Well, that didn’t take long.
By 11 a.m. Saturday, shortly after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appeared with his newly picked running mate, the Senate Democratic leader fired out a bitter e-mail.
“By picking Representative Paul Ryan, Governor Romney has doubled down on his commitment to gut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. “Romney’s choice demonstrates that catering to the Tea Party and the far-right is more important to him that standing up for the middle class.”
Of course, Mr. Reid, a hired gun for the Obama campaign willing to say anything to hold on to power, renewed the canard that Mr. Ryan supports cutting taxes for the wealthy, while Democrats would make millionaires and billionaires “pay their fair share.”
Team Obama wasted no time, either. “Congressman Paul Ryan is best known as the author of a budget so radical The New York Times called it ‘the most extreme budget plan passed by a House of Congress in modern times.’ With Mitt Romney’s support, Ryan would end Medicare as we know it and slash the investments we need to keep our economy growing — all while cutting taxes for those at the very top.”
(Oddly familiar, isn’t it?)
Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod went even further, saying that “both Romney and Ryan are severely conservative, threatening to take us backward on women’s issues and civil rights.” Yes, Mr. Ryan supports Jim Crow laws. Developing …
The media, of course, parroted the campaign’s talking points. “This is not a pick for suburban moms; this is not a pick for women,” said NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. CNN’s Candy Crowley, claiming unnamed Republicans had given her the skinny, said the pick “looks a little bit like some sort of ticket death wish.”\
John Heilemann at New York magazine, was positively giddy. “In elevating Ryan,” he wrote, “what Team Romney has done is execute a sharp U-turn, embracing the theory that 2012 will not be a pure referendum but a choice election, and one in which the two sides’ contrasting approaches to the deficit, debt, entitlements, and taxes will take center stage. And while this is surely not a Hail Mary pass on the order of John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin, it is almost as much, as some Romneyites admit, an attempt to (pardon the expression) change the game.”
But what the Democrats and supporting media will have to address at some point is what the nonpartisan Politifact watchdog group dubbed the “Lie of the Year” in 2011. “PolitiFact debunked the Medicare charge in nine separate fact-checks rated False or Pants on Fire, most often in attacks leveled against Republican House members,” the group said.
Still, to Democrats, Mr. Ryan wants to choke elderly people to death with his bare hands (who can forget the Agenda Project ad that showed a Paul Ryan look-alike pushing an old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff).
Yet few can argue with the facts that at some point — sooner rather than later — Congress and the president will have to make substantive changes to Medicare, in effect, “end Medicare as we know it.”
Spending on the massive health program will hit $930 billion in 2020, up from $500 billion in 2009, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects. Reforms to Social Security, which President George W. Bush took on in his second term, only to be thwarted by Democrats, won’t be far behind.
Federal spending across the board is out of hand. This year alone, the government will spend $1 trillion more than it takes in (from already-too-high taxes). While both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for spiraling spending, eventually someone — anyone — will have to slash spending. There is no other way (note to Democrats: There are only 245,000 millionaires and billionaires — even fewer today than when Mr. Obama took office — so raising their taxes through the roof just won’t balance the budget).
Already, the media is painting the pick as a catastrophic blunder. “In selecting the 42-year-old House member from Wisconsin, a man identified with some of the most polarizing policy ideas in the Republican Party, Romney has lunged for a shiny object in about the most dramatic way possible,” wrote Politico.
The writers said the choice violated the first principle of the Romney campaign: “Run out the clock, come off as at least vaguely credible, and don’t lunge for shiny objects that take you off-message.”
But they clearly don’t get it: The selection of Mr. Ryan focuses — like a laser — the 2012 election on the economy and the incumbent president’s clear failure to solve not only the current mess, but the overarching conditions — out-of-control spending — that underlie it. Mr. Ryan, perhaps the most articulate budget wonk in either party, will spend the next 85 days laying that out for American voters.
Make no mistake: Mr. Obama tossed and turned through a sleepless slumber after word leaked out at midnight Friday that Mr. Romney had picked Mr. Ryan. He knows the choice was indeed a game-changer — one that will leave him very little room to distract and deceive voters about his dismal record. And he knows he cannot run and hide, not now.
⦁ Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.