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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Romney boards Con Ryan Express in desperate bid to get campaign back on track

Posted by James McPherson on August 11, 2012

So, it’s Con Ryan’s Express. For the second consecutive presidential election, Republicans will have a vice presidential candidate who is more dynamic and interesting than the guy at the head of their ticket. No wonder that in his introduction Romney called Paul Ryan “the next president of the United States.”

Unfortunately for Romney this Paul is no saint; the choice offers obvious strengths and weaknesses, along with the Palinesque risk that the presidential race will be more about the GOP’s vice presidential nominee than about anything else.

Like most people, I got it wrong, thinking Romney would likely go with Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty. I did mention Ryan almost as an afterthought, saying “Maybe Paul Ryan if he still thinks he needs to go right.” Apparently Romney is still more concerned with being viewed as a Massachusetts liberal healthcare pimp than as someone who has spent the campaign trying to hack off his left arm with his right.

The New Republic offers a quick look a quick look at what the party now officially stands for–ending Medicare and Medicaid we know them, privatization of Social Security, killing any semblance of government that works, and the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to rich in U.S. history. With Ryan, you can add climate change denial and “personhood” legislation.

Faced with the likelihood of defeat, Romney’s choice–like McCain’s choice of Palin–smacks of desperation. Ryan obviously is a lot smarter than Palin (OK, so Romney’s dancing horse is smarter than Palin), but could turn out to be equally polarizing. After all, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, John McCain and probably the Koch brothers all like the choice. But so do Democrats. One of the most notable things about the selection is that for perhaps the first time Romney has managed to please both liberals and conservatives at the same time, rather than having to flip-flop to do so.

In fact, as many did with Palin, conservatives might rue the choice more than liberals do. Ryan wasn’t Grover Norquist’s pick, for example, so perhaps this is another example that Norquist is losing some of his influence with Republicans. And that might be the best thing to happen in this election season, and the most positive long-term development for the GOP.

One might wonder, if Romney is enthused about his choice, why he would make the announcement early (6 a.m. where I live) on a summer Saturday. That’s a time when politicians typically are more likely to roll out bad news than good; Friday afternoon has long been recognized as best for avoiding media attention, because most of the front-line news media won’t be back until Monday, by when news can be a bit stale. That’s why I wrote last month that Romney “should release a deluge of his tax returns on a summer Friday, perhaps during the Olympics, definitely no later than the Friday before Labor Day.”

I suspect that desperation to change the conversation from his own taxes, the fact that even sources such as Fox News and the conservative-leaning Rasmussen poll had Obama leading, and perhaps a desire to make the announcement as low-key as possible (which is Romney’s style, if not Ryan’s) all combined to lead to the decision to make the announcement when he did.

Yes, a 24-hour news cycle tempers the “dead zone” timing a bit, and yes, the selection will now be the focus of the Sunday morning news shows. But the fact is, almost no one except true political junkies–virtually all of whom probably already know whom they’ll vote for in November–watches those Sunday shows. And Romney, of all people, should know that if Americans are turning on their TVs on this summer weekend it will be to watch the Olympics. On Sunday night and Monday morning more people will be talking the closing ceremonies with Adele and the Spice Girls than about Romney and Ryan. In fact, the few Americans who know anything about Ryan may outnumber those who know he has been chosen by Romney at this point.

Like most Hail-Mary passes in football or last-second half-courts shots in basketball, the effort probably will fail to deliver a victory in November, but will give the media and serious viewers a reason to hold their breath for a bit, just in case. There’s no doubt that the race just became more interesting–within the GOP, as well as over all.

Perhaps we’ll even start having a serious media conversation about what policy might look like in a Ryan/Romney–oh, sorry, Romney/Ryan–administration, if only during the vice-presidential debate. Perhaps. But I doubt it. After all, Ryan has a pretty wife and cute kids. And he’s a Catholic engaged in a “smackdown” with nuns. And now “Saturday Night Live” will have to figure out who to portray Ryan pushing granny off a cliff. I’ll bet Tina Fey could pull if off, with the right haircut.

P.S.: If you’re too young to get the reference to “Von Ryan’s Express,” it’s a film from 1965, before Paul Ryan was born.

P.P.S: Ironically, if the Christian Right gets its way in November, for the first time ever there won’t be a Protestant president, vice president, or member of the Supreme Court.

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15 Responses to “Romney boards Con Ryan Express in desperate bid to get campaign back on track”

  1. melfamy said

    I’m not only old enough to have seen “Von Ryan” when it came out, I can remember that it did not end well for the main character.

  2. Reuel said

    So what is the Democrat plan for Medicaid after 2024 and Medicare after 2037? These are the dates they both run out of money. They are government sourced, probably wrong and do not take into the consideration that people of the age of 55 to below the current normal age of normal allowance are lining up in record numbers to dip from the well. Record numbers people are filing for disability Social security, which gives them the golden ticket for healthcare early also. Yes Ryan’s plan does need some adjustment, but the democrats won’t even debate it. They have no plan and he does. No his plan does not end Medicare or Medicaid. It offers a people under the age of 55 and not until 2022 to another option. If they refuse the option they can keep getting the same old Medicare/Medicaid. The Obama Healthcare Law took somewhere between 500 to 700 Billion dollars from one pot and move it to another, but still counting it in both pots to show deficit reduction. The Democrats seem to love to demonize the right for two issues that I find most interesting. The first is LGBT issue and what did they do for that community during 2009 to 2011 when they owned Washington. Nothing. Please recall “I say let them get married, so we can move on to real issues.”. The second is to get all the elderly people to the polls by lying that the Republican what to take away their Social Security and Medicare. A lie and both of these will be gone if something is not done, oh like about 20 years ago. So what is their Plan? Raise taxes on the remaining 50 percent that are actually still paying Income Tax. They have no plan and nothing better than getting a bunch of anger Lilith’s and old people out and in your face. But they have laid the frame work when these programs do run out of money, because their masses have heard this for decades, so it must be true. Right?

  3. James McPherson said

    “Democrat plan for Medicaid after 2024 and Medicare after 2037?”

    Actually, neither will “run out of money” at that point–they just wouldn’t be fully funded, if, for some reason, we did nothing to fix it between now and then. And assuming we haven’t all been killed by global warming, a stray astroid, nuclear war or something else, we will make fixes, just as we have every other time the threat looked imminent.

    I see in today’s news that even though Ryan has a plan (an unworkable and unrealistic one, with no real specifics regarding cuts), that even Romney won’t buy into it during this campaign.

    I understand the ending of the book in Von Ryan’s express was even more grim. I haven’t read it, but did enjoy the film. Thanks, guys.

  4. I am excited about the boy from WI. My bet is still on with you……

  5. Reuel said

    Unworkable/Unrealistic ?, but I do believe it did pass the house and is sitting on Dirty Harry’s desk along with about 30 other bills Harry has single handily tabled without any discussion of sent to a committee to compromise. You know “Work together” in a conference to give a little, take a little. But the problem is the “Republicans won’t work with the Democrats”. Seriously, that dog may hunt on NBC Nightly News, but not in the real world. The first President in my adult life time that has not signed a complete budget in his whole 4 years. How can we really know what they are spending if they don’t have a budget? And Romney and Ryan are the problem. Again; What is the Democrats plan? No more kicking cans, or hope for a natural disaster or man-made one. It is already past time to talk about this issue. His pick of Ryan was not a hail Mary, it was the right thing to do, now does the left want to tell us what their plan is or just do selective reporting on the one that’s on the table. You know put up or ? 🙂

  6. James McPherson said

    “I do believe it did pass the house”

    The House has become a partisan joke. And I agree, more things should be brought to a vote in the Senate–including the multitude of Obama’s judicial appointments that Senate Republicans have blocked without a vote (I don’t know why they bother, since it now requires a 60-vote majority to pass anything). Remember Bush going on and on about “an up or down vote”? Both sides are playing the same game.

    “It is already past time to talk about this issue.”

    Agreed.

  7. Reuel said

    It seems that is what they want on the right. In the past I would agree to leave the subject alone, because scaring Granny always benefited the left. I have heard enough about birth certificates, school records, he was a bully in High School, both sides saying that the other sides plans are “Devastating game over policies”, Tax returns to show everyone he made a lot of money, and on and on and on. Lets talk about debt and tell the public the whole truth. That is both sides are responsible and both sides plans don’t work. Flat tax same rate for all, no gimmes. They already have a form for that, it the 1040EZ.

  8. James McPherson said

    “It seems that is what they want on the right.”

    Maybe. But if so, I’d question why we’re having a meaningless vote on Obamacare every other week and spending so much time talking about abortion–it’s not Dems who are bringing those up. I do think what Mitt pays in taxes is relevant, as is his time at Bain (after all, he’s running on his supposed business acumen) and his time as governor. It doesn’t seem he wants to talk about those.

    The flat tax is a non-starter, since it would benefit only some in the middle class. Poor folks and people like Mitt who have good accountants would pay more than they do now. And of course it only considers wages, not the areas where rich folks make most of their money.

  9. Reuel said

    What was President Obama record before he became the leader of the free world? We know that was not the normal path to leader of this country. We all know what Romney did at Bain, as Governor and if what he did was against the law on his taxes I am sure a loyal Democratic leaning lifetime IRS person would of audited him or is that where Harry got his information? Good question and if that would be true, that would a violation of policy under laws and regulations that govern the IRS and privacy. (I know run on sentence, I am not a big fan of “Change” and this is basically how I think.) If so and both have violated the law, then what?

    I do think as I was saying many moons ago, They should of replaced Biden. I also would be very very concerned with him being a heart beat away from being President. This guys stick was funny at first, but is a little disturbing now. He serve his country well, but needs to step down and yes he could use the “Mental” or “for the family excuse”. It is a weakness in my opinion, a very serious weakness. I am wondering if it is him that was responsible for the leaks that have being put under investigation recently. With Biden’s gaffs and Obama spending that last 50 weeks on the campaign trail. I saw a report yesterday that a Russia sub spent weeks in the gulf of Mexico, undetected. Russia is also going back to sending bombers towards the West coast to see how close they can get. Kind of reminds me of the old cold war days, wouldn’t you say? The Russia’s sure respect Obama or know he is a little distracted. Who is leading this country? So play the taxes, dog on the roof, they are going to put you back into chains, scare the old people and pretty much tell the Russia’s when he thought the mic was not hot “I will have a little more flexibility after the election on missile defense”. Wish the world was not dangerous, but not all the countries leaders don’t think about about Peace love and Bobby Sherman. Our guard is dropped and our leader is out divided us in to the point of the only return would be a dissolution, 2 separate states solutions. Which in fact would finally determine who plan would work. I would go with those evil corporations you can stay with the nanny state we current are in if you wish. At this point it is the only way, oh we will take the military, you know most on the left loath that anyway. Blame, knit pick all they want, the world is not getting any safer and the debt is going to be our largest weakness.

  10. Reuel said

    Oh; After thought, If Hillary is a smart as you and I agree she is. She won’t jump on this train just after it just derailed. To late, it is always messier when a train goes in a ditch, unlike the car President Bush so called put in the ditch. I love political satire, it always comes back to haunt the one that says it. I think I see a large “reset” (You know the reset he did with Russia) meeting coming real soon for the Chicago gang politics machine. Don’t worry he will make loads of money on the speaking tour, he reads teleprompters quite well.

  11. James McPherson said

    As for your two separate nations, Reuel, I kind of like the idea–though of course it would never work. For one thing, most red states get more back from the feds than they pay in, while most blue states pay out more than they get back.

    But what are you going to do with all your ships, when we have most of the coastline? And you’d have trouble getting to a lot of places if we don’t open up our airspace to you. Still, since the U.S. spends more on the military than the next 10 nations combined, you’d have more than enough–but I’m afraid we couldn’t trust you not to invade and enslave us once you found out that you lived in a nation of guns, corn, tobacco, and not much else–though you may manage to wring enough oil and gas out of your territory for another decade or so. 🙂

  12. Reuel said

    Sure do need some navy in the Gulf of Mexico, so that is a option. seem Russia likes the Gulf. Then we also have South Carolina and from what I am reading Virgina and North Carolina. Florida is a toss up. Also if Biden doesn’t shut his trap, it won’t matter. I know it won’t work, but this sure isn’t. If they could all just respectfully debate as we do, it would make a huge different. My guess on the tax thing that was offered by the Chicago Machine for 5 years and they will stop pushing for the last 10 years is that they did have a little birdy tell them something or they just want to show how rich he is. Probably the latter of the two, but who knows. Romney declined. As the plot thickens. Did you see the story about where the Obamas first kissed release by I think CNN, Baskin Robbins Ice shop in Chicago, then Fox ran a story that Baskin Robbins Ice Cream was saved by no other than Bain Capitol. Both are true from what I gather, the heck with taxes, lets just turn this into a Reality Show and the other 80 percent might pay attention. I do believe the founding fathers had no idea what this whole experiment would turn out like and if they did they might of just left it alone. Don’t get me wrong, this is still the best country in the world to live in next to Switzerland. They just remain neutral and keep others peoples money so it isn’t wasted on General Motors, oh did I tell you. Better not put the old Biden Statement of the day on your bumper, “Osama is died and GM is alive” until November 7th . Big troubles with the books in Motor City, but I an sure it will not be out until the first Friday dumping time after the election.
    Have a good weekend.

  13. James McPherson said

    “lets just turn this into a Reality Show and the other 80 percent might pay attention

    Great idea–though it probably would work only if you could get candidates’ wives to wear fewer clothes and scream at each other. You also have a good weekend, and thanks.

  14. […] Women's Voices. Women Vote « Romney boards Con Ryan Express in desperate bid to get campaign back on track […]

  15. […] Day Saints on Thursday. Not that the religious aspects may matter much. As I’ve mentioned previously (demonstrating the decreasing influence of the Religious Right) it seems a bit ironic that if the […]

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