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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Beldar's last-ditch plea to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI): Accept a GOP presidential draft from the conspiracy of present circumstances

Chairman Ryan, I already credit you with being a true public servant. You are already deeply involved in a career that demands inordinate personal and familial sacrifices. I'm a father of four, mine slightly older than yours, and I know that Duty (Writ Large) has already claimed more than its share of your life, at the expense of time spent with your family and friends. I can only imagine how little time you ever have left just for you.

Your countrymen — all of them who care to look — do indeed see your sacrifice, and we applaud it, and we are grateful.

Yet history's greatest civilization today stands essentially leaderless. You understand perfectly both the perils it faces and the urgency of those perils.

You have not been unreasonable to hope that someone else of your approximate caliber, with your same general mix of philosophies, capabilities, and principles, would step forward to lead our party in November 2012, and then our Nation and the world. You've had good reasons to hope you could defer the most severe of personal sacrifices for a few more years, until your kids are older — and it's not like you've been slacking in your current day-job!

But we approach the absolute drop-dead deadlines for 2012 presidential candidacies to announce. And Mr. Ryan, while we have several plausible candidates for our party's nomination, all of whom would be a substantial improvement over Obama, none of them, frankly, is of your caliber. And you know that. They all have in common a burning desire to be president, a quality conventionally thought (with good reason) to be an essential prerequisite for a candidate. But in most other respects, and specifically on the issues on which the 2012 election ought to be fought, as a potential nominee of our party you would surpass any of them.

And here's the clencher, Mr. Ryan: Not one of them has your capacity to parlay a transformational, watershed election victory into a transformational, watershed presidency, because none of them has your capacity to lead a leaderless country into the difficult reforms that are essential to rescue our civilization.

The circumstances of the 2010 election conspired to put you in the chair of the most important committee of the only part of Congress controlled by our party — to do there the most important work that could possibly be done now, which has been to tourniquet the worst of our federal fiscal hemorrhages, and to lay out a credible alternative to the Democrats' continued pillaging of our national fisc and our children's futures. Speaker Boehner has been in the role of Gen. George Marshall, to your Gen. Dwight Eisenhower at D-Day. And you've been nothing short of brilliant in that role. 

But November 2012 is first and foremost about regaining the presidency. The leadership which is essential for those reforms to be implemented must come from the White House. Again, you know this perfectly well — as well or better than anyone.

Despite your reasonable hopes, no one of your caliber is stepping up in the required way, to the required degree, for that job. And you have always been best-positioned among them anyway.

Circumstances have naturally and irresistibly conspired to draft you, Mr. Ryan — to take you from the chair of the House Budget Committee into the 2012 presidential race, and thence to the White House in January 2013. Fate is screaming at you, Mr. Ryan. Unplug your ears, and even though it is more than we can in good conscience demand of you, be true to your own destiny and do now the necessary.

Accept the draft of circumstances. Or resign not just your own children, but all of ours, to a fate in which they're to be led, if at all, only by people chosen from a preselected pool comprising only those who desperately want that job (regardless of their qualifications for actually doing it).

Posted by Beldar at 04:38 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Obama, Ryan | Permalink


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(1) Dafydd the Doomsayer made the following comment | Oct 8, 2011 5:17:08 PM | Permalink


I think you have missed an essential element of the case of the opposition (which includes Rep. Ryan himself): We have no evidence that Paul Ryan can lead the country.

Granted, the man is a genius; but so am I... and if you were to start a "draft Dafydd" campaign for president, I would swiftly inform you that you're barking up the wrong dog: I am not a leader; I am not a follower; I am a lone wolf.

Ryan is not a lone wolf; but all of my observation indicates he is not an individual leader but a brilliant policy wonk and a wizard at forging agreement within committees: a committee of thirty-eight (the Budget Committee); a committee of 242 (the Republican conference); and yes, to our great good fortune, a committee of 435 as well.

But that does not prove him an effective one-man leader of 300 million. Indeed, by repeatedly rejecting the blandishments of likely dozens of powerful, well-positioned cohorts within the top tier of the GOP, Ryan himself has signalled that even he himself doesn't consider Paul Ryan such a leader as you imagine (at least not yet).

As the Lord Protector once said, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken." I know you love the guy, but love can blind one to faults or lacks. I think he's perfect where he is right now; but I worry that promotion to POTUS may trigger the Peter Principle, raising Ryan to his level of incompetence. I don't know; do you? Do you really believe you have enough evidence to conclude that it would not? I wonder how.

Suppose that Ryan himself truly believes that Romney or Perry would make a better president. How then should he answer pleas such as the one you made? To reject them may be tough on the ol' ego, but to acquiesce to what he knows is wrong would be lunacy.

Let's allow that he knows himself better than anybody else knows him, except perhaps his wife. And I notice she hasn't joined any "draft Ryan" rallies.


(2) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 8, 2011 5:35:29 PM | Permalink

Dafydd, I don't believe Ryan does think Romney or Perry would make a better president. There are indeed widespread and longstanding rumors to the contrary.

Ryan is already the de facto leader of the GOP — the draftsman of the alternative economic plan, and the best spokesman for it. You say, why do I believe he can lead? Because I've been watching him lead among the herd of cats known as Congress. He's been the most consequential actor and speaker on the most consequential of issues. He's been walking the walk while the existing candidates have been talking ... and talking ... and talking the talk.

I understand and accept that you are unpersuaded.

(3) DRJ made the following comment | Oct 8, 2011 5:50:27 PM | Permalink

Let's assume Ryan is a better candidate than Romney and Perry, and that's a reasonable assumption in many ways: Ryan knows Washington and government. He's knowledgeable about America's problems in ways few, if any, can match. Finally, he's energetic, principled, committed, and articulate. But none of those things would make up for getting in too late to be organized. There's a case that even Perry was late but his candidacy is still viable because he's run large campaigns, has a staff he's worked with before, and (let's face it) he has Texas money supporting him.

Intelligence, judgment, and experience won't make up for a lack of organization. However, if Ryan entered the Presidential race now, I think it would put him in a bad situation and potentially call into question his intelligence and judgment. I don't want to see Ryan's promising national career ruined by jumping into the race now. Everyone, especially Ryan, would be better off with Ryan as a VP candidate.

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 8, 2011 6:39:46 PM | Permalink

DRJ, that's a thoughtful and important counterargument, and I acknowledge its weight. Counterbalancing it, and in my subjective judgment outweighing it:

It's very late in the "getting in" stage of the 2012 campaign, but not at all late in the campaign, even the primary campaign: Not a meaningful vote will be cast, nor a single delegate selected, for months yet.

I can't dispute that being in earlier would have been better, but the degree of commitment to any of the existing candidates is relatively thin still, and there are indeed still a good number of professional campaign folks who aren't nailed down yet by either Perry or Romney. And frankly, so far there's been little correlation between organizational brilliance and opinion polling: Cain, by all accounts, has nothing more than the skeleton of a campaign team assembled; Ryan could probably do better than that on 48 hours' notice. And Romney, despite superb organization, experience, and financing, hasn't locked down even the supporters he entered the race with.

Recall, too, that weeks ago, Rick Perry was thought to be entering the campaign "late." Within days, he was the front-runner. I don't think Ryan would see quite the same initial splash that Gov. Perry achieved, but I think there were a lot of initial Perry supporters who were uncomfortable with Gov. Romney, impressed with the Texas economy, and hoping for the best. That crowd has now moved to Cain, but there's no reason to expect them to stick there either.

As a Veep, Ryan couldn't claim, and wouldn't have, the sort of mandate he would need to actually implement entitlement reforms. Could a Romney or Perry delegate that effectively to a V.P. Ryan? That would certainly be charting new territory, and it makes me think of the ill-conceived "co-presidency" that was briefly discussed during the 1980 GOP convention after Reagan had sewn up the nomination but was considering bringing Jerry Ford back as V.P. (for a second time). I just don't think anyone could do the necessary from the second-chair position.

I decided to write this post at this particular time because I've been pondering my sidebar: "Draft Paul Ryan." Before the modern system of picking most of the convention delegates through primary elections, it was possible for the proverbial movers-and-shakers in smoke-filled rooms to "draft" a candidate when the pre-convention campaigning hadn't produced a consensus and early convention votes had deadlocked. Today that's impossible: Party leaders can't "draft" a candidate, even if none of the existing ones are very satisfactory. But circumstances and logic, perhaps, can — if and only if the right candidate will "hear" the call of those circumstances and that logic. That's my thesis, anyway, and that's why I'm making one last "Hail Mary" pass before I change that sidebar.

(5) DRJ made the following comment | Oct 8, 2011 7:44:30 PM | Permalink

It occurs to me that we're not disagreeing about Ryan's abilities as much as we're disagreeing about the need for his abilities right now. I don't think there will be meaningful entitlement reform in the next President's administration. I think we will see spending cuts and nibbling around the edges of entitlement reform, but not real reform. America just isn't ready for it. That's one reason I'd rather see Ryan as VP -- so he's positioned to have meaningful input and be the heir apparent whether the GOP wins or not.

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