Mitt Romney made a smart executive decision selecting Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. Ryan's genial personality, serious policy wonkery and political courage have dazzled conservatives and won respect even in a few liberal circles. Romney scores points for political courage as well. He knew liberal politicians and journalists would talk in punishing terms about Ryan's budget ideas.
They did not disappoint. It took only minutes for the onslaught to begin. At the same time liberal media outlets acknowledge the country now faces two opposing visions of government, why is only the Romney-Ryan vision "polarizing" and "extreme"?
To be sure, Ryan's early press clips weren't terrible when compared to the immediate viciousness that greeted Sarah Palin four years ago. Still, reporters predictably unloaded with the Freddy-Krueger talk of "budget-slasher" and Ryan "ripping" into the middle class.
Start with ABC's Bianna Golodryga. On Sunday, she announced, "New battle lines have been drawn after Mitt Romney chose conservative congressman and budget-slasher Paul Ryan as his running mate." This is not only wrong, but it's also a classic example of ABC's partisan shamelessness. Golodryga is married to former Obama budget director Peter Orszag.
Then came ABC's David Kerley, unloading all the Democratic-National-Committee talking points: "Sen. Harry Reid claimed that the pick of Ryan caters to the far right rather than standing with the middle class. Others called Ryan extreme. The ticket, a match made in millionaires' heaven. Ryan, the author of disastrous budgets."
The next day, ABC's David Muir added "Ryan is known in the political world for his controversial budget plan that would call for steep cuts and the Obama campaign said it would change Medicare as we know it."
On CNN, Obama-loving Soledad O'Brien asked Gov. Robert McDonnell "how does a Paul Ryan pick help you with that when you look especially at the budget which, you know, looks really closely and rips out a lot of the entitlement spending which will affect the middle class. I think that could be potentially a big problem, wouldn't it?"
On CBS, Bob Schieffer insisted, "There's some really tough stuff in there. I mean, he really slashes into social programs ... in order to try to get this budget back into balance." On NBC, Peter Alexander painted Ryan as "the architect of a politically polarizing budget plan to slash trillions in federal funding, including cuts to Medicare."
All of these claims are blatantly inaccurate. We're told Ryan favors a cut of "$5 trillion over the next ten years," but Ryan's plan would actually increase federal spending over the next 10 years, from about $3.6 trillion this year to just under $4.9 trillion in 2022. Under the supposedly radical Ryan plan, it would take 18 years to achieve a balanced budget. It is why conservatives are uncomfortable with his plan.
Just like the years of Speaker Newt Gingrich, our media routinely smear proposals to reduce the growth of spending as "steep cuts."
The reverse is even more ridiculous. In the current fiscal year, the deficit is $970 billion and is expected to be the fourth trillion-dollar deficit in a row when September ends. Would the media ever describe the spending trajectory under Obama as "steep increases" or a "polarizing expansion of government" or "catering to the far left"? How about describing this dramatic increase as "extreme"?
Why not present these two visions in matching terms? They could. But they shouldn't. By any objective measure, Obama's spending is radical and Ryan's plan, which proposes to slow that extremist spending, is not.
The same thing happens on social issues such as abortion. The conservatives hold "extreme" positions. When Obama holds the exact opposite position, it's never extreme. Andrea Mitchell suggested the Ryan selection would alienate women: "This is not a pick for suburban moms. This is not a pick for women. This is a pick for the base."
Again, the reporter flunks math. Married women have been breaking in favor of the Republicans and favored McCain over Obama in 2008. Feminist Mitchell likes to suggest all "women" naturally favor abortion. But that's simply false.
On ABC, Jake Tapper said Team Obama would emphasize Ryan "is a Catholic and he opposes abortion being illegal even in cases of rape and incest." Memo to ABC: Barack Obama not only supports abortion in every case, he even pushed legislation in Illinois to kill babies who somehow survive an attempted abortion -- "post-birth abortion." Isn't that as "extreme" as it gets? Who is doing the "slashing" or "harsh cuts" in this scenario?
Republicans need enthusiasm in every precinct for their ticket, and it's there right now. But in every election cycle, our so-called mediators in the press make sure the Republican road to victory is "harsh," "steep" and extreme in its perils.
Maybe it's the media's already dismal approval ratings that are in need of a deep cut.