Rightbloggers Rejoice as Ryan Revives Romney, Reaganesquely
The ideologically fluid Mitt Romney surprised a lot of people this weekend by choosing as his Vice-Presidential running mate Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a hardcore conservative best known for frightening off independent voters.
Democrats portrayed the choice as a gift. So did rightbloggers, often for the same reasons. The factors on which Democrats find Ryan vulnerable (transforming Medicare into a "premium support" program, even bigger tax breaks for the rich, etc.) rightbloggers consider strengths, and they assume ordinary Americans will be just as turned on by the choice as they are -- so long as the Dems' negative characterizations of Ryan can be counteracted by some ferocious rah-rah.
Covering Ryan's unveiling for National Review, Robert Costa did a bang-up job, remarking on the scene, "It feels like the Fourth of July, or Veterans Day. 'Patriotism' and 'upbeat' are the two words that spring to mind." A plane running overhead with an anti-Romney streamer he described as "taunting the crowd, which is mostly families and veterans"; a speech by "Governor McDonnell, a onetime vice-presidential contender and a veteran" mentions that "the GOP ticket has a 'Reagan-Romney' vision."
Despite Costa's self-evident buy-in, he admitted Ryan himself "may not be a rousing speaker," but said of Ryan and his wife that "the chemistry between the pair was evident, but what really made an impression was the reaction of veterans and suburban moms to Ryan."
"So what about Republicans and other Romney supporters who don't think much of the pick? What should they do?" said Professor William Jacobson. "How about this: Shut up... Your either are with Ryan or against him. And if you're against him publicly, then you're with Obama."
The scolding was unneeded. Even rightbloggers who'd been lukewarm toward Romney were psyched by the addition of Ryan. Though the Congressman's manner when he explains his Medicare cuts reminds us of a corporate trainer teaching insurance people how to deny claims, rightbloggers considered him a rock star.
"Ryan is a master salesman -- he could sell a drowning man a bowling ball" was Christian Schneider's unfortunate analogy at National Review. Even worse: "If any elected official in America can sugarcoat the need to slow government's growth, it is the man from Wisconsin whose wedding announcement noted he 'does his own skinning and butchering and makes his own Polish sausage and bratwurst.'"
"He will get all the attention Palin did and more, and it will help our side," said Richard Baehr of American Thinker, without saying why it should be different this time. "He's got Sarah Palin's credentials with them without any of her (to me adorable) drawbacks," gushed John O'Sullivan at National Review. "He's either Sarah-heavy or Palin-Lite, whichever you prefer. Which means he doesn't grate culturally on non-Middle America." (Of course, Ryan hasn't had a reality show yet.)
"Well, look, the 'gender gap' will evaporate instantly now that Paul Ryan's on the ticket," declared Robert Stacy McCain. "Trust me on this -- chicks dig him. It was like Sinatra with a crowd of bobby soxers at the Paramount in 1944. Elvis at the Overton Park bandshell in Memphis in 1956. Total swoonsville." McCain went on to celebrate the "tall blue-eyed GOP running mate" and "the square-jawed presidential candidate" with his "magnetic smile," so maybe he was just projecting.
Several rightbloggers predicted that Ryan would help not only in Wisconsin, but in all contiguous states, because, as American Thinker's Thomas Lifson put it, "he exemplifies characteristics in which Midwesterners take pride"
"I suspect Romney chose Ryan to help him run a better and stronger version of the campaign he has already been running," said National Review's Yuval Levin -- that is, a campaign that "uses its own policy proposals to convey a sense of competence and direction more than to broadcast very specific intentions," he said. "Romney knows that he has largely failed to convey that sense so far..."
So, how does adding Ryan "convey a sense" without "very specific intentions" more successfully? "I'm not sure it will mean that the campaign puts out more detailed alternatives to Obamacare or a more fully fleshed out tax or education plan," said Levin; also, "attempts to tie Romney to some specific long-term spending cuts in the Ryan budget don't seem that plausible either -- is a presidential candidate liable for every position his running mate has held?" Levin continued, compulsively it seemed, to distance sense from specific intentions: "Romney can easily say, as indeed he has, that he supports the goals of the Ryan budget... but is open to various means of achieving those goals and has his own ideas regarding a number of them. That has always been Ryan's own attitude, after all... What exactly is the smoking gun here?"
On the other hand, Ryan speaks "the language of the American middle class family," Levin said, and possesses "an innate decency and Midwestern personality that defies all vilification."
Some of the brethren went straight to their ultimate accolade. "You know how people are always looking for the next Reagan?" said Kathryn J. Lopez at National Review . "There may just be something of what they're looking for in Romney..."
"Romney-Ryan are firmly offering to complete the Reagan Revolution," said James Pethokoukis at the American Enterprise Institute. "The best analogy is, I think, the late 1970s when Reagan became the candidate... I think Ryan has that Reagan-like quality," said Charles Krauthammer.
"Romney-Ryan: Best Since Ronald Reagan. It Even Sounds Like the Right RR," headlined Quin Hillyer at The American Spectator. "For conservatives, the Initials R.R. evoke Ronald Reagan," Bridget M. Bush of Elephants in the Bluegrass informed us. "The Gipper would be most pleased with Romney's selection of Paul Ryan."
"Whenever President Obama goes negative personal, he'll look like the petty, vindictive juvenile he is," fantasized Let Freedom Ring. "That's because Paul Ryan has President Reagan's trait of optimism."
"In naming a running mate with intellect, gravitas, seriousness of purpose, courage, charm, and communications skills, Romney's recruitment of Ryan recalls another Republican 'R' -- Reagan," said Deroy Murdock at National Review.
"No doubt there are many Democrats rubbing their hands in glee in contemplation of reviving some version of the ad that featured an actor playing Paul Ryan pushing a grandmother in a wheelchair off a cliff," said John Fund at National Review. "But the smarter ones are worried."
Fund did not name these "smarter ones," but laid the Reagan on good and thick: "Ryan has pointed out to me that no Republican has carried his district for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984... Second, Democrats know that Ryan has Reaganesque qualities that make him appealing to independent, middle-class voters... Echoes of Ronald Reagan at his best." To make sure readers got the message, he also compared Obama to Jimmy Carter.
This reminds us of those heady days of 1980, when George H.W. Bush picked Ronald Reagan to be his Vice-Presidential candidate.
That liberals also approved of the appointment for their own, very different reasons was proof to some rightbloggers that they were scared.
When the Obama campaign quickly circulated "5 things you need to know about Mitt Romney's VP pick," Twitchy, the rightblogger alternative-universe Twitter, declared, "President Obama's Twitter feed is a hot mess of scared. Upon the announcement that Rep. Paul Ryan was chosen as Mitt Romney's running mate, President Obama flew into a stompy foot tantrum. It is so pitiful that it would almost be sad... if it wasn't so hilarious!"
"President Stompy Foot continues with his little tantrum all while being debunked, with pointing and snickering, by citizens," Twitchy added, and gave examples, e.g. "@BarackObama BETTER START PACKING BABAY!!!!!" and "Still waiting to hear what this President has actually accomplished..."
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post agreed that Ryan "annoys liberal media... Romney-Ryan is one of the more suburban-friendly, nice-guy tickets to come along in ages," she claimed, presumably referring to an era before black Presidential candidates. "Ryan will be demonized in the media, but his aw-shucks demeanor and braininess will win over some swing voters."
At The American Spectator, Aaron Goldstein even thought "by picking Ryan, Romney may force Obama to drop Joe Biden in favor of Hillary Clinton or some other more formidable opponent because Ryan would wipe the floor with Biden in a debate." Now that's scared, if also hypothetical.
But persecution mania is the rightbloggers' bread and butter, and some of the brethren focused less on the invincibility of their new ticket and more on how mean liberals were being to them.
At Commentary, John Podhoretz denounced "liberal glee" over the choice. The "quality of the glee itself," he theorized, was "an ongoing liberal political-character flaw... As they gather in their echo chamber, all they hear are voices resounding with the monstrousness of redesigning Medicare and the parlousness of cutting the federal budget." (Podhoretz cited no source for the popularity of "redesigning Medicare," which is understandable.)
"The glee of the Left," he went on, "suggests its folk are so excited by what the Obama campaign can dish out that they are unprepared for what Ryan and Romney can dish out right back." We guess he'll show them.
When Michael Tomasky considered the angles ("Democrats are celebrating. Are they overdoing it? Ryan is smart. He'll hold his own on the trail") but still found Ryan a "stunning, terrible choice," Michael Walsh said Tomasky was "both sneering and screeching," which would be quite a trick. When CNN's Candy Crowley suggested that Ryan's Medicare record would be a liability, Warner Todd Huston responded, "The corpulent Crowley is merely pushing the White House lie that anyone that opposes Obama wants to kill people."
"Of course, Obama will demagogue Romney-Ryan as heartless, outsourcing-to-China Scrooges out to take away grandma's Medicare," cried National Review's Henry Payne. "Romney and Ryan promise the serious leadership for America -- if only voters can hear them over the vicious attacks that are coming from Obama and his media henchmen."
People making fun of Ryan constituted "a long and tragic campaign of character assassination against Mr. Ryan," claimed Matt Vespa at Rightwing News. "If anyone has seen the movie The Contender, you know that one doesn't have to be in a library depository to assassinate a leader. Bullets are no longer needed to destroy political leaders thanks to new media." Character assassination began with the internet, apparently: Q.E.D. -- "The left spearheaded this new type of assassination in their campaign to destroy the Republican politicians leading point on the Clinton impeachment proceedings."
When people pointed out that the alleged anti-Washington crusader Ryan had been in Congress for 13 years and had never held a meaningful non-government job, NewsBusters' Tim Graham warned, "If the rest of the media follows this line, this is going to be shamelessly biased." Noted!
And if Ryan, like Romney, has no significant foreign policy experience, as some critics brought up, so what? "There is a legitimate complaint that American has been more focused on fixing problems abroad than at home," said Jared Allebest of Mitt Romney Express. "A Romney/Ryan ticket would be a strong indication that Mitt Romney plans to really focus on the problems here in America rather than abroad..." Also: "If we were back in the 1980's, this would have been a Reagan/Kemp ticket."
At TownHall, Leah Barkoukis said "adding Ryan to the ticket strengthens U.S. foreign policy," actually, because, for one thing, "the greatest threat to U.S. national security is the economy," and for another, Israel, or for another, "to handle the rest, Romney will need to put together a 'blue ribbon' committee of advisers, which he will have no problem doing. With a Romney/Ryan ticket, [Fox News' KT] McFarland says it's like having Reagan again..."
American Thinker's Alan P. Halbert claimed Jim Messina called Paul Ryan a "radical Republican" (actually Messina called Ryan "the architect of the radical Republican House budget") and heard echoes of Reconstruction: "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are on the right side of history when the Democrats are using this 'hallowed' term once again," he said, and denounced "Obama and the Democrats social agenda to remake the nation into a vision that is contrary to our American way of life and throwing us back to the 1800's and the rights of a privileged elitist class to rule over us." It'll be slavery all over again, except the you-know-whats will be in charge!
And so it went. Their excitement certainly counts for something -- particularly if they have money to spend. Perhaps the biggest advantage of picking Ryan was noted by Ed Morrissey of Hot Air: The Romney campaign claimed that in the 24 hours after Ryan's appointment, they collected $3.5 million in donations. "Over 30% of the visits came from mobile devices," Morrissey was told. "...It shows that the selection of Ryan may have some significant upside among younger voters who may relate more to Ryan than to Obama..." Or it may show that executives who like the idea of voucherized Medicare, vestigial Social Security, and no national health care are willing to invest a little now to get a lot later. Maybe this choice wasn't aimed at the voters at all.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.