Framing the Debate

The week’s big story is the well-timed announcement of Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan for vice-presidential running mate. It is big because of its impact; it frames the debate for the rest of the campaign.

In Congress Ryan has actually tried to address the government spending problem. Democrats and Republicans must talk about this now if they are to say anything about Ryan. The Democrats’ initial response was to denounce Ryan as an “ideologue” and immediately try to discredit his ideas. Small-government Republicans and Tea Party supporters have welcomed Ryan as someone who injects intelligence and practicality into the campaign.

Although the negative campaign ads will continue, the conventions and debates will be fundamentally centered on small vs. big government ideas.


The announcement was well-timed to catch journalists napping for the weekend. Speculation had been running rampant for many weeks about who would be chosen and when. Romney fooled them by going for a man with a vision rather than making a political gambit for a “safe” choice. The announcement was expected after the Olympics so Romney’s timing guaranteed capturing the weekend headlines.

Romney’s Choice

This speaks well for Romney’s decision-making. The selection of Ryan was a well-kept secret, indicating a level of trust among his advisors. Long viewed as a pragmatic, methodical sort of politician, Romney appears to have chosen wisely in the circumstances. It amplifies the description of an executive willing to rely on the expertise of carefully chosen advisors.

Ryan and Biden

Ryan brings an intellectual component to this campaign. Derided as an ideologue—an overused bromide in my estimation—Ryan is refreshing because he actually seems to care about ideas. There is a dearth of this kind of man in politics today. Look no further than the two tickets for president and vice president to see why Ryan stands out. Direct comparison with Biden is most convenient. The gaffer-in-chief wasted no time in making yet another faux pas this week with his “…y’all in chains”-remark before a predominately black audience. He has done things like this so often he comes off as a clown. Ryan is serious.

Ryan and Romney

Romney is a pragmatist with a certain discipline of compromise. His philosophy is grounded in expediency which normally works well in Washington. If not for the deepening recession or depression over the next several years it could be “business as usual” under a Romney presidency. Ryan is principled.

Ryan and Obama

Barack Obama desperately seeks a second term. He gets his identity from the office. Other than a dubious academic career his only background of note is in “community organizing.” He lacks independence. This man places no value on ideas as he has made quite clear in his 2009 inaugural speech and more recently in his “you didn’t build that” speech. Ryan has independent vision.

Sense of Life

The singular benefit of the Ryan nomination to the American people is the challenge to their sense of life as Americans, by which I mean fealty to individualism and America’s founding ideas. The choice has been clarified by one man to whom ideas matter versus the dominant anti-intellectualism of the other three. It remains to be seen if there is a similar and decisive split among American voters.

©Copyright 2012 Edward Podritske

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