By Charles D. Ellison
For sure, it’s the needed game changer of the month for Team Romney: pick an Eddie Haskell look-a-like, a well-to-do-gooder Republican budget whiz kid who is best known for plucking the pennies out of entitlement programs as much as he privately tries to pluck those Badger State eyebrows. Whichever way you want to look at it, it’s the impeccable “Golden Boy” … it’s the detestable Master of Austerity … it’s Capitol Hill’s Robin to Mitt Romney’s old schoolish Bruce Wayne alter-ego if Batman never existed.
There’s more to this eye than meets the surface of Romney’s Vice Presidential pick. Good. Bad. A dose of some ugly, too.
The problem with it presents as much of a failure on optics as it does message. For all the boldness, the gotcha and fancy Indiana Jones whip-then-hat-tip Camp Mitt hopes to accomplish, the selection of House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) potentially raises more heckles than hurrahs. And not because Democrats will rip his infamous “Path to Prosperity” to opposition research shreds. Not because committed senior citizen voters will remember Ryan at the polls as “that boy who tried to take my Medicare away.” (Imagine retired grandmother in Florida knocking Ryan with a purse full of bricks and dentures during a campaign stop). Not because he’s the intellectual force behind many a dubitable and smarmy loaf of white bread’s worth of GOP budget cuts. Because, for the most part, it reaffirms the continuing narrative that has dominated Mitt Romney’s headlines since he started his journey for the White House nearly a decade ago.
What’s validated is the story of a pandering pol with money, a candidate who finds the need to please according to the room temperature. In the past few weeks leading up to last Saturday, Paul Ryan was being pushed by many an old school conservative as the flavor of the month. From crotchety Weekly Standard columnist Bill Kristol to the Wall Street Journal editorial page, this was the pick of hawkish deficit busters seeking redemption from last year’s debt deal. And, in true form, Romney went against any gut he had, opting instead for the conventional wisdom of the country club. We now know that despite his ridiculous quarter-of-a-billion in wealth, he can be easily pushed and manipulated – which is something worth considering while assessing his leadership acumen.
Just when we thought it was going to get interesting, Romney confirms that he’s really not that type of cat. The rest of us order passion fruit gelatos with strawberry ice cream, sprinkled with an assorted mess of candies and other ice cream shop toppings; Romney goes straight vanilla. Who really knows Ryan, anyway, outside of the D.C. echo chamber? Among all the exciting flavors he could have picked, it’s Ryan. He could have did Sen. Marco Rubio; former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice; New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; or New Hampshire Sen. Susan Ayotte – just to name several who could’ve mixed it up. Even wife Anne, leaning on Mitt’s arm, openly expressed a desire for a woman.
Republicans could have used that. Would that have wrapped up more Black and Latino voters than ever before with a person of color on the ticket? In the immortal words of American Psycho protagonist Patrick Bateman: “Maybe. I don’t know. Not really.”