He was so good last night he’ll be an impossible act to follow.
As Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) closed out the second night of the 2012 Republican Convention in the biggest speech of his life, he at first seemed slightly (and understandably) nervous. That lasted about sixty seconds, as the vice-president-in-waiting delivered remarks that became steadily more forceful and confident and left my wife, a relatively new citizen of the United States, saying “this guy should be running for president.”
Ryan’s 35-minute remarks, which ended with Republicans rowdily cheering the party’s leading “rock star” (in a party demonstrably brimming with young talent), spoke of optimism for the future (calling on the memory of happy warrior Jack Kemp), of the damage to the economy and the fundamental nature of our republic caused by Barack Obama, of entitlement reform, of his family and upbringing, and (briefly) of faith and religion, all while conveying a combination of youth and earnestness that the Obama/Biden team cannot hope to match.
Clearly savoring the veep’s role as attack dog, much of Paul Ryan’s speech was aimed at President Barack Obama, and particularly at the president’s abysmal record:
“I have never seen opponents so silent about their record or so desperate to keep their power… Their moment came and went… fear and division is all they’ve got left. With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money, and he’s pretty experienced at that.”
And this was the gentle warm-up.
Ryan spoke of the stimulus: “[It] cost $831 billion, the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal govt. It went to companies like Solyndra, with their gold-plated connections, subsidized jobs, and make-believe markets. You, the American people… were cut out of the deal. That money wasn’t just spent and wasted; it was borrowed, spent, and wasted. “
Adding that “maybe the greatest waste of all was time,” Ryan went to the subject of unemployment and Obama’s failure to address it while instead ramming Obamacare down the nation’s throat: “If everyone out of work stood single file, that unemployment line would stretch the length of the entire American continent.” Instead of dealing with jobs and the economy, Obama gave us “a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care. Obamacare comes to more than 2,000 pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country.”
Taking on the role of an electricity-controlling X-Men character, Paul Ryan didn’t just touch the third rail of politics, he firmly grabbed hold of it: “The biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.” Even with all of Obamacare’s taxes, “the planners in Washington still didn’t have enough money…so they just took it all away from Medicare. $716 billion funneled out of Medicare by President Obama. An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed all to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for. The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it. Medicare is a promise and we will honor it.”
In a remarkable example of history not repeating itself, Ryan offered the boldness that is really the only “radical” thing about him, a willingness to take the offensive against Democrats’ set-play of throwing-granny-off-the-cliff “Mediscare” tactics: “In this election on this issue, the usual posturing of the left isn’t going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program and raiding it. Our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate.” When you watched Ryan say these words, again according to the wisdom of my wife, you never doubted that he meant every single word.
After mentioning all the things President Obama didn’t do, such as solve the housing crisis, and what he did do, such as preside over the lowering of America’s debt rating amidst a pattern of this administration doing nothing when leadership was required, Paul Ryan offered a memorable image: “All that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.”
Particularly in the last several minutes of his speech, Ryan had several memorable lines. (If he didn’t write them himself, that speech writer deserves a bonus.)
Regarding Obama’s failure to deliver: “The president is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record and then calls that the record. But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy that Barack Obama inherited, not the economy he envisions, but this economy that we are living.”
Perhaps the most memorable verbal image of the evening was one of several comments made by Ryan aimed at young adults — a group that tends to favor Democrats when they take the time to vote at all, and who are suffering through massive unemployment: “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters, and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.” Just stop and visualize that for a moment. One can hardly imagine a more powerful image to snap a naïve, idealistic 22-year old out of his college-induced leftist reverie.
If that was a great political moment, the most moving, powerful moment of the evening came during one of Paul Ryan’s reflections on his family. He told a story about his mother, Betty, taking a bus forty miles to and from Madison (Wisconsin) each day to take college classes and gain the new skills needed to start a new business. “It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life.” This happened soon after Paul Ryan’s father died, when Paul was sixteen years old. “And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn’t just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my Mom is my role model.” The TV camera cut to a man in the crowd who had a tear running out of the corner of his eye; somehow Ryan himself kept it together, but you could see the obvious emotion in his face… and I could feel it in mine.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?