Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ryan: Norman Schwarzkopf or G.A. Custer?

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In Winston Churchill's memoir of the Second World War, he relates his reaction to the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor: "I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful."
When I heard the news that Mitt Romney had selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, I thought Barack Obama must have done the same.
Because, while the Rabid Right may be patting themselves on the back and admiring the "bold stroke" of choosing Ryan, and the Beltway pundits like to wax rhapsodic over Ryan's "gutsy" budget plan, I can think of nothing Etch A Sketch Romney could have done that's more certain to ensure his eventual defeat.
You know how I know Ryan is a terrible pick? One of his biggest backers was the affable boob Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, who's frequently seen grinning his way across your TV screen and spouting nonsense, a veritable fountain of specious claptrap The two things Kristol's most famous for urging the GOP to embrace are Sarah Palin and the Iraq War, which he said would "pay for itself." How'd those work out?
Kristol gets props from his buddies in the Beltway media for urging the Republicans to be "bolder" and more "ambitious," as commentator Dylan Byers wrote in Politico. But in reality, he's like the half-bright, overly aggressive major general who's always urging some lunatic charge into the enemy guns that gets a lot of his men killed.
Insiders have been reporting for some time now that the Obama campaign had been trying to tie Romney to Ryan's proposed budget plans. Because here's the thing: Once people find out what's actually in the budget, it's highly unpopular, particularly his proposal to give more huge tax breaks to millionaires and pay for it by turning Medicare into a "voucher" system, where seniors would get coupons to buy insurance from private insurers.
A Washington Post/Kaiser Foundation poll this month asked people whether they favored keeping the current structure of Medicare, or going to a system "in which the government guarantees each senior a fixed amount of money to help them purchase coverage either from traditional Medicare or from a list of private health plans." Fifty-eight percent rejected the change.
You can see why, if you think about it. Given the amount of confusion and the grumbling of senior citizens over trying to choose between the various options in George Dubbya's budget-busting Medicare Part D plan (which Ryan voted for, by the way), I find it unlikely that they're going to welcome the fun and excitement of haggling with dozens of insurance companies over their coverage.
This is especially true since repealing the Affordable Care Act (which Ryan supports) means the insurance companies will once more be free to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. How many people do you know over 65 who don't have some kind of pre-existing condition?
It gets worse when you look at the rest of the plan. A recent Democracy Corps survey showed that "President Obama's lead against Romney more than doubles when the election is framed as a choice between the two candidates' positions on the Ryan budget - particularly its impact on the most vulnerable." And if the Obama campaign has shown one thing recently, it's that they know how to define an opponent and his positions.
You want to know how bad it gets for the Ryan plan? According to a report in The New York Times, when the pro-Obama SuperPac Priorities USA (they of the infamous "Bain Capital Killed My Wife" ad) was doing focus groups to determine what tack to take, they found that attacks on the Ryan budget plan and Romney's support of it didn't do all that well.
First because no one really knew anything about Ryan or what was in the plan, and second, because once people heard that it called for "ending Medicare as we know it" while giving bigger tax breaks to millionaires, "they refused to believe any politician would do such a thing."
Well, now they're going to hear about the plan, right from the blue-eyed horse's mouth, and the evidence is pretty clear that they're not going to like it at all. Bill Kristol and the Raging Right may think Romney's "boldness" in picking Ryan makes him into Gen. Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf.
In reality, it may turn out to be more like Custer - except this time, Custer spent the day before Little Big Horn handing out quivers full of arrows for the Indians to shoot him with.