Saturday, August 04, 2012

Au Contraire, Mon Frere

Chad makes an eloquent argument below listing the reasons that Mitt Romney should select Paul Ryan to be his running mate.  All his points are salient and correct.  Yet I disagree with his conclusion for one simple reason: the election of Paul Ryan as Vice President of the United States would take him out of the position where he could do the most good.

John Nance Garner, himself a Vice President of the United States once famously observed:

The vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm spit.

Looking at a list of recent VP's confirms Garner's observation.  Can anyone list a single accomplishment of Joe Biden, Dan Quayle, or Walter Mondale?  I didn't think so.  The job consists of going to funerals and only gains meaning at the funeral of the President.  Sure, Dick Cheney helped craft policy and Al Gore actually debated Ross Perot. (How bad must one feel if they lose a debate to Al Gore?)  But these are rare exceptions.

The President of the United States sets policy in many ways.  If the President chooses to listen to the counsel of his veep, that is his prerogative.  However, there is no requirement for the POTUS to do so and many don't.  Just ask Garner, a former congressional heavyweight who was exiled by Franklin Roosevelt after accepting the VP role.  A similar example would be Lyndon Johnson, considered "Master of the Senate" when selected by John Kennedy in 1960.  Until fulfilling the only important duty of a Vice President, Johnson was consistently frustrated by the fact that his stature was diminished by the Vice Presidency.

While the Vice President offers no constraint to the President's power, significant restraint is offered by Congress.  Executive orders aside, the President is constitutionally limited to accepting or vetoing the agenda put forward by congress.  As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan has one of the most important jobs in Washington.  In the next congress, he would either maintain that role or move to chairmanship of the equally powerful Ways and Means Committee, assuming Republicans maintain control of Congress.

I present two visions of Mitt Romney's America, a world where Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House in 2013:

Vision 1: Congressional leadership, led by Paul Ryan, presents a bold series of initiatives to reform entitlements, trim government spending, and reform the tax code.  Romney, under pressure from his right, signs the bills.  However, the moderate Romney did not drive the agenda.  Leaders like Paul Ryan and Rand Paul carefully navigated a political mine field to put America back on track.  Meanwhile, Vice President Tim Pawlenty gave a beautiful eulogy after the untimely death of actor Johah Hill.  Pawlenty promised to make awareness of the dangers of yo-yo dieting the hallmark of his Vice Presidency.

Vision 2: With Paul Ryan on the bench, the timid Republican Congressional leadership allows the White House to put together a blue ribbon panel to examine the problems that America faces.  Romney appoints a second "Simpson-Bowles" type commission on government reform, but because of media criticism, their bolder recommendations are tabled as the Federal Budget Deficit hits $20 trillion.

I want Paul Ryan to have the greatest possible opportunity to lead the Federal Government.  Unfortunately, that opportunity doesn't exist in a role that is as useful a bucket of warm spit.