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Allan Brawley Headshot

Paul Ryan - A Heartbeat Away From the Presidency?

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By all accounts, Paul Ryan is a nice guy. Based on the background information coming out about him, he is also a good Catholic family man. People who have worked with him think he is pretty smart -- the intellectual leader of the extreme right of the Republican Party - which probably means that his IQ is over 100 -- smarter than Sarah Palin, certainly. But, let's pause a minute before we accede to the supposed sterling qualities of Mitt Romney's newly announced running mate. Let's look a little closer at this election cycle's version of Republican Party wunderkind and base energizer.

First of all, let's see if he is any better prepared than Palin was to be the nation's commander-in-chief and leader of the free world, in the event that Romney, if elected, is unable to serve out his term. Is Ryan the type of person we want a heartbeat away from the presidency? A self-proclaimed domestic policy wonk, he has no international, defense or national security interests or experience. This equates perfectly with the serious gaps in Romney's own credentials which alone should give us pause about sending this duo to the White House.

But there is more. Ryan, this supposedly observant Catholic, has made a name for himself by using his Tea Party-supported chairmanship of the House Budget Committee to craft a budget that the Catholic Bishops have denounced as immoral, given its potential impact on the most vulnerable members of society. It has also provoked a cross-country bus trip by Catholic nuns intent on dramatizing the inhumanity and immorality of what is happening to the poor in America today and how the Ryan budget would make matters immeasurably worse. In essence, it would inflict further deprivation on the least among us while protecting the most wealthy from any significant sacrifice. Both the leadership of the Catholic community and those at the front lines of service to the needy are urging Congressional leaders, like Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner, to act in accordance with the teachings of their faith. Regrettably, they have been ignored by Ryan and the rest.

So why isn't Ryan doing what the tenets of his faith dictate? How did he get so far out of step with the leaders of his church? Well, it turns out that he got into politics after reading the works of someone who scorned religion in all its forms and hated government. Ryan claims that author Ayn Rand had the greatest impact on his thinking about how the world works, including economics, despite the fact that she was a fiction writer. Her views propelled him into public service, he has claimed.

And who is Ayn Rand? Well, aside from being an anti-religion and anti-government fanatic, she is best known for promoting the idea that business tycoons are supermen and all the rest of us are pretty worthless or what she called "moochers." I guess Ryan sees Romney as the real-life model of John Galt, the hero of her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, and maybe he, Ryan, is his heir apparent. It certainly fits in the case of Romney but is hard to see in the case of Ryan, a person with a middle-class background who has spent his whole career in government service. Nevertheless, the misanthropic and morally challenged Rand is his guiding light and, apparently, her twisted views of the world justify his championing the cause of the super rich at the expense of everyone else, contrary to the teachings of his faith.

So, they say he is a nice guy -- smart too. But flexible, a person willing to work with others, he is not. Ask Speaker Boehner how flexible he is or the Democratic members of the committee he chairs. Does he have record of being willing to seek common ground with people who have a different take on things? Certainly not. He is an ideologue, in fact. He has reveled in being the point man for the take-no-prisoners Tea Party zealots who have held Boehner and the rest of the House -- and, by extension, the nation -- hostage to their totally inflexible positions on everything regarding taxes and deficits. He is the ultimate deficit and fiscal hawk, no matter what suffering it causes to the most vulnerable members of society or what damage it does to the country as whole, while requiring little or no sacrifice on the part of the most wealthy.

Nice guy? Maybe. But do we need an Ayn Rand disciple and Tea Party zealot reinforcing the selfishness of a President Romney and his ultra-rich cronies, while shredding the social safety net for our country's most vulnerable citizens? I don't think so. And what about Paul Ryan being a heartbeat away from the presidency? Definitely not.