— Erskine Bowles, chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton, speaking of Rep. Paul Ryan in a 2011 speech
It’s a sad statement about this country when a vice-presidential pick is considered bold, daring and maybe even dangerous because he believes in not spending more than you take in.
But that’s precisely the state we’re in — and why Paul Ryan is such an exciting choice for presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate.
The Wisconsin congressman exudes a youthful everyman persona while bringing major-league budget expertise, and a cheesehead-sized conscience, to his role as House Budget Committee chairman.
The choice was a surprise and a delight for fiscal conservatives worried that Romney would be more sedate or strategic in his VP pick.
“Gov. Romney is signaling he wants to change the course of government, not manage it,” one prominent Republican was quoted. “This is the start of an aggressive, ideas campaign!”
Of course, he could’ve signaled that in other ways. And it’s a risky path for Romney to go with Ryan. Because Ryan has actually put pen to paper on how he’d fix the government, he’s an easy target for the opposition, who can pick apart his ideas line item by line item — even though they don’t have any proposals of their own. In fact, the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate hasn’t even passed a budget in three years.
So the focus of the national media will be Ryan’s thinking, not the Democrats’ complete lack of it. Sigh.
So be it. We love Ryan’s refreshing candor — and the faith he shows in our ability to handle it.
Therein lies the risk: He won’t tell us what we want to hear; he’ll tell us what we need to hear. That’s what a real leader does.
Ryan’s vice presidential candidacy is the ultimate test for voters: We will now be asked to choose between reason and emotion this November.
“President Obama and too many like him in Washington have refused to make difficult decisions, because they are more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation,” Ryan said in his first public appearance on the ticket.
“Over the years I have seen and heard from a lot of families, from a lot of those who are running small businesses and from people who are in need. But what I’ve heard lately — that’s what troubles me the most. There’s something different in their voice, in their words. What I hear from them are diminished dreams, lowered expectations, uncertain futures. I hear some people say that this is just the new normal.
“Higher unemployment, declining incomes and crushing debt is not a new normal. ...
“We can turn this thing around. We can. We can turn this thing around. Real solutions can be delivered, but it will take leadership and the courage to tell you the truth.”
The Demagogic Party is said to be thrilled at Ryan’s selection. They can’t wait to try to scare old folks into thinking he’d toss them over a cliff. The Demagogues even depicted that in a commercial once — even though they, themselves, voted to cut Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars in the health-care reform act.
The truth is, if Paul Ryan were a demagogue, the media would love him. As it stands, they’ll do their best to make you afraid of him.
“I always thought I was OK with arithmetic,” said Bowles, who helped write a deficit reduction plan for President Obama that the president has largely ignored. “(Ryan) can run circles around me, and he is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget.”
Barack Obama himself, without any outward sense of irony, once praised Ryan for making a “serious” budget proposal.
Most importantly, as ABC News acknowledged, “Ryan’s addition to the ticket has shifted the conversation from tax returns and outsourcing to policy ideas and the decisions the country faces about what to do with its entitlement programs.”
With the economy and perhaps the country hanging in the balance, we’ll see if the Demagoging works — or if Americans are grown up enough to be told the truth about our fiscal situation.
In short, whether an American presidential election can be won on reason.