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Romney’s foot problem

What exactly are Romney’s credentials for running? Years of stellar public service? Vision? Intelligence? Charisma? Maybe not. But he can be funny, or at least mildly entertaining, as soon as he speaks in public and bam! in goes his foot into his mouth. His campaign people have become proficient at untangling him from that uncomfortable position and doing damage control–which, as in all such situations for anyone in public office, boils down to, “well yes, he/she said that but it was taken out of context. What he/she meant was…” Now, Romney has possibly developed another foot problem, this one with more serious consequences: shooting it. He achieved that with his pick for running mate, Paul Ryan.

By all accounts, Congressman Ryan is a likable, courteous, energetic individual and he’s supposed to be good with numbers. He also comes from good stock. The spoon in his mouth at birth may not have been platinum like Romney’s but it was at least silver. He attended good schools, then grew into the typical Washington establishment wonk, becoming a member of Congress at 28 and remaining so for the last 13 years, perhaps not the best vantage point for sharing the reality of daily struggles—financial and others—that a great many Americans face.

In introducing him as his running mate in Norfolk, Virginia, Romney hit us with a superlative double-whammy when, having just shot himself in one foot by picking Ryan, he limped on to that platform and proceeded to put his other foot in his mouth by presenting “the next president of the United States.” Good sport, he laughed and corrected himself but one can wonder at the Freudian slip. Is the campaign wear and tear beginning to get to him?

But back to Ryan and his touted finance expertise. He, like Romney, blames the federal government for both deficit and budget imbalance for which, they imply, Obama is single-handedly responsible. No president before him and certainly no Republican president would ever come up with such socialist ideas as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, and now the healthcare reform. (Never mind that Romney’s healthcare plan for Massachusetts was very similar to Obama’s). No president before Obama would ever, ever come up with the stupid idea that the federal government has a role to play in the political, economic, and social life of the country. Actually, why a federal government at all when we have states? In the view of Tea Partiers–Romney and Ryan’s base–Obama, closeted communist, stealth Islamist, Kenyan to boot, is intent on destroying America brick by brick and person by person by creating a nation of welfare recipients, of illegal immigrants, of lazy good-for-nothings who suck the marrow out of the bones of upright citizens.

Putting Ryan on the ticket was the best possible choice for Republicans who have instantly been invigorated and have turned from despondent to hopeful. But they were going to vote for Romney anyway. The problem is everyone else. Even if the two men don’t come out and say it outright, Ryan, like Romney, considers being poor or/and unemployed as un-American. The unspoken message is, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, there’s work if you want it. Look at us, aren’t we doing great? As for the old, they’re costing the country too much; why don’t they curl up and die already? As one-half of the Comeback Team, Ryan will get rid of parasites, plus he’ll balance the budget and reduce the deficit, no problem. Don’t ask for a firm date, though; he’ll do it, that’s all you need to know at this point.

But the poor vote and so do the unemployed and so do the elderly and so do Democrats. So do, presumably, the members of the group Rage Against the Machine who have sharply told off Ryan as a fan, (same message Silversun Pickups’ lawyer sent Romney). So do, come election time, independents and the undecided, some of whom will necessarily vote Obama. At this point, barring unforeseen events, it doesn’t look as though Romney stands much of a chance and Ryan, charismatic and intriguing though he may be, will possibly scare off more voters than he will win. Good! Come November 3rd, Romney can go back to whatever it was he was doing—as far as I can tell, making pots of money—and regain full use of both his feet.

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  1. Narguesse Stevens
    August 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Good stuff, and the final paragraph is spot on – as usual!

    Like

  2. foobar
    August 19, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Romney will lose. The only remaining question is whether his loss will be as large (in the electoral college) as Mr. McCain’s loss in 2008. As for Mr. Ryan, take heart; the only losing Vice Presidential candidate in the modern era to subsequently win the nomination and election to become President was FDR. Details on why Romney will lose as well as details on the last losing-winning Vice Presidential candiate at fivethirtyeight.com

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  3. MB
    August 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Loved the part about R&R considering “being poor or/and unemployed as un-American.”

    Like

  4. August 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    As the late labor leader George Meany liked to say about such comments, “The wish was the father to the thought.”

    Swing voters are estimated to be about 3-5% of the electorate. They will determine the outcome of the coming election. Evidently neither you nor most of your fans here are among them. (I am.)

    Given the high level of public disapproval of Obama, the Democrats, their policies, and the direction of the country, this election was the GOP’s to lose. It seems to have made a heroic effort over the last several months to do just that.

    The Republican Party is deeply fractured and has been working against itself as a result of the ‘tea party’ faction, a Paul-ist libertarian insurgency (not the same as the tea party), and some other divisions. (The Democratic Party also is divided among at least three conflicting factions, but their conflict has not yet become so internecine.)

    While perhaps cynical, it also may be accurate to give Obama credit for this outcome: The bloated, ill-timed, flawed, and dishonest Obamacare legislation, passed only on a legislative technicality, so infuriated the majority of the electorate that it provoked the rise of the mis-named ‘tea party’ rebellion which has crippled not only the GOP but the Congress.

    BTW, the ‘tea party’ is mis-named because it bears more similarity historically to Shays’ Rebellion — which was against the taxes levied by the new government of the United States (taxes imposed ‘with’ representation) to pay off the national debt incurred by the costs of the Revolutionary War.

    While it started as nominally bipartisan, ‘tea party’ energy mainly became focused on the GOP which, during its reign between 2001 and 2009, seemed to have become too much like the Democrats: running up deficits and debt, lavishing taxpayer dollars on pork barrel projects, pandering to lobbyists, rewarding cronies, creating a costly social welfare benefit — the Medicare drug program — and bailing out Wall Street. The tea partiers have had some success targeting and winning some GOP congressional seats (or at least primaries), enough to make it almost impossible for the party’s leaders to actually lead.

    Which brings us back to the subject: Paul Ryan. Ryan is thought to be a favorite of the tea party faction. As Ezra Klein and other analysts have pointed out, this is more than a bit ironic. Ryan was a member of Congress long before the tea party was born and his voting record was in line with most of GOP actions the tea partiers find execrable. And Ryan’s supposedly radical budget plan fails to balance the federal budget for 28 years, which is effectively never. Contrast that with the platform of the current coalition (Conservative-Liberal) government in London to eliminate the UK’s deficit by 2014-15 and then start reducing the country’s public debt/gdp ratio from its current level of about 62% (the US is over 75% and rising rapidly).

    Given the mess that is the GOP these days, Romney did not have a lot of better choices for running mate. Jindal I think might have been a bit better, having a substantial record in executive offices, rather than as a legislator. A rule of thumb is that legislators are handicapped as candidates because they have a voting record they have to defend. Jindal also has the credentialed evidence of a brilliant mind, with extensive expertise in the important health care area. He was unlikely to overshadow Romney on the charisma scale, but would have added an element of ethnic diversity.

    The benefit of Ryan on the ticket for Obama’s purposes is that he focuses attention on Medicare, and the Obamacare and fiscal issues more broadly. Because Ryan’s budget plan proposed reforming Medicare toward premium subsidy instead of entitlement, it is thought to be toxic to the AARP faction of voters, and hence likely to cost Romney the chance to win crucial Florida, as well as Iowa and some other states with large senior populations.

    But those factors are also to some extent liabilities to the Democrats. Ryan’s secelction immediately has shifted campaign talk away from Ann Romney’s horse and Mitt’s record at Bain back onto substantive economic and policy issues that actually affect most voters’ lives. It reminds the public that Obamacare cuts $700 billion from Medicare spending. Awkwardly for Romney, so did Ryan’s plan, but every time the Democrats bring that up it points back to their own Medicare cuts.

    At the moment, Obama seems likely to win. But events could change that. The euro zone and the European welfare states continue to unravel. Europe is already entering another recession and is undermining the US recovery. When the euro fails, the downdraft will be even stronger and likely will pull the US and world economies into another sharp decline. Volatile events in the Middle East may accelerate the downturn. If the crash comes before November, the US electorate is likely to follow the pattern in Europe and elsewhere, and throw incumbents out of office — to punish the latter and give their opponents a chance to do better or at least something different.

    Regardless of who wins the White House, the GOP is likely to retain control of the House and to gain some majority of the Senate, though probably not the 60 seats needed to pass most legislation.

    If Obama wins, he will find himself with little to do for the subsequent 2-4 years besides vetoing legislation.

    Obama made many campaign promises in 2008 — like closing the Quantanamo prison — that proved impossible to implement in practice once he had responsibility for actually governing. If Romney wins, he will find himself confronted with festering problems for which bumper-sticker solutions are of little or no use. He will have to improvise, which his skill set and experience seem well adapted to. But like Jimmy Carter, he will find himself besieged by the puritans in his own party who disdain pragmatism and anything hinting of bipartisan collaboration.

    Either way, the rest of us mere citizens are unlikely to be singing “Happy days are here again” any time soon.

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    • August 21, 2012 at 3:43 am

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. You’re right, we may not be singing “Happy days are here again” for a while but as men and women of good will, which I hope we are, we can try to get some civil and sensible political discourse in and do away from the ranting on all sides. Things have become far too complex and issues too intricate for any easy solution or formula and for any one party or any one candidate to have all the answers.

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  5. October 14, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Wise as usual.

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