by Max Brantley
Mitt Romney announced his running mate this morning in Norfolk, Va. It coincided with a tour of USS Wisconsin. The choice is Rep. Paul Ryan. That throws Romney all in with a budget plan that comforts the rich and upends Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and more. Powerful symbol.
Yes, Ryan wants to end Medicare (as we know it, which means something to still be called Medicare will be a pay-your-own-way system for those who can afford it, not a guaranteed health coverage system for the elderly.)
Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker wrote an extensive profile of Ryan recently that's worth reading to bone up on the veep choice. He blogs today about it and notes that Ryan has virtually no experience in the private sector, normally a favorite Republican diss of Democratic candidates.
But Ryan’s Washington experience is also light, at least for a potential President—which, after all, is the main job description of a Vice-President. Ryan has worked as a think-tank staffer and Congressman, but he’s never been in charge of a large organization, and he has little experience with foreign policy. Given how Sarah Palin was criticized for her lack of such experience, I’m surprised that Romney would pick someone whose ability to immediately step into the top job is open to question.
And the experience that Ryan does have is not exactly what voters are clamoring for at the moment. The bulk of Ryan’s House career coincided with the Presidency of George W. Bush, during which he was a reliable vote for many Bush policies that have not aged well: Medicare Part D; the Iraq War; and the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Ryan told me that voting for all of that spending, which added trillions to the deficit, made him “miserable,” but he’ll need a better explanation in his October debate with Joe Biden.
Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn't believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live. This now is an argument not over what kind of political commonwealth we will have, but rather whether or not we will have one at all, because Paul Ryan does not believe in the most primary institution of that commonwealth: our government. The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution make a lie out of every speech he's ever given. He looks at the country and sees its government as something alien that is holding down the individual entrepreneurial genius of 200 million people, and not as their creation, and the vehicle through which that genius can be channelled for the general welfare.
For the Romney campaign spin, see their news release:
Boston, MA — Mitt Romney today announced Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate. Below is Congressman Ryan’s biography:
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is in his seventh term in Congress representing Wisconsin’s First Congressional District. He is Chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he has worked tirelessly leading the effort to reign in federal spending and increase accountability to taxpayers. He also serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, where he has focused on simplifying the tax code and making health care more affordable and accessible.
In January 2010, Ryan gained attention nationwide after unveiling his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a proposal to eliminate the federal deficit, reform the tax code, and preserve entitlements for future generations.
Representative Ryan was born in Janesville, Wisconsin on January 29, 1970. A fifth-generation Wisconsin native, Ryan was the youngest of four children born to Paul Ryan Sr., who worked as an attorney, and Betty, a stay-at-home mom.
In April 2000, Ryan proposed to Janna Little, a native Oklahoman, at one of his favorite fishing spots, Big St. Germain Lake in Wisconsin. Later that year, the two were married in Oklahoma City.
The Ryans reside in Janesville with their three children, Liza, Charlie and Sam. The family are parishioners at St. John Vianney Catholic Church.
Upon entering Congress in January of 1999, Ryan was the youngest member of the freshmen class at the age of 28. Prior to running for Congress, Ryan served as an aide to Republican Senators Robert Kasten Jr. and Sam Brownback, former U.S. Rep. and Vice Presidential Candidate Jack Kemp, and as a speechwriter for Education Secretary William Bennett.
Ryan is a graduate of Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville and earned degrees in economics and political science from Miami University in Ohio. He is an avid outdoorsman and is a member is of his local archery association, the Janesville Bowmen.