Can Romney Embrace Ryan While Distancing Himself from the Ryan Budget?

No, he can’t.

This morning, shortly after Romney’s announcement of Paul Ryan as his pick for VP, CNN obtained a copy of of a list of media talking points for surrogates, designed by the Romney campaign to distance their candidate from Ryan’s plans for draconian changes to Medicare and cuts to other popular social programs that help the middle class, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Here are some examples:

Is Romney “adopting the Paul Ryan plan?”

Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.

So there are differences between Romney and Ryan?

Of course they aren’t going to have the same view on every issue. But they both share the view that this election is a choice about two fundamentally different paths for this country. President Obama has taken America down a path of debt and decline. Romney and Ryan believe in a path for America that leads to more jobs, less debt and smaller government. So, while you might find an issue or two where they might not agree, they are in complete agreement on the direction that they want to lead America.

On Medicare:

Do you worry that Paul Ryan’s controversial Medicare plan will hurt the campaign with independents?

– No. President Obama is the one who should be worried, because he has cut $700 BILLION from Medicare to pay for Obamacare, and put in place a panel of Washington bureaucrats to make decisions about what kind of care seniors will receive under Medicare. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a bipartisan plan to strengthen Medicare by giving future seniors the choice between traditional Medicare and a variety of private plans. They are committed to ensuring that Medicare remains strong, not just for today’s seniors, but for tomorrow’s seniors as well.

Actually, Ryan’s budget plan retains all of the medicare cuts that are included in Obamacare.

Of course the talking points provide no specifics about these supposed differences in the two men’s policies. I think we have to assume that since Romney’s goal so far has been to scrupulously avoid talking about specific policies, he is going to be stuck with defending the Ryan plan. And he should be forced to defend it again and again and again.

Why? Because Romney has explicitly endorsed Ryan’s plan in public on multiple occasions. Think Progress has identified five occasions on which Romney enthusiastically praised the Ryan plan:

1. “Very supportive.”“I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier. I think it’s amazing that we have a president who three and a half years in still hasn’t put a proposal out that deals with entitlements. This president’s dealing with entitlement reform — excuse me — this budget deals with entitlement reform, tax policy, which as you know is very similar to the one that I put out and efforts to reign in excessive spending. I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.”

2.”The right tone.” Romney told Talking Points Memo, “He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control. …Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page.’”

3. “Marvelous.” “I think it’d be marvelous if the Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan’s budget and to adopt it and pass it along to the president,” Romney once professed while in Wisconsin.

4. “An important step.” “I spent a good deal of time with Congressman Ryan. When his plan came out, I applauded it, as an important step. … We’re going to have to make changes like the ones Paul Ryan proposed.”

5. “The same page.” In March, on a local Wisconsin radio show called the Vicki McKenna Show, Romney told the host “Paul Ryan and I have been working together over some months to talk about our mutual plans and we’re on the same page.”

In addition, Romney super-surrogate John Sununu

said on a call with reporters, “Mitt Romney supports what Paul Ryan did. He endorsed what Paul Ryan did. Mitt Romney had his own package of entitlement reform, which Paul Ryan has praised. They both meshed together.”

There is no way Romney can be permitted to etch-a-sketch all that away.

Furthermore, I think we can assume that, if elected, Romney would give Ryan carte blanche in dealings with Congress and fiscal matters. As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney only put in about two years before he got bored with governing and turned over his duties to his staff so he could start running for president.

Romney isn’t interested in policy. He’s a CEO, accustomed to giving orders, delegating tasks, and expecting admiration and obeisance from his underlings. Ryan’s already good at sucking up; he was named “biggest brown-noser” by his high school graduating class, after all. Ryan would be Romney’s Cheney–praising his gaffe-prone boss while doing things his (Ryan’s) own way.

The Nation’s John Nichols, who is from Wisconsin and has followed Ryan’s career closely, agrees.

The hyper-ambitious political careerist—who has spent his entire adult life as a Congressional aide, think-tank hanger-on and House member—is looking for a road up. And he is sly enough to recognize that, like Dick Cheney with George Bush, he could be more than just a vice president in the administration of so bumbling a character as Romney.

Ryan figured Romney out months ago.

The two men bonded during the Wisconsin presidential primary campaign in late March and early April. They got on so well that Ryan was playing April Fool’s Day jokes on the Republican front-runner—giving Romney a rousing introduction before the candidate came from behind a curtain to find the room where he had expected to be greeted by a crowd of supporters was empty.

Romney loves those frat boy stunts. Ryan would be the perfect sidekick for him. But we can’t let it happen. Ryan’s plan is a complete fraud. Now the Obama campaign has the opportunity to expose Ryan for what he is: a fake and a “hypocritical big spender” who, as John Nichols points out, has never yet lifted a finger to actually cut government spending during his decade in Congress.

I’ll let Charlie Pierce summarize Ryan’s fakery:

He’s a garden-variety supply-side faker. His alleged economic “wonkery” consists of a B.A. in economics from Miami of Ohio — which he would not have been able to achieve without my generosity in helping him out with the Social Security survivor’s benefits that got him through high school after his father kicked. (You’re welcome, zombie-eyed granny-starver. Think nothing of it. Really.) Whereupon he went to work in Washington for a variety of conservative congresscritters and think-tanks, thinking unremarkable thoughts for fairly unremarkable people. Once in Congress, however, he has been transformed into an intellectual giant despite the fact that, every time he comes up with another “budget,” actual economists get a look at it and determine, yet again, that between “What We Should Do” and “Great Things That Will Happen When We Do” is a wilderness of dreamy nonsense, wishful thinking, and an asterisk the size of Lake Huron.

This is the man whose plan Willard Mitt Romney has now signed onto. If Romney wants to “distance” himself from Ryan’s plan, then he’s going to have to start getting very specific about what their differences are. In choosing Ryan as his running mate, Romney has made this a campaign about “entitlements.” He can no longer focus on just attacking Obama and making vague promises.

I say bring it on! Look what happened to George W. Bush when he tried to privatize Social Security. Romney can no longer focus on just attacking Obama for failing to get us out of the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression. Romney is going to have to own the Ryan budget and Ryan’s plans to decimate the social safety net–or he’ll have to explain exactly where he disagrees with Ryan and why.

21 Comments on “Can Romney Embrace Ryan While Distancing Himself from the Ryan Budget?”

  1. bostonboomer says:


    Republican Mitt Romney reset the race for the presidency as a battle over the size and scope of the federal government Saturday, choosing as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the architect of the GOP’s plans to slash spending and overhaul Medicare.

    In a risky and surprising move to give his campaign a jolt of momentum, Romney chose the 42-year-old congressman over several contenders considered safer bets. The selection seemed destined to shift the tone of a campaign that has become mired in petty squabbles and force a debate over how to tackle the nation’s fiscal challenges.

    In tapping the conservative star, Romney inextricably tied himself to Ryan’s controversial vision for erasing the country’s red ink — a revamp of Medicare, deep domestic spending cuts and a restructured tax code that would lower all rates, even for the wealthy.

    • northwestrain says:

      If they keeping lowering the tax rate for the very rich — and probably a lot of them don’t pay any income taxes anyway — just like Romney and GE —– THEN we the real tax payers will be paying welfare to the 1% tax cheats. Who will be the welfare queens when it the very rich who are getting welfare from we the people.

      • bostonboomer says:

        They’re already getting welfare–lots of it!

      • northwestrain says:

        What I’d like to know is the dollar amount that the super rich are getting from the middle class taxpayers. We of the golden goose class — who actually pay for highways, bridges, the infrastructure pay for by the 99%. The infrastructure that the 1% uses as if they own the world.

        We know that GE and other International mega Corporations either pay no taxes or they get major rebates. GE hires the lawyers who write the tax rules — and then these guys figure out how the mega rich can avoid paying taxes.

        The mega rich are the parasitic welfare queens — who are feeding off of the Golden Goose. When the middle class is killed off — who will buy the houses, sign for the loans and buy the stuff that keeps the Waltons etc. rich?

        What I think that we are going to see — no matter which penis wins in November — is that the 1% will be paying a lot less then they are now. Both candidates seem to be on the same page as far as I can see.

        Oh Goldman Sucks — those boys are well protected. And we sort of know how much welfare the Wall Street — and Big Banks stole from we the tax payers. (Perhaps I answered my own question — Federal welfare to the Wall Street Crowd — and the permission to continue looting the US Treasury.)

  2. northwestrain says:

    BB did you say you have the popcorn concession?

    Better make that Brownies — no HFCS in mine please.

    You’ve given us a good summary of the summer political games.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Why Ryan makes Romney’s tax problem even worse.

    Already, there is a curious bit of conventional wisdom taking hold that Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan is shrewd because it will draw attention from Romney’s ever-more apparent weaknesses, notably the more rapacious elements of his work at Bain Capital and his undisclosed tax returns. Sorry, but this makes no sense. It seems hard to imagine a running mate who would jibe better with the Democrats’ Bain Capital attacks than a well-born Ayn Rand acolyte. More crucially, it is hard to imagine a running mate who will draw more attention to the matter of Romney’s taxes than Paul Ryan. Why? Because under the “Ryan plan” that made the congressman famous, Mitt Romney would pay zero taxes.

    Don’t believe it? Romney himself said so, just a few months ago. The Ryan plan — formally, the “Roadmap for America’s Future” — “promotes saving by eliminating taxes on interest, capital gains, and dividends; also eliminates the death tax.”

  4. Beata says:

    It’s the Romney-Ryan Budget plan now as far as I’m concerned and that’s what I intend to call it.

  5. Pilgrim says:

    John Nichols’ characterization of Ryan as “sly” accords with my own impression.

  6. ANonOMouse says:

    I just saw this over at JMG….I think they got it from Pam Spaulding

  7. Seriously says:

    This video is so funny:

    Apologies if it’s been posted before, but he so clearly is a brilliant policy wonk with the common touch who converts ideological foes with the sheer weight of his intellect and charisma. The only way it could have been funnier would have been if, when his wife jumped in to save him she’d said, “Can’t you constituents let him finish his waffle?”

    • bostonboomer says:

      That was great. Ryan isn’t going to bear up well under the kind of attacks he’s going to face now. Remember when he practically cried after Obama humiliated him?

      • Seriously says:

        Yes, I don’t think it will be too hard to get under his skin.

        Like maybe pointing out “This bill violates my principles, but I’m voting for it to preserve my principles, to preserve the free-enterprise system” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of the practical value of his principles. 😉

    • Beata says:

      Ryan’s contempt for his constituents is sickening. Watching this video made my stomach turn. Yes, Romney made a great pick choosing Ryan, his mirror twin.

      Romney/Ryan – two of the most repulsive people ever to run for President and VP.


  8. RalphB says:

    Paul Krugman weighs in from vacation: Galt / Gekko 2012

    Paul Ryan for VP — or, as Romney said in the press conference, “the next president of the United States”. I did say Galt/Gekko, not Gekko/Galt.

    There is, I gather, lots of horse-race speculation: It’s a disaster! No, it changes the conversation away from Bain and those missing tax returns! I have no idea who’s right.

    What I do know is that anyone who believes in Ryan’s carefully cultivated image as a brave, honest policy wonk has been snookered. Mark Thoma reviews selected pieces I’ve written about Ryan; he is, in fact, a big fraud, who doesn’t care at all about fiscal responsibility, and whose policy proposals are sloppy as well as dishonest. Of course, this means that he’ll fit in to the Romney campaign just fine.

    As I said, I have no idea how this will play politically. But it does look like a move from weakness, rather than strength; Romney obviously felt he needed a VP who will get people to stop talking about him.

  9. RalphB says:

    tbogg Three appearances today and #RomneyRyan2012 have yet to declare solidarity with Pussy Riot.