Friday, August 17, 2012
Ryan has shaken up the race (1)
I admire a man who makes his own sausages, especially if he has hunted the meat himself and used a bow and arrow. No time to be squeamish. Most of us eat meat while pretending it comes from some cartoon version of the food chain. I hate hunting but this man understands where protein really comes from.
Such a man is Paul Ryan, who has managed to do something that very few of the 435 voting members of the US House of Representatives have ever been able to do - become a national figure while still serving in the House. He is about to become the Republican nominee for Vice-President of the United States.
During the past three years, two members of the House, a Democrat and a Republican, raised themselves above the ruck of members of Congress to become national figures. One was Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York City. The other was Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin. Both became fixtures on Fox News Channel, for very different reasons.
Fox loved Weiner because he was shrill, opinionated, combative, mega-Jewish and mega-liberal. For the cunning Fox he was the ideal personification of the Democrats, an abrasive, divisive, big-spending eastern liberal elitist. They let him talk and talk. Weiner never got it. Such was his ego that this Weiner was cooked last year.
He was caught texting suggestive remarks and bare-chested images of himself to a woman, denied doing so, blustered and lied, then another woman came forward with more texts and photos. The media circled, Weiner broke down on television, admitted to sending sexts to six young women. He is married. He resigned.
The Fox News love of Paul Ryan was entirely different. It was the real thing. Ryan was everything Weiner was not: measured, personable, conservative, against big government, Catholic and mid-western. He was young - he's now 42, but had been elected to Congress at age 28.
Given Fox's role as the chief cheerleader of the Republican party, the network's platform for Ryan was potent among Republicans. So was Ryan's personality and energy. He was promoted through the ranks to become the senior Republican on the influential House Budget Committee, then became the committee's chairman when the Republicans won control of the House in the 2010 mid-term elections.
From this powerful position, with research staff and resources, he developed policies for structural change, notably welfare and tax reform, including privatising large portions of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Broadly, he proposes a form of personal superannuation accounts to replace government welfare bureaucracies. He also sought to curb America's accumulation of debt and government spending.
When the Republican field for the presidency emerged last year, it seemed to me that the most impressive leader in the party was not in the race. From afar, Ryan had more substance than the presidential aspirants. The winner, Mitt Romney, seemed wooden by comparison, with second-hand policies. But Ryan was young, a mere Congressman, and had devoted his energies to building a policy agenda rather than a national campaign operation.
All this changed on Sunday when Romney galvanised the presidential race by choosing Ryan as his running mate. The contrast between the number two men on the tickets will be extreme. Vice-President Joe Biden, the ultimate safe choice four years ago, is a weathered Washington insider with a modest resume, leaden delivery, and turns 70 in November.
Biden's views on policy will be irrelevant while Ryan's keystone document, The Path to Prosperity, is the proposed Republican budget for the fiscal year 2013. Its detailed proposals will become central to the debate.
President Obama came to the White House in 2008 with a meagre legislative record and inherited the whirlwind of a global economic financial meltdown and President George Bush's misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will run against Romney's wealth and portray Ryan as an ideologue who will slash the nation's safety net.
It will be class war, tooth and claw, veiled by Obama's charisma.
Never underestimate the capacity of an electorate to sense what is false and what is true about politicians. Authenticity is the electric currency in politics. Ryan has it. The American public, queasy about the nation's growing debt mountain and stubbornly high unemployment rate, may be receptive to daring alternatives to printing money and government debt.
Romney, in his choice of Ryan, has made a lacklustre 2012 presidential campaign exciting.
Ryan has shaken up the race (2)
He catches catfish in his bare hands, hunts deer with a bow and turns them into homemade sausages, and boasts that his ruthless workout programme has left him with just 6 per cent body fat. Little wonder that, after the phrase ‘vice-president’, the most popular word added to Google searches for ‘Paul Ryan’ is ‘shirtless’.
His brain packs a punch, too: a budgetary whizzkid, Ryan has galvanised the American Right with bold ideas that may yet save the U.S. from hurtling off the fiscal cliff.
Now he’s stepping into shoes last occupied by Sarah Palin as the Republican vice-presidential nominee. In doing so, he has electrified the race to the White House, which up to this point had threatened to be a tediously negative slugging match between an ineffectual President and his robotic challenger Mitt Romney.
Suddenly, everything has changed. In the four days since Romney catapulted Paul Ryan, a 42-year-old Wisconsin congressman, into the limelight by naming him as his running mate, Americans have been gushing over Ryan’s toned 6ft 2in physique and manly leisure pursuits.
He’s certainly a bold choice, but unlike the last maverick Republican ‘VP’ nominee — Sarah Palin — Ryan could never be faulted for not knowing his brief. While most American politicians love to gloss over the policy details, the determinedly Right-wing Ryan delights in spelling out exactly what he wants to do.
Leaving aside his plans for government (basically, squeeze hard and keep squeezing until the massive budget deficit is eradicated), Ryan isn’t afraid to lecture other countries, either. Just days after billions watched the London Olympics opening ceremony tribute to the NHS, he attacked the British health service for making patients too dependent on government help.
Ryan remains a pin-up and seer of the Tea Party movement, that populist groundswell of American anger against big government spending. It’s not hard to see why the Tea Partiers love him. His life story lives and breathes old American values of hard work and self-sufficiency.
A devout Roman Catholic and pro-lifer, he had a down-to-earth Midwestern background in the working-class Wisconsin town of Janesville, where he still lives with his lawyer wife Janna and three young children, Liza, Charlie and Sam.
He saved up by working at McDonald’s to pay for his university education in Ohio, where he developed his hard-Right views on economics, and became a devotee of libertarian writer and thinker Ayn Rand.
Through influential books such as her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, Rand — who died in 1982 — espoused a laissez-faire creed she called Objectivism which held that the moral purpose of life is to pursue one’s own happiness, and that government interference should be kept to an absolute minimum.
He became the top Republican on the House budget committee in 2006, impressing colleagues with his effortless grasp of fiscal detail. But it wasn’t until January 2010 that he made headlines when he unveiled an ambitious U.S. budget plan he called Roadmap For America’s Future.
Hugely controversial, it is a grand plan to balance the U.S. budget — mission impossible as far as most of Washington is concerned — by 2040. It involves slashing spending on food subsidies for the poor, and limiting Medicare health provision for older people, as well as cutting tax rates for the wealthy — to encourage wealth creation.
Drastic problems call for drastic solutions, and even some liberals privately admire the fact that Ryan is at least trying.
But he’s no ranting prophet of doom. In Washington, he has a reputation as affable, polite and charming — a man who loves to debate policy with his opponents without slinging insults (a rarity in U.S. politics nowadays). He prefers to direct his aggressive instincts instead towards the wildlife population.
An inveterate hunter and fisherman — he proposed to his wife at one of his favourite fishing spots — Ryan fills his Facebook page with pictures of him posing with dead deer and turkeys, all killed by him, sometimes with a rifle and sometimes with a bow.
He’s also an avid catfish ‘noodler’, a technique that calls for consummate patience and speed as the fisherman plucks the creatures out of the water with his bare hands.
The strength of his appeal has been evident in the way the Obama camp and its media allies are already gunning for him, painting the congressman as what Obama strategist David Axelrod called a ‘certifiable Right-wing ideologue’.
Yes, Romney’s choice of Ryan may be risky in terms of the radical conservatism of his views, yet the Catholic Ryan will also reassure voters who see Romney’s Mormonism, his career as a multi-millionaire venture capitalist and haughty, elitist image as far removed from their lives and values, particularly evangelist Christians who viewthe Mormon religion with deep suspicion.
Solidly middle-class, a good speaker and — for all his hard-edged politics — a normal kind of guy, Ryan crucially ticks the boxes that Romney has failed to.
The next few months will reveal whether Romney’s bold choice is a little too bold for the swing voters who are likely to decide the outcome of this election. But at least Republicans can be sure their own supporters will now overcome their apathy over Mitt Romney. With this plain-speaking Mid-Westerner at his side, he suddenly looks a whole lot more interesting.
Expect The Heckling To Get Worse, And You Can Thank Saul Alinsky
Monday seemed like deja vu all over again when Paul Ryan was heckled at the Iowa State Fair. His new boss was heckled at exactly the same place, same time last year.
Searching through YouTube, both Romney and Ryan have been heckled a lot over the last year. And, if it looks like Obama is going to lose, you can expect the heckling to not only increase but also become more provocative.
Now, before I continue, let’s just be clear that I’m not saying Obama has been heckled less than Romney. There are plenty examples of that as well on YouTube, and there is no way to be certain since, as far as I know, no one collects statistics on the heckling of politicians. Nor am I suggesting that it is just a left-wing activity. Indeed, not long ago Romney’s campaign sent a few supporters to Boston to give David Axelrod a warm welcome.
That said, heckling is an activity that tends to be the purview of the left, especially the radical left. After all, the tactic conforms very well to Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.”
Here is Rule No. 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
Heckling works well because politicians usually expect to address receptive crowds. Hecklers can throw them off stride, make them look anxious and confused.
The problem is that politicians can get better at dealing with it. Apparently Romney has. Compare his reaction at last year's Iowa State Fair to his reaction to being heckled in Wisconsin last weekend. Furthermore, the politician’s supporters can get wise to it as well. Listen to Mitt’s supporters drown out the heckler with chants of “USA! USA!” or, in this instance, with “Mitt, Mitt, Mitt!”
As heckling becomes less effective, it will become more provocative. Alinsky’s Rule No. 10 states, “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive. Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.”
Thus, expect to see hecklers provoking confrontations with Romney supporters or putting themselves in situations where they get hauled off by police — in front of the cameras, of course.
Here is a classic case. Paul Ryan is speaking at a luncheon, when 71-year-old Tom Nielsen stands and begins shouting questions at him. The police take him from the room, put him on the ground and arrest him.
According to the text under the video, “Nielsen repeatedly told police that he wasn’t fighting them and that he didn’t want to make any trouble. He also told them several times that he had a broken shoulder. Police officers ignored his comments as they wrestled him to the ground despite his howls of pain.”
From the video you can only hear what sounds like a “howl of pain” from Nielsen once. You never hear him say he has a broken shoulder, and he doesn’t seem to be howling in pain when the police lead him away in handcuffs. You also never hear him say that “he didn’t want to make trouble.” But even if he did say it, um, really? You interrupt the planned speech of a congressman by shouting questions at him, and you don’t want to make trouble? Hey, I want to eat nothing but pizza, cookies and ice cream, and I don’t want to get fat!
Anyway, we shouldn’t expect accuracy from the description since the propaganda value of such an incident far outweighs the value of the truth.
So as the heckling gets worse, what can Romney supporters do? The first is the exercise of enormous self-restraint. The radicals will call you all manner of expletives, get in your face, stick their fingers in your chest, etc., etc. You must back away. The second you throw a punch, the hecklers get their PR victory.
Also be sure to have the video recorders on your cell phones ready to record these events. The hecklers will be quick to load their versions up on YouTube. Be sure you have your versions ready to go.
Finally, when the police do get involved and remove the hecklers, record that as well. The hecklers will be quick to claim police brutality. Although the police don’t always exercise restraint, most times they do. A video showing that will also undermine the hecklers.
By exercising restraint and videotaping the heckling incidents, Romney supporters can be the ones that can push a negative into a positive.
Update: Matthew Vadum notes that the people who heckled Ryan in Iowa are part of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an ACORN-like group. They are the same group that shouted at Romney last year.
Man! You Young People Are Really Getting Hosed When It Comes To Social Security!
Would you give a financial manager $598,000 of your hard-earned money (over the course of your lifetime) who then 'promised' to give you back $556,000 during your retirement years for a net loss of $42,000???
Of course not. You would be completely insane to do so.
You would call this financial adviser your ex-financial planner/manager. You would fire him just as soon as you could see the handwriting on the wall that read: 'You are getting a bum deal, bub!'
Well, that is precisely what is happening to you today if you are under the age of 60. Except your 'financial planner/manager' is none other than the Social Security Administration.
That is right. The very program so many in Congress are so eager to 'protect' for you and yours and the AARP 'swears' it will (almost) inflict bodily harm on anyone in Congress who dares even to breathe the words: 'Reform Social Security!'
The same program that has been 'promising' that 'the federal government will take care of you in your golden years' and 'is so perfect today that no one should ever change one iota of it'.
Don't believe it. You have been having the wool pulled over your eyes for decades....all of us have. The same politicians who have brought you the following: 1) The $16 trillion national debt and 2) The financial demise of Medicare have also been the ones hiding the truth from you about SS.
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Posted by JR at 12:53 AM