The Paul Ryan Pick: Sometimes “Bold” can be Downright Dumb

“’I think it’s a very bold choice. And an exciting and interesting pick. It’s going to elevate the campaign into a debate over big ideas. It means Romney-Ryan can run on principles and provide some real direction and vision for the Republican Party. And probably lose. Maybe big,’ said former President George W. Bush senior adviser Mark McKinnon.”

Bold can be a good thing, it can be an interesting thing, but it’s not always a smart thing.  In fact, sometimes “bold” is downright dumb. It’s bold to chase an enraged grizzly bear into the woods armed only with a twig, but it isn’t smart. It was bold of John McCain to pick Sarah Palin as his veep candidate, but it wasn’t smart. “Bold” is sort of a euphemism for doing something incredibly idiotic and putting a tidy spin on it.

“Sarah Palin with a PowerPoint presentation,” “[H]e just doesn’t seem like he can step into the job on Day One,” “[T]his is the day the music died” – these are quotes about Paul Ryan from GOP operatives and pundits who profess to be fans of Paul Ryan. Somehow, I’m not sure these folks think the whole bold thing is a really smart thing either.

There’s a reason why Romney has tried to distance himself from the Paul Ryan budget (of course, he first gave a full-throated endorsement of it many times but, at the end of the day, Romney’s knack for flip-floppery prompted his camp to distance itself for a minute, and then again lend full-throated endorsement to it after the whole distancing thing – and yes, it’s all so confusing) – but back to the reason: The Paul Ryan budget is highly, hugely, immensely unpopular (as, in fact, Paul Ryan himself is). Romney, no doubt, is going to come up with some magic fairy dust budget that will be less highly, hugely, immensely unpopular (because it’ll be fabricated out of whole cloth, mainly), because highly, hugely, immensely unpopular budgets aren’t the good kind of bold – they’re the bad kind of bold when winning an election is at stake. Even Paul Ryan has begun tooting the “I’m on the Romney ticket” horn, which means his horrific budget will be hidden from view until after the election (or, as Ryan pontificated, “in the light of day, through Congress”), if these two knuckleheads are elected and decide to finally enlighten the American public about their horrifying visions.

If there are any more stammering, stumbling interviews like this one, with Fox-friendly Brit Hume (who actually held Ryan’s feet to the fire), everyone on the planet is going to be scratching their heads, wondering what in hell he’s talking about.

And if this interview is any guide to whether Ryan’s ready for prime time, Ryan’s heckling at the Iowa State Fair from a woman questioning him about Medicare cuts (a woman who was subsequently dragged out) is going to seem like a kiss from his sister as he travels the country trying to sell his social-safety-net-killing budget to skeptical Americans, confrontational Americans. Come on, now – this is a guy who based his entire political career, even his life, on a fictional character in a novel written by Ayn Rand. (He and Ayn Rand do, however, share one significant characteristic: She didn’t have foreign policy experience either.) As Rachel Maddow pointed out, for Paul Ryan the journey from “Republicanville to Normalville” - the first in which he’s treated like a “policy wonk” and revered on Fox, and the other in which he’s treated like the guy who’s gonna force granny to stock up on cat food – is going to be a bumpy journey indeed.

A new poll in USAToday shows Ryan as less popular than Sarah Palin – ouch. And with respect to that elusive group known as “independents,” only 39% think Ryan’s a good pick (and only 19% of Dems). As Maddow noted, “Numbers this bad for Paul Ryan must not only be disappointing for republicans but shocking to conservatives who in their world have really never heard anything negative about him at all. They didn’t even know he was controversial. But in the real world, Paul Ryan comes from the most unpopular congress in the history of polling of popularity on Congress…and Paul Ryan is the most famous face of the current congress because he is the Republican budget guy and the republican budget guy is really, really famous because the republican budget would kill Medicare and that’s really unpopular.”

President Obama and the folks toiling away on his campaign at Pru Plaza in Chicago aren’t going to let Americans forget the facts of Ryan’s notorious budget; President Obama is engaging in the tried-and-true strategy of linking Ryan with the most unpopular House of Representatives in history, a House with an approval rating that stands at only 16%.  Thanks to President Obama’s speech in Iowa, if the farm bill doesn’t pass, a lot of folks are going to be looking at Ryan and his extreme, ideological brethren in the House. They likely won’t think such extremism is “bold.”

The one thing Ryan and Romney share is their affinity for flip-floppery. Ryan was a gushing Ayn Rand groupie, until the rubber met the road and it began to harm him politically; suddenly, Ayn Rand was kicked to the curb by Ryan (although he has yet to explain why he required his staff and interns to read “Atlas Shrugged“). The love affair between Romney and Ryan is one that will warm the cockles of one’s heart, bring a tear to the eye, cause rejoicing: Not many unions are so perfectly created, two flip-floppers with either extreme visions or no visions at all who found each other.

As Andy Borowitz wrote in the Borowitz Report about the Flip meets Flop ticket, “Some of your proposals, while bold and terrific, may need to be focus-grouped before you go public with them. We’re thinking in particular of your town hall meeting on Sunday, when you proposed replacing Medicaid with Groupons. Also, we may want to dial back comments about putting the elderly on ice floes and letting them drift out to sea.”

Funny, I had to read that twice to be sure it was, in fact, satire.