"Our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course," said Ryan, whose number-crunching knack clearly appealed to fellow numbers-cruncher Romney.
Defense spending accounted for 39 percent of the federal budget in 1970, said Ryan (who was born that year), but accounts for only 16 percent today. Under current budget pressures, it is at risk of going far lower.
Ryan referenced Princeton scholar Aaron Friedberg's book "The Weary Titan," on how Britain ceded world leadership a century ago in the face of economic pressures. He pointed out that while Britain could assume that the United States, with similar values and goals, might take up the burden, we have no similar fallback today.
Ryan acknowledged that our long-term dedication to freedom and democracy must sometimes yield to short-term interests. But that dedication, not occasional accommodations, must be our lodestar.
As Stephens argues, this puts Ryan much more than Barack Obama in line with the examples set by Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan and -- dangerous to say it -- George W. Bush.
Romney takes the same approach on this, and on the other valuable quality Ryan brings to the Republican ticket.
And that is his solid mooring in the lessons of America's Founding Fathers. "America is an idea," Ryan said, that "our rights come to us from God and nature," rights that "belong to every person everywhere."
This election can be seen as a contest between the Founders' ideas and those of the Progressives, who saw the Founders as outmoded in an industrial era.
Ryan strengthens Romney in his invocation of the Founders. Obama is stuck with the tinny and outdated debunking of the Progressives. Which rings truer today?