Applauding Romney’s choice

Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan will allow a more honest and substantive debate this election season.

In our increasingly parliamentary political system, the most basic domestic policy question this November concerns whether Americans wish to hand the federal government’s car keys over to a stridently conservative House Republican caucus. On health reform, taxes, and many other matters, a President Romney’s personal policy views would be less determinative than the views of his GOP allies exemplified by the Tea Party.

For that reason, at least one writer (whom I occasionally read) believes that Mitt Romney did the nation a good turn by appointing Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate:

In 2008, John McCain rolled the dice by choosing Sarah Palin. That maverick move tarnished a good man’s legacy. It was breathtakingly irresponsible to place a manifestly unqualified and intemperate person in a position where she might be just one septuagenarian’s heartbeat away from the presidency.

Mitt Romney – nobody’s maverick – picked a smarter and more temperate running mate this time around. Romney deserves real credit for appointing Representative Paul Ryan. Now we can have a campaign that matches what this election is really about.

Americans must decide if [the congressional GOP agenda] is what we really want. That’s what was always at stake in 2012. We might as well debate things straight up.

I agree with that. I hope and believe that Paul Ryan’s selection will harm Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the presidency. I also believe this selection will allow a more honest and substantive debate this election season. For both reasons, I’m grateful.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

15 thoughts on “Applauding Romney’s choice”

  1. “That maverick move tarnished a good man’s legacy.”

    I assume that the good man in question is Steve Schmidt, rather than the old Keating crook Songbird McCain?

  2. “I also believe this selection will allow a more honest and substantive debate this election season.”

    I’ve got our modern press corps on line one. They want to reassure you that the American electorate will not knowingly be exposed to substance or facts.

  3. NickT nailed it with the last comment. I love Balloon Juice and read it every day, but I really thought the community was showing its insularity yesterday with some of their comments. “Oh, David Axelrod just busted out the champagne, this is a slam dunk for Obama”. You know, that kind of stuff. Fact is, we are in a post-truth era. Maybe if Politifact had actually been willing to admit that it wasn’t a lie to say Paul Ryan wanted to end Medicare we could rest a little easier, but I’m not convinced the Ryan pick is going to harm Romney in the slightest.

    1. Balloon-Juice has the unfortunate illusion that DougJ understands politics and that yelling at FireDogLake is a winning strategy. Kay is informative, as is Leveson, but I honestly don’t know what the commenters hope to achieve by snarking at each other for the revolution. In many ways, they sum up the failure of the Left to achieve a distinctive, viable set of policies and a political identity other than Not Republican. Ironically, it’s precisely their sort of militant self-righteousness combined with no organizational ability or strategic vision that weakens Democrats most.

  4. I’m doubtful. Let’s say that Obama’s campaign or Priorities USA or whoever runs an ad that says, “In Romney and Ryan’s America, millions of elderly Americans suffering from dementia and other ailments will be forced to burden their children with the financial and personal costs of their healthcare.” This is absolutely an unavoidable consequence of the changes to Medicare and Medicaid prescribed by Paul Ryan’s budget (not even getting into Social Security privatization which Ryan and Romney both support as well). The budget does not adequately fund Medicare and Medicaid to pay for assisted living. Many, many people who are actually quite wealthy benefit from Medicaid via their parents’ healthcare subsidies.

    Yet, I’m quite certain that a claim such as that would instantly earn Kessler’s 4 Pinnochios because it just sounds wrong even though it’s entirely true. You could obviously go on about the consequences of non-military discretionary spending levels of 1% GDP. Or the consequences of Romney’s promised $200 BILLION in annual Medicaid cuts. It’s all so comically impossible that, while this election may come closer to an honest debate about Republican policies, it won’t resemble anything like an honest debate about returning the federal government to its scope in about 1950.

  5. “Americans must decide if [the congressional GOP agenda] is what we really want. That’s what was always at stake in 2012. We might as well debate things straight up.”

    Completely agree, but also not completely confident that everyone understands this, nor that the press will help clarify this. I will sleep with one eye open until November.
    As it stands now,I would bet a pizza, or my car, that things will turn out Ok. But I would not bet my house. Which is ironic. Because, as a public employee, my house is precisely what I will lose, come Jan 2013, if Ryan/Romney take over. Hopefully,there will be enough spare plutocrats looking to buy a nice house in metro west to keep us from having to foreclose.

  6. “…at least one writer (whom I occasionally read)…” A risky move. Reading one’s own work is a ticket to low self-esteem and the poorhouse. Better to wake up like politicians and Alzheimer sufferers to each new day unburdened by the dross of the past.

    1. James, you aren’t feeling a bit melancholy, are you? That seems a rather lugubrious comment. Is everything alright?

        1. Never for all love allow yourself to be so easily McCainized, Mr Wimberley. Take a stiff tot of rum and clap a stopper over the grass-combing bugger melancholy’s capers!

          And, to cheer you up a touch:

          USA TODAY/Gallup polls of registered voters after the announcements of running mates since Dick Cheney in 2000 all showed more positive reactions. Only Dan Quayle in a 1988 Harris Poll of likely voters was viewed less positively than Ryan, with 52% rating Quayle as a “fair” or “poor” vice presidential choice. The Ryan poll includes all adults, not just registered voters.

  7. Returning to Harold’s main point, another reason for welcoming Ryan’s designation is that he’s a flat-out climate change denialist, not just objectively in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry like Romney. Obama has wavered on this, see “all of the above” and his appalling anti-Romney, pro-coal ad in Ohio. The choice is sharpened here too. A frankly denialist GOP ticket and platform could push Obama back into a strong pro-science, pro-nature, pro-humanity, pro-renewables stand. This could cost him votes in the old industrial East (Ohio, Pennsylvania), but win them in the Midwest (Colorado, Iowa, Nevada).

  8. My thoughts to the Ryan choice was like Howard’s (and many others): That this was the battle we needed to have.
    You know the platitudes: Let’s do this! or… Bring it on!

    And that’s because it is comforting to think we will have this national debate and then move on.
    But anybody thinking that way, that we will have the debate and move on, like myself a day or so ago, is wrong…

    I was reading deep in my Instapaper file yesterday and I came across a little jewel that woke me up:

    The House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare 33 times in the last 2 years.

    That is not the behavior of a rational enemy.
    That’s the behavior of an insane enemy that is promising to never go away. Never as in our lifetimes…
    Any view of the near future has got to take that “crazy” fact in its hand.

    Instead I’d like to suggest that we are in a war of attrition here.
    You and I. We need to pony up our cash funding Obama and key candidates…
    We need to keep focused, and most of all: hold the center to hold the country.
    Which means of course: a little Obama drift to the right is okay if it helps “holds the center”.

    Which is all to suggest again it is all about attrition….

    Returning Obama in 2012 is just one blocking move on the board.
    We absolutely must win in 2016. And then send her back for reelection in 2020.

    The only way to win this game is to block and reblock the rogue billionaires that have created it.
    Until they die of natural causes. Or are declared senile and are removed from play…
    The key will be the death of Murdoch. Ailes will be sent packing and the network will moderate.
    The country can then begin to return to being country.

    Until then: Do not for a moment think the election of Obama will resolve anything…
    Think instead of an insane creature that fails 33 times in a row…
    And bares it teeth yet again…

  9. I also agree with the overall tenor of your citation, but I disagree with this:

    Mitt Romney – nobody’s maverick – picked a smarter and more temperate running mate this time around.

    Whlie as a matter of personal temperament Ryan’s more temperate than Sarah Palin, when it comes to the agenda he persues (as evidenced by his voting record) he’s as conservative as Michelle Bachmann. His voting record is not temperate at all. On the contrary, it’s quite extreme.

  10. This is not a win for anyone who cares. Merely having Ryan on the Bad Government Express Tour will do a lot to further dumbness, because he is such a clear throated spokesman for nonsense (unless actually challenged, but that won’t happen on Fox News where it’s most needed) and touted as serious by the mainstream media. He has unreal talent that plays well here. Even if Obama wins, he’ll pick up on the bad ideas expressed to regain favor with his past and future masters. I hope I’m wrong. Winning by losing only works if you can get all the penalty cards.

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