Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate is a window into his governing philosophy and management style, one that should cheer conservatives and give his critics pause. Contrary to the caricature of Romney as a risk-averse Harvard MBA, a power-point wielding, paint-by-the-numbers leader, in choosing Ryan candidate Romney showed a capacity for bold and inspired decisions
Conservatives are fond of pointing out that personnel is policy. In the first and most important personnel decision of his future administration, Romney has chosen in Ryan one of the most respected, influential and substantive conservative leaders of his generation.
I first got to know Paul Ryan when he worked for Jack Kemp
and Bill Bennett
, a conservative think tank, in the early 1990s. When he was elected to Congress in 1998, he quickly impressed his colleagues with his rare combination of a rapier intellect, wonkish public policy knowledge and moral courage.
Yet Ryan has never been enamored with either Washington or the national stage. A devoted husband and father, he chose to keep his family in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., living in a house within blocks of where he grew up and went home virtually every weekend.
A man of deep Christian faith, he remains rooted in the Roman Catholic
tradition of his upbringing, even citing the social teaching of the church to defend his budget plan. “Our rights come from nature and God, not government,” Ryan said
in his announcement speech.
A true believer in supply side economics, he insists that lower tax rates lead to greater economic growth and therefore more revenue — an assertion backed by the historical record. But he has also demonstrated a remarkable capacity to blaze his own intellectual trail, even when it means standing alone. Ryan has made reining in big government and restraining entitlement spending the touchstone of his public service, shaping the contours of the public debate in a way few members of Congress ever do.
He has also compiled a 100% pro-life voting record in his 14 years in Congress and is a strong supporter of traditional marriage, thrilling social conservatives. It would be ironic if the first national ticket in U.S.
history without a Protestant
wins with the strong backing of evangelical Christians, who will play a critical role in the outcome of the election.
The choice of a running mate lays bare the character of future presidents. John F. Kennedy
‘s selection of Lyndon Johnson in 1960 revealed a quiet confidence and steely pragmatism unusual for a man then only one year older than Paul Ryan is today. Bill Clinton
‘s choice of Al Gore
reflected the rising aspirations of the Baby Boom generation and a reach for the vital center, eschewing the Democratic Party
‘s ossified liberal past. George W. Bush
‘s choice of Dick Cheney
reflected a preference for substance over style, a governing partner over a politically motivated pick.
Similarly, Romney’s choice suggests that he will govern as a conservative reformer. Romney has laid down a marker, offering a stark choice between two competing visions for the country’s future. So much for simply seeking to be viewed as an acceptable alternative to Obama.
The response of the Obama campaign to the Ryan announcement was predictable, and predictably arrogant. Obama’s surrogates snickered that Romney had played right into their hands, choosing the author of a budget that would “end Medicare as we know it
,” take food from the mouths of children and wage war on women. Obama adviser David Axelrod
vowed to hang the Ryan budget around Romney’s neck.
But this could be a fight Obama will come to regret. At a time of economic anxiety, high unemployment and record deficits, Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan guarantees a choice election. There is now no avoiding a vigorous debate over large issues such as the size and role of government, the future of the entitlement state and the moral imperative of democratic capitalism.
The choice of Ryan tells us a lot about Romney. The voters’ choice in November will tell us even more about America.
Ralph Reed is the chairman if the Faith & Freedom Coalition
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