MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Call it a Freudian slip or just call it the truth, but when Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan as "the next president of the United States" on Saturday, it was more than just another Romney gaffe. It was an admission that we might have another Dick Cheney-style vice presidency wagging the tail of the president, were the ticket to be elected.
Ironically, this is a bit of a reversal from the Bush selection of Cheney (when Cheney was appointed to vet vice presidential candidates and positioned himself as the inevitable choice for George W.). In this case, Romney has chosen an ideological Ayn Rand zealot who is more of a son figure to him than Cheney was a strict authoritarian father figure to Bush.
That Romney's choice came as a combination of weakness (given the falling polls, he and his campaign advisers probably decided to throw a hail mary pass to rely on getting out an energized right wing base to overcome a rising unfavorability rating for the former vulture capitalist) and reportedly a grammar school prank affinity between Romney and Ryan, well that speaks voumes about the muddled Romney campaign. It's hard to win when your campaign message appears to consist of: "I made a lot of money, a real lot"; "In case you didn't notice, I'm the one running who's the white guy"; and don't mind my chronic gaffes, it's just me, Mitt, the regular guy with a quarter of a billion dollars.
Of course, the quadrennial ability of the Obama camp to come to life and campaign as it should have governed, with a merciless discipline and defining of Romney as a shady character has put Romney in a big hole. Perceptions get frozen early in a presidential campaign, and Obama's recent rise among independents indicates that his campaign's messaging is having a devastating impact. (If only Obama had displayed this sort of hardball and defining of the debate while he was dealing with Congress, but that's another story.)
Already, Romney is contorting like a pretzel to try and to nuance his pick of Ryan for the vice presidential slot on the GOP ticket. "I'm Running With Paul Ryan, But Not on the Ryan Budget," a headline from Talking Points Memo announces. Message to Mitt: nuance doesn't work in a presidential campaign. The Democrats, in years past, have tried that and have been pummeled by the Karl Rove's and Frank Lutz's of the world. You're handcuffed to Ryan and his budget, Mitt. And the take no prisoners Obama re-election campaign has a 100 pound weight attached to both your legs as it will roll out ads that will scare seniors out of their wits about the Ryan austerity blueprint for America.
It's a bit surprising to see a decision having such a monumental impact on the election so early in the game. Don't believe for a moment the mass corporate media characterizing of the Ryan VP decision as a "bold move." A bold move would be selecting a vice presidential candidate who wasn't a follower of the economic terrorist Ayn Rand.
Romney's selection of Ryan is a sign of Mitt's utter weakness and lack of depth. From now on, the Obama campaign is going to go after Ryan as if he were running for president, while still portraying Romney as a financier who took the country to town by not paying his fair share of taxes and destroying jobs for personal profit.
Ryan will further hurt Romney with independents, and with this election being decided by a few percentage points of voters in a few key toss-up states -- absent a deterioration in the economy beyound its current condition -- the Romney-Ryan ticket is akin to convicts on the run.
If the economy starts to pick up, expect the R and R duo to ride off into the right wing sunset after losing the election, maybe becoming tour guides at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum in Simi Valley, California. Although Mitt might just buy the shrine to Saint Ronald, lay off the staff, and ship it to China.
Illustration by Lynn Larrow