“The beginning of good government is in good nominations.” — Calvin Coolidge, August 15, 1930
As I write this, the political scene as well as the web have already been abuzz for a while with the now-confirmed selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate. As recently as yesterday, I had read about the choice being between “mild” (read safe) and “spicy” (read transformative yet risky) candidates. Paul Ryan definitely falls into the latter camp. Still, I feel that conservatives, or anyone who believes that the fiscal imbalance is the most pressing issue today and tomorrow, this is an excellent choice. While it will undoubtedly invite low blows and personal attacks from the other side (remember that Ryan has already been shown pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair off a cliff in a political ad), it will also focus the debate on the alternative paths into the nation’s future. To my mind, there is an echo of Calvin Coolidge in Ryan’s single-minded focus on the budget even though most, if not all, the entitlement programs in Ryan’s crosshairs were not even in existence in Coolidge’s day. Another, perhaps a little fainter, echo is in the earnest yet friendly demeanor and personality of Paul Ryan, his integrity and fair-mindedness. Mitt Romney’s pronouncements on the budget have perhaps not always been as clear as some conservatives would have wished; the Ryan pick is his most unequivocal and ringing statement yet that he intends to put the task of taming the budget at front and center of his administration.
Paul Ryan is a fantastic pick from the perspective of governing. I fully expect him to also be an asset in the campaign, as he will energize the conservatives in the party while offering a reason to Independents and Libertarians to vote Republican. As Rich Lowry wrote in the National Review, Ryan is an explainer and persuader. I am particularly heartened by his long association with the late Jack Kemp, a happy warrior if ever there was one. I believe Ryan has some of Kemp’s (and Reagan’s) inclusiveness, of being able to reach out to the other side while appealing to the core of the faithful. To the many millions of Americans who are uneasy about the economic future and direction of the country, he will make a convincing appeal that Washington can make a difference – by living within its means and getting out of the way of entrepeneurs and small business. Someone said that elections are either a referendum on the job performance of the incumbent, or a choice. This election will be both, now that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan offer a clear choice for the future.