As someone who spent half a decade as a staffer in Congress, I am thrilled Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan as his running mate.
As a former staffer, Paul Ryan is “one of us”, plain and simple. Ryan was a staffer for Kasten, Brownback, Kemp, and as a speechwriter for Education Sec. William Bennett. Like many staffers who dream of elected office, he did it at age 28.
Staffers toil behind the scenes working late nights trying to iron out details for their bosses. We don’t always agree with what we’re told to do, but we nonetheless do it — it’s the job of the staffer. Staffers aren’t mindless robots — OK, not all of them at least.
At the end of the day, after a few beers, staffers can tell you about the real Washington. They can tell you why our system is mucked up, and they have their own ideas of what they’d do if they had the member pin and the voting card — or gave thumbs up or down like Senators do in the well. They have the benefit of hindsight, whereas many members — especially new ones — do not.
So when Paul Ryan joined Congress in 1999 as a freshman, he had the benefits other members did not. He had lived and worked inside of this place. He already knew it. The other members got to Congress with their preconceived notions, no doubt, and Congress changes them. Paul Ryan was changed as a staffer first, and that makes a world of difference.
Being a staffer changes you — in a different way than being a member — because you either became a creature of the system, or you think the system sucks. I’m in the latter camp, and I know Paul Ryan is too. Very few members conclude that Congress “sucks” — as evidenced by the rate at which they run for re-election.
They say “politics is the art of the possible.” But when “the possible” is just a bunch of shitty answers, some people — who didn’t integrate into the status quo — question “why does it have to be this way?”
Anyone who takes a serious look at Ryan’s legislative record can clearly see is on the side of changing the system. Before Republicans took the House, Ryan offered a bunch of thoughtful proposals that leadership and most of the rank-and-file ignored. He had great ideas for budget reform, tax reform, entitlement reform. And they went nowhere.
But that changed when the tides did, and Paul Ryan became more influential. Even over the reticence of the status quo defenders, Ryan’s proposals were taken seriously — and they should be since they’re serious answers.
Even the people who think they are crappy answers, at least the staffers, respect Ryan because he has the balls to be up front about things. Being a member of a pair of legislative bodies that use parliamentary tricks to push costs outside of the budget window, count savings twice, and play shadow games to mask the truth — that we have serious problems facing us — Ryan is refreshing.
The Democrats who hate Ryan, and laughably compare him to Sarah Palin, frankly are both scared and jealous. Why? Democrats don’t have a Paul Ryan in their bag of tricks.
No doubt I have met many staffers in my years here who are smart as hell and have the facts and knowledge to be like a Democratic Paul Ryan. While I’d think their policies are wrong in the way they feel about Ryan’s, they just don’t have a member like him in their caucus or leadership.
Sander Levin is like a human version of Waldorf from the Muppets, and has the voice of Droopy Dog. He is not dynamic and he doesn’t really effectively move the chains in the eyes of the public. He is smart, just slow speaking and old.
Same goes for Chris Van Hollen — a smart and nice guy by all accounts — but a politician over a legislator, and pretty much on House Budget just to demagogue Ryan’s proposals.
Max Baucus is an inside baseball guy, and doesn’t do much to differentiate himself except to periodically disagree with what the Obama administration does, only to be told to shut up.
Last but not least is Kent Conrad, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. He’s smart enough to know the numbers, and politically cunning enough to explain them in ways that are deceptive. The fact that he carries around a lap dog, Dakota, isn’t very appealing to anyone.
In short, none of these guys are anything like Ryan. Ryan is an anomaly — which is why a lot of liberals hate him.
I’m of the view that Romney would be criticized for supporting Ryan’s proposals either way, so why not pick the guy best equipped to defend them?
Onward to November, we’ll see if this was the right call. Given the circumstances, I think Romney’s team made the best possible decision.