Saturday afternoon Mitt Romney excitedly introduced his vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, as "the next president of the United States!" It was more than just the usual Romney verbal gaffe. In putting the Wisconsin Congressman on the ticket, the presumptive Republican nominee signaled a supreme lack of confidence in his campaign and simultaneously broke two cardinal rules of presidential politics: never name someone who has more juice than you, and whose positions are more radical than yours. Positions which will dominate the debate. As a result, August 11th will long be remembered as the day Romney unofficially lost the election.
Ryan's got the juice alright, but it's the kind which makes only the party's base salivate. He's a star, but given his extremist views it's more porn than rock. His controversial budget would end Medicare as we know it, turning it from a government guarantee to a voucher program which, as the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed, would shift about $6400 in health care expenses to the average senior citizen.
Ryan's voting record in Congress is enough to make independents run for the hills of Obama Mountain. He's voted for steep educational cuts involving Head Start and college aid; for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; for school prayer; against gay adoptions; against a hate-crimes law; against abortion; against gun control; against raising the minimum wage; and against the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.
BarackObama.com, the president's official website, accuses Ryan of "taking us backward" on women's health and equal rights issues: "Ryan co-sponsored a bill that could ban in-vitro fertilization, as well as many common forms of birth control, including the pill. It could also ban all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. He supported letting states prosecute women who have abortions and doctors who perform them. Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps women fight for equal pay for equal work. He voted against repealing the discriminatory policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and supports writing discrimination into the Constitution by amending it to ban gay marriage. "
As a Congressman, Ryan has been a faithful rubber-stamp of the reckless economic policies of the Bush administration. We've seen how, from 2000-2008, the combination of deep tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations along with less government regulation led to the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression. Policies which failed miserably yet are the backbone of the GOP and in particular, the Romney/Ryan campaign. If Ryan has his way, there'll be huge, debilitating cuts to everything including education, the arts, law enforcement, libraries, food inspections, Amtrak and other transportation, highway construction and other infrastructure projects. Romney has just taken ownership of a budget with an attack on Medicare which Newt Gingrich referred to as "right-wing social engineering" and which House Speaker John Boehner fears could have wide political ramifications....as evidenced by the polls which show that a majority of Republicans, and 70% of Tea Party voters, do not support Ryan's Medicare plan. When Gingrich calls you radical you know you're in trouble.
But get this: before he was elected to Congress Ryan worked in his family business, Ryan Inc. Central, a construction firm his great-grandfather founded in 1884. It's always the sons of privilege like Romney and Ryan who lack empathy for those in need and who abhor government spending which helps those who don't have rich daddies to give them jobs. It's always the silver-spooners with the biggest family handouts who resent government aid the most.
But back to the ticket.. The real issue, the only issue, that truly matters is whether Paul Ryan is Sarah Palin 2.0: an arrogant, self-proclaimed "Young Gun" who's a too young, too brash, inexperienced, foreign-policy neophyte who's simply not ready to be president should something happen to his boss.
Obama has spent the Summer successfully beating Romney to a pulp as the rich, out-of-touch elitist with the dubious tax history and offshore shelters, and recent polls show it's worked. Romney's approval numbers have tanked, while Obama's pulled appreciably ahead in several key swing states and grown his overall lead. And now Team Obama will spend the next two and half months hammering Ryan and his radical positions, and I suspect the outcome will be exactly the same.