Can Romney Embrace Ryan While Distancing Himself from the Ryan Budget?Posted: August 11, 2012 | |
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.
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.