Guy Benson

GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan delivered exceptionally strong remarks in Tampa tonight, capping off an incredible hour of nationally-televised speeches from Republican headliners.  The construction and tone of Ryan's address was masterful.  He was serious, earnest, likeable -- and he took apart President Obama's record with great skill and relish.  The Congressman opened with a stark assessment of the dismal campaign President Obama has been forced to run, due to his failed record in office:
 

I’m the newcomer to the campaign, so let me share a first impression.  I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power.  They’ve run out of ideas.  Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.  With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money – and he’s pretty experienced at that.  You see, some people can’t be dragged down by the usual cheap tactics, because their ability, character, and plain decency are so obvious – and ladies and gentlemen, that is Mitt Romney.


The Wisconsin native spoke about his family and upbringing, introducing his wife and young children, as well as his mother -- whom he called his "role model."  On a policy level, he ticked down the list of the current administration's misfires, mistakes and mendacity; he hit the stimulus, Solyndra, unemployment, the credit downgrade, and Obama's inexpiable abdication of leadership on deficits and debt.  Ryan really warmed to his task as he spelled out the case against Obamacare:
 

Maybe the greatest waste of all was time. Here we were, faced with a massive job crisis – so deep that if everyone out of work stood in single file, that unemployment line would stretch the length of the entire American continent.  You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation, and nothing else, his first order of economic business.  But this president didn’t do that.  Instead, we got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care. Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country.  The president has declared that the debate over government-controlled health care is over.  That will come as news to the millions of Americans who will elect Mitt Romney so we can repeal Obamacare.


He then transitioned into an aggressive, excellent passage about saving Medicare, underscoring Obamacare's cynical ploy to rob one broke entitlement program to fund another.  Powerful, and necessary:
 

And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn’t have enough money.  They needed more.  They needed hundreds of billions more.  So, they just took it all away from Medicare.  Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.  An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for.  The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it. 

In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville.  My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer’s and moved in with Mom and me.  Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved.  We had help from Medicare, and it was there, just like it’s there for my Mom today.  Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it.  A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours. So our opponents can consider themselves on notice.  In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the Left isn’t going to work.  Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program, and raiding it.  Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate.  We want this debate.  We will win this debate. 


And thus began the single most direct and intense take-down of President Obama's record we've seen from the RNC rostrum.  Its core strength is pitting Obama's empirical results against the soaring promises and words he used to get elected:
 

Obamacare, as much as anything else, explains why a presidency that began with such anticipation now comes to such a disappointing close. It began with a financial crisis; it ends with a job crisis.  It began with a housing crisis they alone didn’t cause; it ends with a housing crisis they didn’t correct.  It began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America.  It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new.  Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.  President Obama was asked not long ago to reflect on any mistakes he might have made.  He said, well, “I haven’t communicated enough.”  He said his job is to “tell a story to the American people” – as if that’s the whole problem here? He needs to talk more, and we need to be better listeners?   

Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House.  What’s missing is leadership in the White House.  And the story that Barack Obama does tell, forever shifting blame to the last administration, is getting old.  The man assumed office almost four years ago – isn’t it about time he assumed responsibility? In this generation, a defining responsibility of government is to steer our nation clear of a debt crisis while there is still time.  Back in 2008, candidate Obama called a $10 trillion national debt “unpatriotic” – serious talk from what looked to be a serious reformer.  Yet by his own decisions, President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him, and more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined.  One president, one term, $5 trillion in new debt.  He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report.  He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.  Republicans stepped up with good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems.  How did the president respond?  By doing nothing – nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue. So here we are, $16 trillion in debt and still he does nothing.  In Europe, massive debts have put entire governments at risk of collapse, and still he does nothing. And all we have heard from this president and his team are attacks on anyone who dares to point out the obvious.  They have no answer to this simple reality: We need to stop spending money we don’t have.


Ryan also made a play for young voters, which included a gem of a line:
 

College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.  Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now.  And I hope you understand this too, if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you. None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers – a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us. Listen to the way we’re spoken to already, as if everyone is stuck in some class or station in life, victims of circumstances beyond our control, with government there to help us cope with our fate.  It’s the exact opposite of everything I learned growing up in Wisconsin, or at college in Ohio.  When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life.  I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself.  That’s what we do in this country.  That’s the American Dream.  That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.

 
Ryan described the generational differences between himself and Mitt Romney, including this cheeky jab:
 

We’re a full generation apart, Governor Romney and I. And, in some ways, we’re a little different.  There are the songs on his iPod, which I’ve heard on the campaign bus and on many hotel elevators. He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies.  I said, I hope it’s not a deal-breaker Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC, and ends with Zeppelin.


The broader point, he said, is that Romney and he are bound together by shared values and a shared vision for the future.  He closed with a series of pledges to voters, one building atop the other as the crowd roared louder and louder.  The crescendo peaked with the most thunderous din we've heard inside this building all week:
 

The right that makes all the difference now, is the right to choose our own leaders.  And you are entitled to the clearest possible choice, because the time for choosing is drawing near.  So here is our pledge. We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead.  We will not spend four years blaming others, we will take responsibility.  We will not try to replace our founding principles, we will reapply our founding principles. The work ahead will be hard.  These times demand the best of us – all of us, but we can do this.  Together, we can do this. We can get this country working again.  We can get this economy growing again.  We can make the safety net safe again.  We can do this.  Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country.  Join Mitt Romney and me.  Let’s give this effort everything we have.  Let’s see this through all the way.  Let’s get this done.


A tremendously well-crafted address, delivered more than adequately by a man who's not especially accustomed to prepared remarks and teleprompters -- as his introductory speech demonstrated.  It was at once an optimistic ode to a brighter American future and a scathing indictment of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  His speech planted a giant exclamation point at the end of a memorable and extremely effective 10pm hour.  Some credit is due to Mike Huckabee, who pulled the audience out of its relative slumber with an energetic and funny speech, promoting his one-time foe as the man to defeat the president.  Huck has a light touch, and he used it to set the table for the big three.  Up next was Condoleezza Rice, whose true tour de force threatened to overshadow the speakers who followed her.  The audience enveloped her with respect and admiration, interrupting her remarks with applause frequently. Her speech was visionary and forward-looking.  It was sober.  It never directly criticized the president, but delivered several blows with a velvet glove.  Her final anecdote of growing up in the segregated South and relying on hard work and integrity to eventually become US Secretary of State was goosebumps-inducing.  Gov. Susana Martinez also performed with charm and aplomb, speaking with an ease and genuineness that filled the hall.  Her story about discovering she was a conservative was a highlight.  She said she turned to her husband after a lengthy political discussion and said, "I'll be damned.  We're Republicans!"  It brought the house down.  The Romney campaign must be absolutely ecstatic with how Wednesday evening unfolded.  Thursday night holds the final hurdle to a successful campaign: The message from the man himself.  Governor Romney will enjoy the biggest stage and largest political audience of his life.  Stay tuned.


UPDATE- Video added.  This is why there are some nervous folks in Chicago tonight:
 




Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography