Public Nuisances

Ryan Withdraws

By From the October 2011 issue

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WASHINGTON -- ALAS, in August we lost a most desirable candidate for the White House, one that is not charismatic, did not write (or have someone else write) his memoir, has displayed no jump shot in public, and did not leave important documents on his desk while gallivanting around the country in the campaign mode and heading for vacation on Martha's Vineyard. In the first instance I am talking about Congressman Paul Ryan. In the second I am talking about President you-know-who. Since the day he was inaugurated he has been campaigning for his second term, all the while expressing ambivalence about wanting a second term. That is nonsense. He is living rent-free and has that big airplane to fly about the country in.

Ryan has now declared that he is inalterably not seeking the Republican nomination. He did it despite pressure from Karl Rove and Governor Mitch Daniels and after a long hike on the countryside with Bill Bennett, the corpulent ex-Reagan cabinet official. On second thought, the hike could not have been that long. The last time I saw Bennett, a long hike would have been life-threatening.

Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, took his name out of the race with characteristic seriousness. "I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation," he declared. "While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeing our party's nomination for President." There was not much charisma here. He is not running.

Yet, why did he say after a recent Republican debate that, "I just have yet to see a strong and principled articulation of the kind of limited government, opportunity-society path that we would provide as an alternative to the Obama cradle-to-grave welfare state"? I thought then he was going to run. Does he have someone else in mind?

He already has an alternative budget to campaign against Obama with whenever Obama presents a budget. It passed the house. It strikes at the heart of our current budgetary impasse, taking on entitlements and the huge cancer that Obama introduced into our polity against the public's wishes, Obamacare. Ryan is the natural opponent of Obama. He has the demonstrated intellectual leadership that would make him a powerful force on the campaign trail, to say nothing of in debate.

Moreover he has the economic message that a potent constituency out there wants to hear, the independents. In 2010 the independent vote swarmed to Republicans. Today the independents show every sign of sticking with the Republicans for years to come, because they are essentially concerned about pocket-book issues and it is clear that Democrats are not. Democrats are advocates of high taxes, regulations, and the nanny state. The independent vote has demonstrated that it is pro-growth. The independents are Ryan independents.

They do not care if a president wrote a lovely memoir or did not write it. They do not care about his jump shot. They are coming to my opinion on charisma. It is entertaining, but in these times we need something beyond entertainment. We need policies that will get American growing again.

That brings us to those documents that Obama left sitting on his desk. During his mid-August campaign swing through the Midwest he complained repeatedly that there were three free-trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama pending in Congress. Sending them on to the President, the Wall Street Journal reports Obama as saying, Congress "could do right now," save for the congressional obduracy. And then the Journal reports Congress cannot pass the agreements, because they are "still sitting on the President's desk." Someone overlooked them, but the Journal says they are there. I would like to know how this little mishap gets worked out.

In the meantime, if Ryan has "yet to see a strong and principled articulation of the kind of limited government, opportunity-society path that we would provide as an alternative to the Obama cradle-tograve welfare state," does he have anyone else in mind. It is getting late.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.