All Paths Point to Paul Ryan
I am obsessed with Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan. I have good reason to be. He is a political rising star; a budget wonk, an Ayn Rand acolyte, tenacious but not shrill, fiercely intellectual, and prolific, having released at least two budget plans that have caused major ripples throughout Washington and in the news media.
Ryan is the name on everyone's lips right now. Despite the inevitable failure of his first plan and the likely failure of his current plan, I am convinced that he may one day be President. What I didn't mention is that he's on the short list to occupy the white House as soon as next year. The Romney/Ryan ticket, if it coalesces, would be an absolute boon for the Republican Party and would put some real fire in Romney's chances for the highest office in the country.
Today, Alison Acosta Fraser over at the Conservative Heritage Foundation's blog puzzles over why the President of the United States gave a speech today lambasting Ryan's budget plan. She writes, "why not just let this plan die quietly in the Senate?" and goes on to chide the President. His speech, Fraser claims, "curiously elevates Ryan to the level of contender."
Why on earth would the President of the United States spend time speaking out against a bold budget plan from a Congressional Representative and Chairman of the House Budget Committee, a plan that, while doomed, has been treated like holy ambrosia by most Republicans and by a vast majority of mainstream media?
Why indeed? You see, Ms. Fraser, Paul Ryan is already a contender. No need to pretend that he isn't. All details of his philosophical leanings and the minutiae of his budget plans aside, Ryan is taken very, very seriously by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He is taken seriously by Conservative Media - Ryan funnels his social and economic philosophies into bold, accessible plans that, while divisive, demand to be parsed and discussed.
He is taken seriously by Liberal Media - they are scared to death of him, because while his stance on the role of Government makes them ill, his ubiquity in the National Discussion is undeniable. Politico refers to him as "a top voice for the Republican Party on fiscal matters." You don't get to that level of stature by being, as Ms. Fraser suggests, an insignificant player. Ryan is repeatedly referred to as a 'power player,' a 'superstar,' and a 'savior' by colleagues and analysts of every political stripe. He's not small potatoes.
Ryan is the epitome of political promise: darkly handsome, full of vigor, and quick on the draw. Indeed, just moments after the President completed his anti-Ryan speech (an unfocused, polysyllabic screed against 'Social Darwinism'), Ryan, who is testing the waters on the campaign trail with Romney today, shot back immediately with the following:
History will not be kind to a President who, when it came time to confront our generation's defining challenge, chose to duck and run. The President refuses to take responsibility for the economy and refuses to offer a credible plan to address the most predictable economic crisis in history.
Like his reckless budgets, today's speech by President Obama is as revealing as it is disappointing. While others lead by offering real solutions, he has chosen to distort the truth and divide Americans in order to distract from his failed record."In a matter of moments, Ryan demonstrated a kind of Executive command of the national dialogue. He's still largely a numbers driven intellectual, still unseasoned and imperfect politically (for instance, he had to recently apologize for statements implying that Military Generals were deliberately lying in spite of them selves in their support for a Democratic Budget proposal). But make no mistake. Paul Ryan is here to stay.
His plan takes extreme measures in slicing open the Federal Budget, organ by organ, and genetically re-engineers social welfare programs by grafting them to market driven instruments. His plan promises to increase tax benefits for free market enterprises, 'job creators,' and 'wealth generators' at the higher end of the income ladder, and, in the process, reward financial successes, reduce dependence on programs deemed wasteful and counterproductive to economic growth and material success. Paul Ryan's plan is bold because it makes no apologies for what it is. It does not attempt to cloak its fundamental Randian nature in a kind of faux-compassionate conservatism.
This plan, while D.O.A. in the Democratically controlled Senate, has been endorsed by Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney. What does this mean? Well, it means that President Obama's speech attacking the plan knew something that the Heritage Blog doesn't - the plan may be dead now, but it's been killed once before, and promises to rise from the grave again before the end of the year. How? It's going to be the blueprint for the 2012 Republican Party platform on fiscal matters. Paul Ryan is the architect of that platform, and a young, well spoken, handsome, doggedly tenacious, future President at that. He's got a tighter vision for the future of the country than any of the Republican hopefuls put together, and he'd be a huge boost to any ticket.
Obama's speech was not so much attacking the feasibility of Ryan's current plan as it was acknowledging the potency of his message, and the irresistible tenacity of the philosophical principles behind the plan. Those things refuse to go away quietly, and are only gaining support, not only among beltway wonks, but among regular Americans, and Campaign Obama knows they represent a direct threat. It is understandable that they would go after the plan, because, come Autumn, they will be dealing with it again, in an even more politically savvy form.
And, if the political winds blow the way I think they might, they'll be dealing with Ryan himself. There was nothing 'curious' about the political reasoning behind Obama's speech today, as ineffectual as it was.