Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mitt Romney, Even Less Worthy of Consideration with Ryan on the Ticket

In my last post, I explained why Mitt Romney shouldn't even be given serious consideration for the job of President of The United States. Now he's even less worthy. That's a pretty amazing accomplishment. Not a Presidential accomplishment. More like a Stephan Feck high dive accomplishment.

Romney's pick of Ryan does answer some questions about which Romney was being intentionally vague. It may not tell us how little Romney pays in taxes while proposing to lower them and raise ours, but it does tell us that he's endorsing Ryan's plans, at least enough that he's willing to put Ryan's name under his own on a million bumper stickers.

It also tells us that Romney is running scared. It seemed the Republican plan was to run a guy so milquetoast that we wouldn't think about him at all so that the entire election could be referendum on Obama. That's an entirely understandable miscalculation. Our country is now so polarized that people on both sides of the fence now live in hermetically sealed bubbles. While liberals can't imagine why anyone would be angry at Obama for being too liberal (we see him as being far too centrist), many conservatives can't believe that anyone would like him. Newsflash, conservatives: Despite the fact that all your Facebook friends are posting Obama-bashing clips from Fox News on their pages, most people like the President. His job approval numbers fluctuate with the economy, but his personal likability numbers have been consistently positive, and he edges Romney in likability 60% to 30%. Sure, likability isn't everything. People generally liked Gerald Ford, and he was a one-termer. But if the whole strategy is to run a blank slate and count on antipathy to the sitting President, that's a really bad strategy when the President is personally popular. Really bad. Like Feck's dive bad.

The Ryan pick (which, according to the AP, should happen today), shows that the Romney campaign is realizing just where they are in that fateful dive, legs apart and back nearly parallel to the water. If he'd chosen someone boring, he'd be staying the course, staying bland, staying nondescript. Choosing Ryan shows that he knows being the other guy isn't going to be enough.

Here's why Ryan is a terrible move; Romney has now gone from being the other, less popular guy, to being the very specific guy who still won't answer your interview questions but goes out of his way to insult you at the job interview. As Ezra Klein points out, "Ryan has told the Congressional Budget Office that his budget will bring all federal spending outside Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050. That means defense, infrastructure, education, food safety, basic research, and food stamps — to name just a few — will be less than four percent of GDP in 2050. To get a sense for how unrealistic that is, Congress has never permitted defense spending to fall below three percent of GDP, and Romney has pledged that he’ll never let defense spending fall beneath four percent of GDP." Klein is pretty generous about this discrepancy, commenting only that, "It will be interesting to hear him explain away the difference." Yeah, Mr. Klein, just like it has been interesting to read Romney's last ten years worth of tax returns. Romney will never explain that difference. If he were asked point blank, I would bet my dressage horse he would dance around well enough to score higher than Rafalca Romney did at the Olympics. So now Romney has refused to answer some vital interview questions, and will continue to run on the platform that Americans are too stupid to know that 3.75 is a number lower than something-higher-than-four.

The other thing this tells us about Romney is that he bends to the political winds even more than we thought he did before. He was willing to be a pro-choice, pro-government healthcare governor when he needed to be in Massachusetts. He was willing to be a pro-life, anti-Romneycare primary candidate. It was reasonable to wonder if he wouldn't tack back to the middle once the general got under way, and many dyed-in-the-wool conservatives were rightly cautious about him. Too many of them, in fact. Because now he's shown that, in an effort to appease them, he's willing to tack even further to the right. Progressives like me should be concerned that he will go even further to keep the Tea Party happy if he has to once he's in office, but conservatives should now see that he would be a gun-rights-limiting, pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, pro-flag burning, French speaking (Oh, wait!), Harvard and Stanford educated (Hey, wait a minute!) LIBERAL if it meant getting his agenda passed. Those conservatives should wonder what exactly that agenda is beyond becoming President. From what I can tell, beyond his 40+ years effort to get into the White House, the only thing Romney has consistently favored is lowering his own taxes. Those of us not in Romney's tax bracket (which includes 99% of all conservatives, too) should all worry what he would sell out to accomplish that goal.

Now, it's possible that Romney is performing a great head-fake, and won't actually choose Ryan. I doubt that's even on the table now, though, since it would infuriate his base even further. It's also possible that the Ryan pick is a precurser to a campaign filled with tax returns, very specific policy proposals, and transparency about what a Romney/Ryan nation would look like after drastic cuts to the military, Medicare, and Social Security. It's also possible that I have a pet unicorn you just can't see.

But I don't.

Until Romney's campaign becomes that unlikely unicorn, he's still refusing to tell us, his job interviewers, what we need to know in order to even consider him for the job he wants, and he's made it worse by pretending to be bold while demonstrating his weakness. I might consider casting a ballot for someone other than Barack Obama, if someone like Jim Wallis or Alan Grayson were viable alternatives, but Mitt Romney isn't even a serious contender.

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