Mitt Romney just made it double or nothing.
His pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate is not only the bravest move of his political career, but the bravest pick of any running mate ever. Mitt Romney is essentially betting not only his entire career on November, but betting the entire future of the country on it as well.
Americans now have a clearer choice than they did before. Voting for Mitt Romney is no longer voting for Anybody Palatable But Obama, but for an entirely different worldview.
Because the stakes are now so much higher, I love this pick; it's a stroke of genius. Paul Ryan is an amazing leader in Washington, one of the smartest and nicest guys in town. He's a perfect fit for Mitt Romney, too. Like Gov. Romney, Mr. Ryan is a brilliant economic thinker, a dedicated and honorable family man, and an articulate proponent of rational, conservative principles.
Last week, this race was about President Obama. Now this race is about the future of America. Mr. Romney is gambling the entire conservative brand on November and giving Americans a choice: If they really want Bismarckian statism, then they can have it. Or, if they want prosperity and freedom, they can have that back, too. Mr. Romney is thinking very long term, like a true leader should.
A lot of people on both sides have called this a risky move; they are right. But that is why it is so brilliant: If America is going down, it's at least going down swinging. If Mr. Obama is re-elected and we continue on the path that we are on, within a decade the interest on our debt will be larger than our military spending, and large enough to fund the entire Chinese military. Within a decade, America will no longer be able to hide that it has lost its dominance. When a future Edward Gibbon looks backs through the rubble, he at least will be able to say that the good guys gave it one last shot.
Mr. Romney was not reckless, however; he knew that Mr. Obama was already going to attack him for associating with Mr. Ryan. The Republican House has passed two Ryan budgets, and Mr. Obama is hoping to run against the Republican House: David Axelrod already was sharpening his guilt-by-association fallacy.
It is a testament to Mr. Ryan's influence that his name was almost a litmus test during the debates and during the primaries. Mr. Obama's hyperventilating about the Ryan budgets as "thinly veiled social Darwinism" and a "Trojan horse," and "you're-on-your-own economics" only demonstrate the president's extremism, not Mr. Ryan's. How many people voted for Mr. Obama's budget? No one: not Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, not Rep. Maxine Waters of California, not Rep. Henry Waxman of California. You can pick any Democrat in Congress and Mr. Obama is still to their left.
Mr. Romney knew that he was going to be pilloried and abused as a social Darwinist. It must have occurred to him; why run from it?
In Washington, you eventually learn not to worry about what people say about you, because your opponents will rationalize everything their way anyhow. If Mr. Romney had picked Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio, then they would have called Mr. Romney a coward who approves of George W. Bush's budget director. If he had picked Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, they would have said Mr. Romney caved to conventional wisdom. It's just the way campaigns work: No matter what you do, you will be attacked.
One reasonable objection, however, might be that you want a guy like Mr. Ryan in the House, where he has risen by sheer merit to a leadership role. Mr. Ryan reportedly even turned down a job as Office of Management and Budget director for Mr. Bush. But Mr. Ryan is already term-limited out of staying on as Budget Committee chairman; would you put him on Appropriations? Ways and Means? What would you do with him? His effectiveness would be diminished in the supporting role that he now must take on.
Therefore, Mr. Ryan as vice president is a perfect match. He shares many good qualities with Mr. Romney, and complements the few that he lacks. The job of an executive is to make decisions, and Mr. Romney has demonstrated a brilliant judgment. It took courage for Mr. Romney to pick Mr. Ryan, and there has been no better example of courage in Washington than the House Budget Committee chairman.
No one should question whether Mr. Ryan is qualified for the job. Put Mr. Ryan beside Mr. Obama. One is a dorky numbers guy; one is an entertainer. One is all substance, one is all style. We will know in November which one we should choose, and we therefore will know again who we are.
• Armstrong Williams, author of the 2010 book "Reawakening Virtues," is on Sirius Power 128 from 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.