Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Will Paul Ryan be the "Fiscal Cheney"?

A funny thing has happened to the last three Republican tickets.  Sometimes people seemed to forget who was at the top.  During the Bush Administration, Cheney often seemed to be the sinister puppet master pulling GWB's strings.  When McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, overly enthusiastic fans said that it was a shame he was dragging her ratings down.  And when Romney chose Paul Ryan, all the focus was on the Ryan budget and how Ryan's vision would govern a Romney administration.

Of course, these things are not all alike.  Ryan and Palin were charismatic figures added to give a moderate nominee more appeal to the Republican base.  Cheney no doubt advocated for policies that the base favored, but his charisma and personal likeablity scores ranked down there with Richard Nixon's.  Cheney had a considerably heftier resume than his boss, especially on matters of foreign policy and national security, two areas in which Bush lacked experience.  Sarah Palin, by contrast, had been a reasonably competent governor of Alaska, but had neither the knowledge not the interest in national affairs to carry much weight in actual policy issues.  If McCain had won the election, Palin could have joined forces with First Lady Cindy McCain advocating and raising funds for developmentally disabled children -- a worthy cause, but not quite one of presidential caliber.

Well, if Romney wins, I think we can safely assume that Ryan will not be Palin.  As a 14-year Congressman and chairman of the House Budget Committee, he is going to be more involved and influential than Sarah Palin.  The real question is, will he be Cheney.  Obviously, he will not be Cheney in the sense of running foreign and national security policy.  While this is not Romney's strong point and he will have to do a lot of delegating, neither is it Ryan's strong point.  The question is whether he will be the "fiscal Cheney," acting as de facto President in budgetary matters.  That was the idea set forth in this column.  Ryan, as fiscal Cheney, would control the budget process in the Romney Administration, pushing for huge tax cuts at the top, huge cuts in programs for the poor, transformation of Medicare into a voucher system and, if possible, of Social Security into a 401-k.  This will all be wildly unpopular, but Jonathan Chait, at least, thinks he could pull it off.  Daniel Larison, by contrast, things Ryan is too much of a team player.

What is really interesting, though, and what makes me tend to be skeptical, is that Cheney so dominated the Bush Administration in foreign policy because that was Bush's weak point.  Romney, by contrast, regards and pitches economy and budget as his strong points.  Romney's commitment to fiscal and monetary tightening is dubious.  Ryan's is undoubtedly sincere.  Whether Romney allows Ryan to dominate in that matter will no doubt be a question of what he thinks is most politically expedient.  And that will be a matter of who Romney is more concerned about pleasing -- the general public, or the Republican base.

No comments:

Post a Comment