The Right Opinion

Romney's Present, Ryan's Future

By Charles Krauthammer · Aug. 17, 2012

WASHINGTON – Vice presidential picks are always judged by their effect on the coming election. They rarely have any.

This time could be different. The Democrats' Mediscare barrage is already in full swing. Paul Ryan, it seems, is determined to dispossess grandma, then toss her over a cliff. If the charge is not successfully countered, goodbye Florida.

Republicans have a twofold answer. First, hammer home that their plan affects no one over 55, let alone 65. Second, go on offense. Point out that President Obama cuts Medicare by $700 billion to finance Obamacare.

It's a sweet judo throw: Want to bring up Medicare, supposedly our weakness? Fine. But now you've got to debate Obamacare, your weakness – and explain why you are robbing granny's health care to pay for your pet project.

If Romney/Ryan can successfully counterattack Mediscare, the Ryan effect becomes a major plus. Because:

(a) Ryan nationalizes the election and makes it ideological, reprising the 2010 dynamic that delivered a “shellacking” to the Democrats.

(b) If the conversation is about big issues, Obama cannot hide from his dismal economic record and complete failure of vision. In Obama's own on-camera commercial – “the choice … couldn't be bigger” – what's his big idea? A 4.6 point increase in the marginal tax rate of 2 percent of the population.

That's it? That's his program? For a country with stagnant growth, ruinous debt and structural problems crying out for major entitlement and tax reform? Obama's “plan” would cut the deficit from $1.20 trillion to $1.12 trillion. It's a joke.

© Image. Ryan, fresh and 42, brings youth, energy and vitality – the very qualities Obama projected in 2008 and has by now depleted. “Hope and change” has become “the other guy killed a steelworker's wife.” From transcendence to the political gutter in under four years. A new Olympic record.

While Ryan's effect on 2012 is as yet undetermined – it depends on the success or failure of Mediscare – there is less doubt about the meaning of Ryan's selection for beyond 2012. He could well become the face of Republicanism for a generation.

There's a history here. By choosing George H.W. Bush in 1980, Ronald Reagan gave birth to a father-son dynasty that dominated the presidential scene for three decades. The Bush name was on six of seven consecutive national tickets.

When Dwight Eisenhower picked Richard Nixon in 1952, he turned a relatively obscure senator into a dominant national figure for a quarter-century, appearing on the presidential ticket in five of six consecutive elections.

Even losing VP candidates can ascend to party leader and presumptive presidential nominee. Ed Muskie so emerged in 1968, until he melted down in New Hampshire in 1972. Walter Mondale so emerged in 1980 and won the presidential nomination four years later. (The general election was another story.)

Winning is even better. Forty percent of 20th-century presidents were former VPs: Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Bush (41).

Before Aug. 11, Ryan already was the party's intellectual leader and de facto parliamentary leader – youngest-ever House Budget Committee chairman whose fiscal blueprint has driven congressional debate for two years. Now, however, he is second only to Romney as the party's undisputed political leader.

And while Romney is the present, Ryan is the future. Romney's fate will be determined on Nov. 6. Ryan's presence, assuming he acquits himself well in the campaign, will extend for decades.

Ryan's importance is enhanced by his identity as a movement conservative. Reagan was the first movement leader in modern times to achieve the presidency. Like him, Ryan represents a new kind of conservatism for his time.

Reagan rejected the moderate accommodationism represented by Gerald Ford, the sitting president Reagan nearly overthrew in 1976. Ryan represents a new constitutional conservatism of limited government and individual opportunity that carried Republicans to victory in 2010, not just as a rejection of Obama's big-government hyper-liberalism but also as a significant departure from the philosophically undisciplined, idiosyncratically free-spending “compassionate conservatism” of Obama's Republican predecessor.

Ryan's role is to make the case for a serious approach to structural problems – a hardheaded, sober-hearted conservatism that puts to shame a reactionary liberalism that, with Greece in our future, offers handouts, bromides and a 4.6 percent increase in tax rates.

If Ryan does it well, win or lose in 2012, he becomes a dominant national force. Mild and moderate Mitt Romney will have shaped the conservative future for years to come.

The cunning of history. Or if you prefer, sheer capriciousness.

© 2012, The Washington Post Writers Group

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8 Comments

FRANCES C. LUNETTA in VENETA,OR said:

GOD HELP AMERICA

GOD BLESS AMERICA

VOTE FOR ROMNEY/RYAN

Friday, August 17, 2012 at 1:11 AM

N..Wallace in Washington replied:

Why would anyone want to pour more money into an inefficient government that seeks more control of governrment and less personal liberty which is what happens as Obama raises taxes and regulates more businesses?
Look at our President's agenda to see where the next 4 years will take us. It is up to the voters. Don't stay home even if a hurricane is coming.
Get out there and vote people!!! Exercise a freedom we still have.

Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 9:48 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

These past Presidents actually LOWERED TAXES; Thomas Jefferson(3), Calvin Coolidge(30), JFK(35), and Ronald Wilson Reagan(40). When taxes are cut, across the board, OUR MONEY DOESN'T GET TO WASHINGTON DC, TO BE WASTED ON USELESS PROGRAMS!!! Romney/Ryan will give US(A) leaner government. Lean gov. gives US(A) more capital in our pockets!

Friday, August 17, 2012 at 7:41 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

It's a joke.

That describes the Entire Obamao Administration and the Marxist Statist Agenda. It is not funny. It is tragic that so many endorse this failure.

Friday, August 17, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Mike McGinn in People's Republic of Maryland said:

"From transcendence to the political gutter in under four years. A new Olympic record."

Charles...Do you actually believe he was out of the political gutter to begin with? "Transcendence" was just part of the charade, part of the hype, part of the sales pitch. It never was a reality from which he could actually fall.

Friday, August 17, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Sue Nami in Rural Ohio said:

Mr. Krauthammer, sir, a question: Why aren't you running this campaign?

Time after time, in the years since I have been enjoying your sharp insights, you were correct on the issues and gave good counsel, but no Republican has taken on the challenge of following your advice.

Your insights should be utilized by the republican campaign managers but they are not. Why? Power, once again, the grasp for power. I can think of no other reason. They must think its better to have their little 20% of the power and live as "nobles", rather than move aside and let others who actually care about the country run the show. They seem to be happy to let the country slip into anarchy just so long as they keep their 20%. Little realizing (or caring) that when it falls, WE ALL FALL!

I am not a republican, I am a conservative. When I see these educated gentleman, such as Karl Rove, running this campaign the same as the last (McCain), I want to PUK!

The problem is universal: If some one actually gives a sh** about the country and suggests a departure from "campaign norms", they are ignored, labeled a crackpot or worse, silenced by slander in the mainstream media. Or more troubling, by their own party, i.e., Ken Blackwell, who will not take it upon itself to defend a fellow party member.

Power. Plain and simple.

I just wish the "powers that be" would use your insights to gain victory over this oppressive nanny state in which we now live. I just don't see that happening.

But there is a new generation of conservatives poised to move this country in the right direction, not any time soon, however. I just hope there is a USA, as we know it, when that time comes.

I look forward to your work in the future.

Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM

CalinSoCal in southerncal said:

Once again, upon reading Dr. Krauthammer I can only say - I wish I had
said that - and wish I was brilliant enought to have thought it.
Right on! Pity more folks like him aren't in government - but they probably
don't need the grief (lies from the left) or want to take the pay cut. And, perhaps more importantly, too honest to steal, like those in office now.

Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 1:35 PM

Abu Nudnik in Toronto said:

Great as always but with one quibble: "hyper-liberalism." Liberalism and Socialism are fundamentally different political philosophies. Socialism has succeeded by pretending to be liberal... only more so. Being very liberal would bring liberty to all: including the market place. But that's a Classic Liberal definition. I wonder if the ground should have been ceded so easily.

Monday, August 20, 2012 at 12:30 PM