How does the the GOP — the party of “Father Knows Best,” the party that loves hierarchy and order — keep nominating vice-presidential candidates who swallow their presidential candidates whole?
After Dick Cheney picked himself to be on George W. Bush’s ticket, he had the decency to wait until the inauguration before he supplanted Bush. Sarah Palin grabbed center stage from John McCain as soon as she was announced. Paul Ryan, however, started his takeover years ago.
Ryan’s GOP coup began began before Iowa could even think about caucusing. His multi-pronged attack on America’s safety net — massive new tax breaks for the richest paid for by slashing all social spending including education and Medicaid, ending tax credits for working families, and turning Medicare into a voucher program — was passed byHouse Republicans by spring of 2011. When Newt Gingrich didn’t endorse it, he was steamrolled by his party. And before the presidential primary could even begin, allegiance to the “Ryan Plan” had become the new loyalty test of the right.
Mitt Romney resisted going full Ryan for a while. But as he struggled to beat an array of GOP backbenchers, Romney eventually endorsed nearly everything that Ryan proposed — including a vague voucher system for Medicare and slightly less massive tax breaks. In March of this year, Romney said that Ryan’s “proposals and the ones I’ve outlined in my campaign are very much on the same page.”
So what does the Romney campaign do as soon as they announce that Paul Ryan is Mitt’s running mate? Mitt starts running from the Ryan Plan.
“Does this mean Mitt Romney is adopting the Paul Ryan plan?” a set of talking points from the campaign asks. And the basic gist of it is “Not when it’s inconvenient.”
It’s like Mitt Romney always says, “Why buy the milk when you can get the cow?”
Who nominates a guy who isn’t allowed to run on his “greatest accomplishment?” Oh, right. That’s how Mitt won the GOP nomination. His devil’s deal to escape the primaries required him to never brag about the universal health care system he passed in Massachusetts, the most useful thing he’s done in life. We were reminded of this when the Romney almost had a coup after one of his spokespersons had the gall to even mention the word Romneycare.
The only reason that Paul Ryan is even in the position to be considered as a vice-presidential candidate is because of the Ryan Plan. Now Romney wants to distance himself from it in a classically Mitt way: He’s not for everything in the plan yet he would sign it into law given the chance.
As I pointed out before, Ryan’s Plan was already a drag on the GOP ticket, even before Romney picked the Wisconsin Representative. Mitt has already endorsed the most unpopular features of the plan: tax breaks for the rich, and turning Medicare into an inefficient, unfair system that asks seniors to pay more and still ends up costing taxpayers much more than our current Medicare.
So why has Mitt risking alienating the people he appeased by picking Ryan by turning this into a debate, as Rachel Maddow has said, between Mitt and his running mate?
It comes down to Mitt Romney’s fundamental flaw as candidate for president: his character.
Mitt Romney is a guy who thinks he can have it his way all of the time. He can make millions at the expense of American workers and taxpayers, yet consider himself generous because he gives to his charities. He can be CEO of a company but not responsible for anything the company does. He can run as a progressive and govern as a conservative. He can advocate his health care plan as a national solution, then demonize the president to made his vision a reality. He can ask for welfare waivers and sound the racial foghorn as he blasts the president for granting welfare waivers. He can pick Paul Ryan and not pick all of the Ryan Plan.
What use is Paul Ryan without the Ryan Plan? Does Mitt really need extra guy to make the case that America’s is a place where if you’re born rich and appeal to billionaires who hate the government, you can accomplish anything? Was his ticket really lacking in a smug young guy who would say that that the only thing missing from retirement is the chance to battle with private insurers for health care?
No, Mitt picked the Ryan Plan because the Ryan Plan is the GOP, and Mitt needed some way to get his own Party on his side. And that’s a big part of the reason Mitt was losing in the first place.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek