May 26, 2011

Hesitating at the Doors of the Ryan Express - a Response to Beldar

Hatched by Dafydd

Today, Beldar came out of the closet: He called for a draft-Chairman-Paul-Ryan (R-WI, 96%)-for-president movement.

But color me skeptical -- not of what Ryan could do in office but of his ability to capture said office in the first place, which is of primary (and general) importance.

Look, I like Paul Ryan, and I love his plan to rescue the budget and economy. But I'm nervous about him being the GOP standard bearer next year -- given that the last time anyone went directly from the House to the White House was James Garfield in 1880.

A representative running for president was of course far more common in the nineteenth century, and the House was held in much higher regard than now. Too, Garfield was a nine-term congressman first elected during the Civil War; and he served for five years as Appropriations Committee chairman. But in 2012, Ryan will be a seven-term congressman who will have served as Budget Committee chairman less than two years. So far, he has not yet shepherded a single major budget or economic bill into law as chairman; and with congressional gridlock, it's unlikely he will before the election.

He has never held any substantive job other than politics (like Obama)... though he did drive the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile during college. (I shudder to imagine Obama's campaign ads!)

Despite Ryan's current stature, on paper Ryan in 2012 could be construed as having even lower qualifications for president than did Obama in 2008, considering House vs. Senate and depending on how many bonus points he gets for his chairmanship.

(I stress this is on paper; obviously I consider him far more qualified in reality. But paper qualifications play a vital role in voters' minds, especially when most of them don't even know who Paul Ryan is.)

He would be the youngest person ever elected president, at 42 years (Kennedy was 43 when elected); Ryan would also be the second youngest ever to serve as president, at 42 years, eleven months, and twenty-two days. (Teddy Roosevelt, who became president following McKinley's assassination at 42 years, ten months, and eighteen days of age, wins that contest by only a scant month.)

Now we all know Ryan would make a wonderful president, lightyears ahead of the fellow currently polluting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave with his half-baked and half-witted Progressivism, like Will Rogers without the charm, patriotism, or rope tricks. But again the problem: Ryan will not get a chance to demonstrate his skill if he isn't elected in the first place.

My worry is that Ryan will easily be painted by the Left as an untested and unqualified callow youth, himself a radical; they will portray his "Roadmap for America's Future" as a Ponzi scheme cooked up by Republicans to dismantle Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; and as we just witnessed in the special election in New York's 26th district, not all Republicans are on board with the "Roadmap."

I believe it will eventually be enacted into law in a post-Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-NV, 75%), post-Obama political environment; and once passed will eventually prove to have been a brilliant idea and help Republicans immeasurably. But I do not believe that it would help the GOP ticket to have the "Roadmap's" sponsor as our presidential nominee; nor would it help getting the requisite Senate pickups to pass it through that body in the first place.

Rather, I worry that voters might recoil from so many drastic changes coming all at once like that, harkening back to all of Obama's drastic changes and how many Americans have come to despise them. I just don't believe the voter will appreciate being whipsawed back and forth between Scylla and Charybdis.

So where do I stand? I think Ryan might be a very good choice for president -- in 2020, as a follow-up to the Republican who is elected next year. Perhaps by then he will have served a term as Gov. of Wisconsin, or at least served as a high-ranking cabinet member, say Secretary of the Treasury or somesuch.

For next year, there is very little chance for a superstar, celebrity, outside-the-box nominee; Gen. David Petraeus looks to be headed for Director of the CIA, thus unavailable for the top job, and I can't think of anyone else with that star power. Therefore, we have to duke it out against the incrumbent on competence, repeal, and normalcy -- that is, a traditional election run against a sitting president.

So for right now, I'd rather see a traditional nominee, someone to sooth the waters and reassure voters that everything is back to norble: a successful governor who isn't a Tea-Party activist, in other words; which more or less narrows the betting line down to Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Rick Perry of Texas, or on a long shot, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (dicey).

We're necessarily rolling the bones next year, because when all is said, Obama is still the incumbent president, with all the power and clout and bully pulpititude appertaining thereto. So for goodness' sake, let's not make it even harder on ourselves by taking one die (executive experience) off the table and trying to make our point with just the other!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 26, 2011, at the time of 6:27 PM

Comments

The following hissed in response by: Beldar

Dafydd, thanks for the link. You raise many interesting points.

I think, however, you substantially under-rate Chairman Ryan's legislative accomplishment in the Path to Prosperity. You say he hasn't "shepherded a single major budget or economic bill into law as chairman" — as if any member of the House could ever do that. Ryan has done what a member of the House has done, which is to say, he's gotten a transformative budget through the House. As you point out in your very next phrase, the division in government would make it impossible as a practical matter for any House Republican to ever do more.

For a number of reasons, I think this is the year for the GOP to be bold in choosing its nominee. This makes me less troubled by some of your reservations that I might otherwise be.

Some of your other points provoke me to observations that I want to muse upon a bit before committing to print, and at least one of them I'm thinking ought form a post of my own soon.

The above hissed in response by: Beldar [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 28, 2011 7:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Beldar:

You say he hasn't "shepherded a single major budget or economic bill into law as chairman" — as if any member of the House could ever do that. Ryan has done what a member of the House has done, which is to say, he's gotten a transformative budget through the House. As you point out in your very next phrase, the division in government would make it impossible as a practical matter for any House Republican to ever do more.

That is my point, Beldar: No GOP member of the House (or Senate) can run for president on his legislative record from 2011-2012, because nothing momentous will be enacted during the 112th Congress, due to legislative gridlock.

But let's suppose, as seems likely, that the Republicans regain the Senate in the next election; and let's suppose, as seems plausible, that they also capture la Casa Blanca. Then a great legislator like Paul Ryan will actually have an environment in which he can spread himself, shepherding wonderful bills like the Roadmap for America's Future/Path to Prosperity (I forget which is the current title) all the way to law. In addition, he will by then have enacted two excellent budgets that give us a strong kick in the pants down that road (or path), assuming the House doesn't roll over for the Senate.

Not only should Ryan repass the House bill in the 113th Congress, he should also head the House delegation to the joint conference and make whatever minor concessions are necessary to bring the Senate majority on board.

I don't know if the Pathmap counts as a budget bill or just a regular bill, but certainly Senate Budget Committee ranking Republican and staunch conservative Jeff Sessions (R-AL, 100%) can craft a budget fully in accord with the Ryan Express... and I believe that budget bills, and appropriations bills covered by the then-current budget bill, are not subject to filibuster: So even with a less-than-60-seat majority, Ryan should be able to get the Pathmap sent to the president, who, one presumes, will sign it into law.

Then in 2020 -- or 2016, if the GOP president chooses not to run -- Paul Ryan would be in a much better position to take the reins and finish the job. He might be running as Governor of Wisconsin, or as an important cabinet secretary, or as a powerful senator, or even as Squeaker of the House, each of which would give him tremendously more visibility and name-rec than he has today, along with demonstrable experience.

But for right now, he's too young, too inexperienced in the House leadership, too little known to voters, and just hasn't paid enough dues. I think he would make much more of an impact barnstorming the country between now and November 2012, holding townhall meetings to sell the Pathmap -- and in the next year, campaigning for fiscally conservative, Tea-Party-loving Republicans for the U.S. Senate.

For a number of reasons, I think this is the year for the GOP to be bold in choosing its nominee.

Bold, absolutely; we need an anti-Obama, not just in policy but in demeanor: (1) Gravitas vs. frivolity; (2) proven competence vs. a pig in a poke with lipstick; and (3) traditional American values and exceptionalism vs. some kooky internationalism that kow-tows to tinhorn dictators and violent Islamist radicals abroad, coupled with an orgy of government spending, taxing, expanding, and regulating at home. Ryan has 1, and he certainly has 3; but what he lacks is 2.

I passionately believe that voters, especially independents, are more upset about Obama's incompetence than his radicalism. They want to be reassured that the next president actually knows how to govern, because he's already demonstrated it.

Dafydd

The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 29, 2011 2:47 PM

The following hissed in response by: Beldar

We agree on a great deal, and I follow your arguments. We simply assign very different weights to Ryan's performance as a House leader (e.g., at Obama's White House Health Care Summit in 2010) and, in particular, as Budget Committee Chair. Writing a budget that addresses entitlements as part of comprehensive tax reform and spending cuts — a budget that drew votes from all but four House Republicans — impresses me more than anything I've seen any other existing or rumored candidate do. They're talking the talk, he's walking the walk. It's no less an accomplishment for the fact that it cannot achieve Senate passage or a presidential signature until January 2013 at the very earliest.

The above hissed in response by: Beldar [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2011 9:33 AM

The following hissed in response by: Beldar

And ping: "Despite history, a Ryan presidential candidacy from the House makes sense for 2012."

The above hissed in response by: Beldar [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 31, 2011 10:39 AM

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