Ask most members of the political establishment which political party is the home of neurotics and neurasthenics, and the answer will be obvious: the Democrats. The Republicans, these folks will tell you, are proud men and women of action; they operate on principle and focus on the exterior life rather than the interior; they have no time for your silly psychology.
So why does one have to go back fifty years to find a Democratic running-mate selection process that was full of psychodrama (I'd go back to Kennedy-Johnson -- even McGovern-Eagleton seemed to result mostly from a lack of due diligence), while Republican nominees have embarrassingly bared their ids and daddy/son (or daddy/daughter) issues four out of the last five times? Bob Dole's pick of Jack Kemp seemed psychologically unobjectionable, but Poppy Bush picked a surrogate no-'count son, a W-substitute, when he chose Dan Quayle; W himself let a replacement daddy do the picking, with the result that the picker picked himself; John McCain chose a comely young lass on a whim as if he the selection process were a quicky Vegas marriage; and now we have the Romney/Ryan bromance.
"Bromance" is probably not the right word. If the article in today's New York Times is accurate, it's more like an unhealthy long-term erotic dance between an aging alpha male desperate to retain his power as the world changes, and a young man who responds to being pursued by wrapping his pursuer around his little finger. For some of this you have to read between the lines -- and recall that Ryan was voted "biggest brown-noser" by his high school classmates -- but you can't help feeling the young man knew just how to hook the older man, while also playing hard to get:
It was supposed to be a 15-minute courtesy visit from a Republican with big presidential aspirations to a rising star in Congress with big ideas about how to address the nation's fiscal problems.So they didn't exactly meet cute. This isn't really a rom-com. It's courtship as power game. Now watch the power shift:
Mitt Romney, who had just left office as governor of Massachusetts and was moving to the right on issues like abortion, was beginning to immerse himself in federal budget policy. Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who on that day in early 2007 had just become the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, was promoting a small-government libertarianism that within a few years would become Republican Party orthodoxy.
Inside the Longworth House Office Building, 15 minutes turned into an hour as the two men traded theories about how to overhaul Medicare, Social Security and the tax code, a pair of policy mavens out-geeking each other over esoterica like border-adjustable taxes. "We went deep into the weeds," Mr. Ryan recalled in an interview.
It was the start of a on-again, off-again five-year courtship....
Over the past 18 months, with Mr. Romney emerging as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, the frequency and intensity of their communication deepened. Mr. Romney turned to Mr. Ryan for detailed consultations on his economic platform....Wow -- Romney ought to be the one in a position to bestow favors here, but Ryan knows he's hot stuff, he knows Romney wants the modern right-wing cred and vigor he can supply, so he bad-mouths his pursuer to friends, like a heartless head cheerleader. And Romney -- well, he's a little desperate:
Mr. Ryan did not shy from offering pointed advice well before he was named running mate....
"A lot of substance was exchanged between them," said Tom Rath, a longtime political adviser to Mr. Romney. "Ryan's name came up very frequently. Those guys who were traveling with Governor Romney would say, 'Oh, I know he talked to Ryan about this' or 'Ryan and he were e-mailing about that.'"
Even so, Mr. Ryan remained unconvinced that Mr. Romney was the right messenger for his philosophy until well into the 2012 campaign.
He took his worries about Mr. Romney public, telling The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last summer: "I understand the knock on him. I understand the concerns. They’re legitimate."
Friends said he had wondered aloud about the depth of Mr. Romney's commitment to bold conservative ideas, asking colleagues whether he was "wishy-washy," as one of them recalled.
Mr. Ryan recalled that he had wanted specifics before he was willing to deliver his endorsement and the credibility it would carry in the right wing of the party. Mr. Romney delivered what Mr. Ryan was seeking in a series of phone calls and meetings, determined to win Mr. Ryan over. Their interactions became so commonplace that colleagues recalled spotting Mr. Ryan duck into a phone booth in the House to take a call from Mr. Romney.Plying the object of your pursuit with phone calls as said object insults you? It's pathetic. And the age difference makes it creepier. What story is being reenacted here? The Blue Angel? Death in Venice? I can't tell, but it's making me squirm.
"What I was very surprised by was how much he and Mitt were talking, even prior to Paul endorsing him," said Representative Aaron Schock, an Illinois Republican who is close to Mr. Ryan. "It was way beyond the perfunctory solicitations for support."