Friday, June 03, 2011


The headline in this Huffington Post story is that -- holy crap -- Paul Ryan really does seem as if he might be serious about a possible run for president:

On Thursday evening, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan said yet again that he is not considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination. But when asked by Fox News' Neil Cavuto whether he would change course from past rejections of a presidential bid, Ryan hesitated before saying, "Look, I think I want to see how this field develops." ...

Bill Kristol has been pushing for a Ryan run, and Jonathan Chait thinks Ryan is quite serious about a possible run because Ryan seems to be courting Kristol right back:

...Yesterday, Ryan delivered a speech outlining his foreign policy vision, an important step for a candidate lacking foreign policy experience, and especially crucial to secure the support of Kristol, who cares deeply about foreign policy and approaches all other questions instrumentally. Ryan leaked his speech in advance to -- da dum -- the Weekly Standard. Ryan's leak carefully name-checked the Standard and stroked Kristol's ideological erogenous zones:
Crediting Charles Krauthammer's 2009 essay in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, "Decline Is a Choice," Ryan will insist the United States maintain its leading role in the world by addressing the growing debt and entitlement spending crises...

And the HuffPo story points out that Rience Priebus, the new head of the Republican National Committee, "is encouraging Ryan to run."

My guess is that Ryan won't run. But whether he does or not, this (from the HuffPo story) strikes me as the most interesting tidbit:

Recent polling on public attitudes about the [Ryan budget] plan has been dismal....

Ryan said in [a] Fox interview [with Neil Cavuto] that "within a handful of months" he believes the country will rally to his side.

"A handful of months"? He said that?

What this tells me is that Ryanism isn't going to go away as an issue because Republicans aren't going to stop trying to sell it. I really didn't think they'd be that politically naive. I thought (as I said after the NY-26 special election) that they'd modify their plan, push Ryan to the background, and/or try flooding the zone with every crazy thing they could that wasn't the Ryan budget and that had the potential to make Democrats look bad. I was sure that Democrats were naive in counting on this issue to be a winner a year and a half from now.

But Republicans apparently think this is a 2012 winner for them. And you know who they sound like? They sound like Democrats in 2009 and 2010 naively insisting that, once the public had some time to absorb the new health care law, opinions would change, everyone but right-wingers would warm to the thing, and it would be a political winner for the Democratic Party. How'd that work out?

It's an inexact comparison, I know -- Ryanism, unlike the health care law, really is a horror. But Democrats and supporters of the health care law have never recognized that it became a PR disaster of cyanide-in-Tylenol proportions, and so they never grasped that they needed a crisis-management-style PR campaign to redeem it in the eyes of the public.

And now Republicans are doing the same thing with Ryanism.


I know it seems safe to predict that Republicans will demand that we follow a disastrous course, then Democrats will be blamed for the disaster at the polls. But even if Democrats agree to the Republican Ryanettes' demands, it looks to me as if Republicans intend to own this. If they get drastic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in the debt-ceiling battle, it looks as if they're going to high-five, do an end-zone dance, pound their chests, and say, "We did it!" And then it looks as if they might just hoist Paul Ryan on their shoulders and parade him around as their conquering hero -- and run him for president. No matter what, it looks as if they're going to run on the the cuts themselves.

Critics frequently look at the period between McGovern and Clinton and say that Democrats and liberals lost touch with the fact that what they themselves wanted and believed was very different from what the public wanted and believed. According to this narrative, Democrats and liberals talked among themselves too much, and severed any connection to the public.

Whether you believe that or not, that could be what's happening to Republicans now -- they just exchange all these wingnut shibboleths all the time, and cheer on all these cockamamie notions, and they don't understand that the public really isn't with them at the far-right edge, and never will be. That certainly seems to be what's going on in Wisconsin and Florida and other GOP-dominated states. It certainly seems to be what's going on among the GOP electorate, to judge from presidential polls. If we're fortunate, it will be their ruination.


And you know what? I don't think Paul Ryan would be a good presidential candidate even if weren't peddling a Randian plan to throw widows and orphans out into the street. Watch the Cavuto interview below -- I don't think this guy is capable of delivering Capraesque optimism and uplift and old-fashioned patriotic sentiment. Forget Obama (who's quite good at it) -- even Kerry and Gore, in an awkward way, were better than Ryan. Ryan's a combination of jock-y bully and eyeshade-wearing fiscal nerd; there's Gatling-gun quality to his recitation. I think he would just leave voters cold, no matter what he was saying.

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