Mitt Romney just made it double or nothing.
His pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate is not only the bravest move of his political career, but the bravest pick of any running mate ever. Mitt Romney is essentially betting not only his entire career on November, but betting the entire future of the country on it as well.
Americans now have a clearer choice than they did before; voting for Mitt Romney is no longer voting for Anybody Palatable But Obama, but for an entirely different world view.
Because the stakes are now so much higher, I love this pick; it’s a stroke of genius. Paul Ryan is an amazing leader in Washington, one of the smartest and nicest guys in town. He’s a perfect fit for Mitt Romney, too. Like Governor Romney, Ryan is a brilliant economic thinker, a dedicated and honorable family man, and an articulate proponent of rational, conservative principles.
Last week, this race was about President Barack Obama. Now this race is about the future of America. Romney is gambling the entire conservative brand on November, and giving America a choice: if they really want Bismarckian statism, then they can have it. Or, if they want prosperity and freedom, they can have that back too. Romney is thinking very long-term, like a true leader should.
A lot of people on both sides have called this a risky move; they are right. But that is why it is so brilliant: if America is going down, it’s at least going down swinging. If Obama is re-elected, and we continue on the path that we are on, within a decade the interest on our debt will be larger than our military spending, and large enough to fund the entire Chinese military. Within a decade, America will no longer be able to hide that it has lost its dominance. When a future Gibbon looks backs through the rubble, he will at least be able to say that the good guys gave it one last shot.
Romney was not reckless; however, he knew that President Obama was already going to attack him for associating with Paul Ryan. The Republican House has already passed two Ryan budgets, and Obama is hoping to run against the Republican House: David Axelrod was already sharpening his guilt-by-association fallacy.
It is a testament to Ryan’s influence that his name was almost a litmus test during the debates and during the primaries. President Obama’s hyperventilating about the Ryan budgets as “thinly veiled Social Darwinism” and a “Trojan horse,” and “you’re-on-your-own economics” only demonstrate the President’s extremism, not Chairman Ryan’s. How many people voted for Obama’s budget? No one: not Barney Frank, not Maxine Waters, not Henry Waxman. You can pick any Democrat in Congress and Obama is still to their left.
Romney knew that he was going to be pilloried and abused as a Social Darwinist already: it must have occurred to him, why run from it?
In Washington, you eventually learn not to worry about what people say about you, because your opponents will rationalize everything their way anyhow. If Romney had picked Portman, then they would have called Romney a coward who approves of Bush’s budget director. If he had picked Rubio, they would have said Romney caved to conventional wisdom. It’s just the way campaigns work: no matter what you do, you will be attacked.
One reasonable objection; however, might be that you want a guy like Ryan in the House, where he has risen by sheer merit to a leadership role. Reportedly, Ryan even turned down a job as OMB director for President Bush. But Ryan is already term-limited out of staying on as Budget Committee Chairman; would you put him on Appropriations? Ways and Means? What would you do with him? His effectiveness would be diminished in the supporting role which he must now take on.
Therefore, Ryan as Vice-President is a perfect match. He shares many good qualities with Romney, and compliments the few that he lacks. The job of an executive is to make decisions, and Romney has demonstrated a brilliant judgment. It took courage for Romney to pick Ryan, and there has been no better example of courage in Washington than the Budget Chairman.
And no one should question whether or not Ryan is qualified for the job. Put Ryan beside President Obama. One is a dorky numbers guy; one is an entertainer. One is all substance, one is all style. We will know in November which one we should choose, and we again will therefore know who we are.