By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 8/11/2012
A year back presidential contenders lined up behind three words to roll back federal spending: Cut Cap and Balance. Texas Governor Rick Perry early on posted an essay of support in the Washington Post to emphasize a division in the ranks of conservatives. It was the definitive moment and it came down to this: Whose side are you on? The Tea Party or the Establishment? Perry had entered national political life in the front lines of the Tea Party. The question was really what side was Mitt Romney on as the nomination was by then in his sights. Romney surprised the conservative establishment by getting behind Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan who championed Cut Cap and Balance. But he did not surprise a second time. Ryan has since become the choice of mainstream punditry. He is, as The Weekly Standard has it this morning, the “intellectual leader” of the Republican Party. Just a short time ago Ryan’s approach was considered a radical departure from conservative conventions and traditions. Now it is mainstream. But he is the wrong choice for VP.
Paul Ryan would be the perfect choice if America was looking to Romney to bring a “Bain makeover” to Capitol Hill. We probably need one. As Robert Costa reports in the National Review Online, he is the kind of intellectual talent with a positive outlook who Romney mentored at Bain. But there is more to America and there is more to the American presidency. Ryan would make a great operations officer, perhaps chief of staff. But the ugly fact of American life is that we need more drama. Romney, archetypal square that he is, needs a second with swagger and an eye patch redolent of ancient battle. Especially running against a stylish and popular trickster like Obama. Romney picked a clerk. And Tea Party is about more than balancing the books.
An important element to this is that according to reports, on Thursday, Weekly Standard Bill Kristol and senior writer Stephen Hayes urged Romney to choose Ryan. What is most unfortunate is that Romney in the clutch did what the Weekly Standard told him to do. The thinking, mine included, that Romney would be a detached and imaginative thinker who could establish a new vision of conservatism with emphasis on the rising creativity in the western states – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for example, captures the imagination of the rising American moment - is dashed to pieces. He’s not. Romney is now the new official agent of East Coast Conservatism; “the establishment.” He will do what they say and he will fall in line. He will be a Mormon George W. Bush and that now suggests his primary initiative all along: To become president to legitimize Mormonism in the hearts and minds of the republic as Jack Kennedy did with Irish Catholics. In our time, no one should care.
The first act of a hopeful president – choosing a VP – may be considered instinctive as it has no precedents to form a pattern and can potentially give an indication of how the future president will govern. If so, this one will do what Kristol and Krauthammer tell him to do. Charles Krauthammer’s comment that “Paul Ryan has that Reagan-like quality,” is enough to gag a horse.