Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The November Choice: Ryan Commentary Continues

Mr. Romney's announcement that Mr. Ryan will be his running mate has now had time to ferment a few days, and quite a bit of new commentary is bubbling up--much of it noteworthy.  A few excerpts from pieces that strike me:

At Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams explains why, as a Catholic, she won't be voting Ryan-Romney:

Faith – even the Catholic faith – isn’t some one-size-fits-all proposition. Those of us who still call ourselves Catholic wrestle with how best to interpret the teachings that guide our lives. We can argue over birth control and gay rights until the cows come home. But frankly, I think Jesus was pretty clear on his feelings regarding the rich and selfish, the whole “taking care of the least among us” thing, and that big “love one another” message. And I don’t ever remember reading anything in the New Testament to the effect of “I GOT MINE.”  That’s why in November I’m taking my Catholic conscience with me into the voting booth. Paul Ryan, you haven’t got a prayer.

At Huffington Post, Dean Baker concludes that "[w]e will face quite a choice this November."  That choice is between Mr. Obama's moderate conservatism and the radical conservatism of Romney-Ryan, who want to privatize Social Security and Medicare while dismantling the federal safety net for the poor--but not cutting out-of-control military expenditures and handouts to banks.  Baker writes:

In other words, Representative Ryan doesn't have any principled objections to government interferences in the market, even when this interference leads to enormous inefficiency, as is the case with too-big-to-fail banks or patent protection for prescription drugs. 
Representative Ryan only seems to object to government programs and policies that benefit lower- and middle-income people. In this sense he seems to have perfectly captured the philosophy of the modern Republican Party: "a dollar in the pocket of a middle class person is a dollar that could belong to a rich person."

Also at Huffington Post, Jason Linkins muses about why and how the mainstream media and the "Bubble People" who live inside the D.C. beltway have anointed Ryan as "serious," when, in the real world in which the rest of us live, it's apparent "[h]e's as pure a product as the Beltway Bubble has ever produced."  In Linkins's judgment, the "serious" Mr. Ryan provides Bubble People and the media with an excuse to avoid facing their complicity in crafting and/or praising socioeconomic policies that treat the majority of Americans wounded and lying by the economic wayside as non-existent, while the very rich mop up to a degree unprecedented in American history:

This is the biggest gift that Ryan has given the Bubble People. He's infused the race with a set of notions that extend to everyone a permission to look past and gloss over our present calamitous circumstances, and to do so with the assurance that they are really working hard to contend with all the 'substance-like substance' that Ryan brings to the race. To be sure, the Beltway Bubble media [have] cut and run from the American people and their lingering suffering a long time ago. There's no currency, after all, in having access to poor people. Ryan's entry into the race, however, allows them to feel just as Serious and as Brave and as Tough as he is. As opposed to feeling like failed cowards. For that, their gratitude to Ryan will be fulsome, in every sense of the word.

At Truthdig, Eugene Robinson frames the choice facing Americans in the two tickets in terms reminiscent of Martin Luther King's (and Josiah Royce's) "beloved community" phrase:

Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate underscores the central question posed by this campaign: Should cold selfishness become the template for our society, or do we still believe in community?

And finally, in today's New York Times, two Catholic op-ed writers, Maureen Dowd and Ross Douthat, offer sharply contrasting assessments of the Catholic vice-presidential candidate.  Dowd notes how gaga the mainstream media are about Ryan's boyish Irish-Catholic altar-boy good looks: that cute cowlick!  The winsome blue eyes!  The "sad cheerfulness"!  The "deer hunting, catfish noodling, heavy metal and Beethoven"!  The cheese, brats, and beer!  And, my God, that smile, that smile!

Who could possibly smile like that and portend anything but good?  

But as Dowd puts the question, "Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans?" And then she concludes, 

Ryan should stop being so lovable. People who intend to hurt other people should wipe the smile off their faces.

But where Dowd sees smiling villainy (to quote TheraP citing Shakespeare), Douthat sees everything to like.  Ryan is "responsible," a word Douthat uses as a Ryan tag five times in a brief op-ed statement, as if it's a sonorous mantra we need to fix in our minds when we look at Ryan's smiling, boyish face.  He's "serious."  He's "rigorous."

He's the right man in the right place at the right time: he's a moderates' dream because he has saved the GOP from its worst excesses (!), and he's taken the bull by the horns and produced an actual budget plan that, for some reason, Mr. Douthat imagines will appeal to moderates because it will "require more" of the rich while providing "upward mobility" for the down and out . . . 

A spin-doctored characterization of the Ryan budget I've seen or heard nowhere outside of Fox news circles and their subsidiaries, and certainly not one that seems to stand real-world scrutiny . . . . 

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