After a busy week in which Mitt Romney enthusiastically embraced Paul Ryan and his budget reform initiative and drew derisive comments from the president on both fronts, there is buzz this weekend about a possible Romney/Ryan ticket.
Conservative commentator George Will Sunday called Paul Ryan a "heavy hitter," suggesting that he is ideally equipped to parry the president on defining issues of entitlements and debt. "Romney’s running mate should have intellectual firepower, born of immersion in policy complexities, sufficient to refute Obama’s meretricious claims and derelictions of duty," Will wrote.
Liberal columnist E.J. Dionne excoriates Ryan's budget as a "radical" transfer of wealth from the "have nots to the haves." But as to Ryan, Dionne wrote, "I salute him for laying out the actual conservative agenda. Here's hoping he is transparent in the coming weeks about whom he is taking benefits from, and toward whom he wants to be more generous. If he thinks we need an even more unequal society to prosper in the future, may he have the courage to say so."
But while lauding Ryan's courage while trashing his policy, Dionne has doubts about the courage of his man in the White House: "And you wonder: Will President Obama welcome the responsibility of engaging the country in this big argument, or will he shrink from it? Will his political advisers remain robotically obsessed with poll results about the 2012 election, or will they embrace Obamas historic obligation — and opportunity — to win the most important struggle over the role of government since the New Deal?"
Thus, both Will and Dionne agree there is something to be said for courage at a moment in which escalating debt and entitlement crises loom daily larger and other would-be leaders refuse to lead.
Ryan is the man of the moment as he prepares to release his new budget proposal. Ryan's budget is the only game in town, as the president's own budget once again lost 414-0 in the House and the Democratic Senate has declared its firm intention not to present a budget.
But the president on Tuesday had nothing but scorn for Ryan and Romney's new alliance, noting that Romney "said that he's 'very supportive' of this new budget, and he even called it 'marvelous' — which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing a budget," Obama said during a speech on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
"It's a word you don't often hear generally," the president added.
Unless, as Dylan Byers pointed out at Politico, you are listening to Obama, who at least three times during his presidential term has used the word in a public address. In 2009, he said his wife was "doing a marvelous job." In 2011, he referred to "marvelous surroundings" on a visit to Chile, and again in 2011 he spoke of "Dr. King's marvelous oratory."
"It's a word you kind of associate with the upper class, and I think that the intention was to tweak Romney for being wealthy and, you know, sort of brought up in the kinds of circles where they would say ‘marvelous,’ ” said Kenneth Sherrill, a political science expert at New York's Hunter College in the Reuters report.
Look for more of this to come. The weirdness offensive, in which Romney is portrayed as out of touch and generationally or culturally awkward, was predicted by Obama aides back in August of last year, as reported in Politico.
Powerline's John Hinderaker suggests that Obama may be feeling a bit peevish, since his own budget proposals garner no effusive praise. "You certainly don’t hear it ("marvelous") said about Obama’s budget. His FY 2012 budget was voted down 97-0 in the Senate, and his FY 2013 budget was voted down 414-0 in the House. The Senate’s Democratic leadership is trying to prevent it from coming up for a vote in that body, lest it be skunked again," Hinderaker wrote.
Ryan did not take the attacks lying down, firing back in a detailed rebuttal on Facebook, and in a press release arguing that “History will not be kind to a president who, when it came time to confront our generation’s defining challenge, chose to duck and run. The president refuses to take responsibility for the economy and refuses to offer a credible plan to address the most predictable economic crisis in our history. Instead, he has chosen tired and cynical political attacks as he focuses on his own re-election."
For better or worse, it seems clear that a Romney/Ryan ticket would focus national attention where it ought to be, usefully deflecting attention from such riveting matters as Rick Santorum's views on contraception and the obligation of taxpayers to subsidize the same for 30-year-old graduate students.
From opposite ends of the spectrum, Dionne and Will seem to agree: Take the red pill, Mitt.
Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at [email protected].