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Coming from the congressional majority that absorbed tea-party candidates and resisted White House initiatives, Rep. Paul Ryan and his fiscal proposals have been the particular target of Democratic attacks portraying him — and Mitt Romney by extension — as obstructionist, pro-privilege and extreme.
So Ryan took his moment in the spotlight at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night and worked hard to turn it right back against those opponents, arguing that the Obama administration has been giving the public “a runaround” and “America needs a turnaround.”
He shot back, implicitly, at those jarring, overblown send-granny-off-the-cliff ads against the GOP — without mentioning them — by taking pains to argue that real compassion is on the side of those who’d “save” the safety-net through making it fiscally sustainable.
“We can do this,” he intoned. “Let’s get this done.”
With this declaration of purpose, he played both offense and defense at the same time.
The Wisconsin congressman seemed to stir the excitement, as he was called on to do, in a carefully teased, micro-controlled environment that exemplifies the modern no-risk made-for-TV political convention. To that extent, it seemed to be “mission accomplished” for Ryan.
Mitt Romney steps up Thursday night.
The final payoff, as Paul Ryan finishes his speech at the Republican convention with his “get this done” message.
He notes his style contrast and age contrast with Mitt Romney but disputes any difference in basic philosophy. Now he argues for Massachusetts under Romney — sticky of course due to “Romney care,“ but that's supposed to be yesterday's primary debate.
And then he shifts to faith — his and Romney's. “The truest measure of any society is how it defends those who cannot fend or care for themselves ..." Cites “the moral creed of our country ... Sometimes even presidents need reminding that our rights come from nature and God and not from government.“
But don't people enact and defend their own rights via the Constitution, the listener might wonder? Well, just then, he says, “The founding generation [of people] secured those rights for us.“
And now for the windup, the final fusillade. He says, “We will reapply our founding principles.“ He repeats, “We can do this . . . whatever your political party, let's come together for the sake of our country . . . Let's get this done!“
Nice rock and roll riff as his family appears for the onstage wave-and-leave.
College students stare at faded Obama posters and wonder when they can move out of dorms and get going with life, he says. And ... if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you."
This sounds like it could encourage grievance, the opposite of the anti-grievance-entitlement message — but then, he says when he worked jobs, he never felt stuck in his life. Without the word welfare, but rather referring to entitlements, he inveighs against the “supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.“
Ryan cites a New Yorker, the late congressman and vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, as an optimist of the sort we need to look to.
Hear that, Buffalo?
“We will put government back on the side of men and women who create jobs — and the men and women who need jobs.“ His mom started a small business that “transformed my mom from a widow in grief” and “to this day my mom is my role model.“
The idea behind this exercise is that women, mothers, will relate. And everybody seems to love or admire what Norman Mailer used to call himself — a macho mama's boy, which he also called dangerous because such a person sees tremendous possibilities. But we digress.
He's now used the Eldridge Cleaver — VISTA — dad line (see previous post).
The administration is “like a ship trying to sail on yesterday's wind." (As a candidate you always link yourself to the future and your opponent to the past). Leadership is missing, he says, not words. “Forever shifting blame to the last administration is getting old . . . Isn't it time he assumed responsibility?“
The risk in having Ryan do the attack stuff is that he can seem a bit angry (not good for national candidates), perhaps a bit slick. But he does speak well when he says of Obama, “and still he does nothing!" "They have no answer to this simple reality: We need to stop spending money that we don't have!“
In the Congress, Ryan has drawn flak for looking to change Medicare as we know it to a voucher program. He reiterates the GOP counter-argument that what would kill Medicare is Obamacare.
Paul Ryan brings up Obama's promise to keep a plant open in his hometown in Wisconsin. It closed. This links the president's economic record to the charge of idle promise. “Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different than the last four years?“
He cites the Solyndra fiasco, a fiasco indeed. (During the Reagan administration, wasn't there a company called Wedtech? Just saying ...)
Rep. Paul Ryan steps on stage, handsome and dressed in a dark suit, white shirt, and pale blue striped tie, speaks of the honor and duty of going for vice president. “After four years of getting a runaround, America needs a turnaround and the man for the job is Mitt Romney.“
He goes straight into the defense of his role as budget cutter, without saying so explicitly. He refers to scare tactics, presumably like ads of the Ryan budget throwing granny off a cliff. Calls the Democrats desperate to hold onto power.
In the anticipation of Ryan's big appearance — the night's big event — Gov. Susanna Martinez of New Mexico says in Spanish that everything is possible in America. She speaks of her own humble roots — a theme for most speakers to offset the rap that GOP is the party of the privileged — and gets the biggest cheer when she tells of how her dad gave her a .357 magnum to protect herself.
Her recalling the segregated-Birmingham roots and journey to secretary of state brings the delegates to their feet. Then, “Mitt Romney and Paul Romney . . . know who we are . . . they know who we want to be . . . It just has to be that the freest and most compassionate country on the face of the earth will continue to be the most powerful . . ."
Implied is the message that we're never going back to the wrongs of segregation.
“The crisis in K12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are . . . We need great teachers . . . high standards for our kids because success comes from achievement, not lax standards and false praise. And we need to give greater choice, particularly poor parents . . . This is the civil rights issue of our day.“
Again, implicitly, a standard pitch for charter schools and going at the status quo in public education by cutting the unions down to size.
She says in America it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you are going. “Ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement . . . we have never been . . . envious of each other's successes.“
That's an implicit reflection of the message that Obama attacks success, which itself is a defense against the doubts about Bain Capital's role in the U.S. economy that Democrats have fervently pushed.
Peace really does come through strength, she says. From Israel to Columbia, allies have to know we're behind them, and our foes need to know we are strong, she says. China “has signed 15 free trade agreements . . . sadly we are abandoning the field of free and fair trade and it will come back to haunt us.“
A flashback to neoconservative leadership, perhaps.
Condoleezza Rice steps on stage to big applause. She starts off with her recollection of 9/11, when she was in the White House, then speaks of the financial collapse that “stunned” us. She refers to the Arab Spring. “We stand for free peoples and free markets,“ she says. " . . . Our armed forces are the sure shield and foundation of liberty.“
In an economy-related convention, this is a return of sorts to foreign policy.