is an unmitigated disaster.
It is not rude. It is not strident. And it cannot be ignored. And after five minutes of surgically but civilly eviscerating Obama’s health care agenda, Ryan looks at the president and at the collection of Republicans and Democrats seated around the table and says:
“We all do town hall meetings, we all talk to our constituents, and I’ve got to tell you, the American people are engaged. And if you think they want a government takeover of health care, I would respectfully submit you’re not listening to them.”
This is the kind of moment that makes one wish for Ryan to skip a meaningless debate stage with Joe Biden and debate Obama himself.
Both Romney and Ryan will be arguing against the Obama agenda for the next 12 weeks, finding fault with the spending that cripples our finances and the culture of dependency that cripples our spirit.
The response will be the slander that Romney and Ryan’s reforms are meant to hurt people. The GOP ticket’s task is to find a tasteful way to call liars liars. Failure to reform entitlements will mean they will run out of money and vanish, along with what is left of our national fiscal structure. A healthy debate over what reforms are best would be welcome. Malicious taunts are not, and the shameful super PAC ad linking Romney’s record to a woman’s death — clearly condoned by the Obama campaign — shows how low it is willing to go.
Now that the full stage is set, this would be a good time for the president to become the thoughtful, post-partisan figure he promised to be in 2008. If he can finally live up to that, voters might actually get a substantive campaign that offers real choices based on the issues.