Paul Ryan: Meet the New Second Fiddle, Same as the Old Second Fiddle

Mitt Romney selects a running mate.


Stop me if you've heard this one before: A relatively moderate GOP nominee has picked a much younger and more conservative running mate. Anyone surprised at this has forgotten the last quarter-century of political history. Paul Ryan follows in the path of Palin, Kemp, Quayle—basically every post-Reagan VP candidate except Cheney. All of them but Kemp were relative novices; all of them but Palin lacked executive experience. I should add that all of them after the first Quayle campaign lost, and even then Quayle probably cost Bush more votes than he gained. So this isn't necessarily a strategy that wins elections. But it does keep the base in line.

How should the base feel about that? I can't speak for conservatives, but I'll pass along these thoughts from The Daily Beast's Eli Lake:

The worst that can happen to Paul Ryan is that the ticket wins. Then Ryan—who has won a loyal following as the principled budget cutter—will have to line up behind Romney budgets. This is kind of like putting Eddie Van Halen in REO Speedwagon. Yes it makes REO Speedwagon rock a lot harder, but it totally ruins Van Halen.

Libertarians, meanwhile, should find it easy to reject Ryan. He's a hawk with a rotten record on civil liberties: bad on the Patriot Act, bad on indefinite detentions, bad on surveillance, bad on the border fence, bad on the drug war. On the economic front, he has backed the bank and auto bailouts, Medicare Part D, even Davis-Bacon. His reputation as a free-market stalwart rests on his exaggerated reputation as a budget hawk and his habit of praising Ayn Rand. The second of those clearly hasn't meant much when it's time to vote on legislation, and as for the first…well, if the Democrats went nuts and replaced Joe Biden with Barney Frank, I'd have some kind words for his stances on pot and gambling, but I wouldn't feel tempted to vote for him.

If Ryan were going head to head against Obama, you could make a case that the faux Randian is a lesser evil than the faux Alinskyan. In most of the places where Ryan is bad, after all, Obama is pretty lousy too. But for vice president? At least Joe Biden keeps me entertained.