WASHINGTON -- One of Mitt Romney's top pitches to the American public in his bid for president is the private-sector experience he says is needed to turn the economy around. In May, Romney even said he'd like to see a constitutional amendment requiring any presidential candidate to have worked in the private sector for at least three years.
But the man Romney chose to put a heartbeat away from the presidency, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), has spent the vast majority of his working life in the public sector. Many presidential and vice presidential candidates have similar backgrounds, of course, but public-sector experience is not high among the criteria that Romney has put forward.
As Jonathan Martin at Politico recently wrote, Ryan's private-sector experience amounts to: "Flipping burgers at McDonald’s, steering the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, slinging cheap margaritas, and toning abs and pecs."
But in a Sunday interview with "Fox News Sunday," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) defended Ryan's experience, contrasting it with President Obama's background.
"First of all, someone will have to tell me what experience President Obama has in the private sector, which he has amply shown he is abysmally ignorant of," said McCain. "But Paul Ryan brings the balance of understanding how the Congress works, understanding how the budget process works and understanding the entire process and established relationships that I think will make him most effective in getting the Mitt Romney agenda through the Congress."
Obama actually has worked for 11 for-profit businesses. His private-sector experience includes time spent as a construction worker, a research assistant job with the Business International Corporation and several jobs at law firms.
Obama's time was not spent in the corporate boardroom, as Romney's was. But Ryan's wasn't either. He was a fitness trainer, a waiter, an Oscar Mayer salesman and a marketing consultant for his family's business.
Before Ryan was named as his running mate, Romney repeatedly said that he wanted someone who was ready to step into the Oval Office and could help him govern. The choice of Ryan shows that Romney may have moved away from his own earlier requirement of a strong private-sector background. As ThinkProgress has noted, both Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt would likely have been disqualified from serving as president under Romney's proposed amendment.
McCain, for his part, has devoted his life to serving the country in a public capacity, as a member of the military and as a lawmaker.
Reactions to Romney's choice of Ryan as his running mate:
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