Paul Ryan's Winning, Worrying Speech
Ramesh: After a weak start, the Republican convention hit its stride in the middle of prime time last night. Paul Ryan gave Mitt Romney everything he could have wanted in a vice-presidential acceptance speech: a tough critique of President Barack Obama delivered in a winsome manner; a testimonial to Romney’s virtues; a defense of Ryan's Medicare plan; and a shot of hope.
Some Republicans speak as though they think that it would be a dangerous concession to acknowledge that Obama inherited a bad economy. Ryan, or his speechwriters, understood that the attack on his economic record gains force that way: After four years, shouldn’t the president be held responsible for subpar results? The killer line in Ryan’s speech was of course the reference to young adults spending their 20s “in childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters.”
He also took direct aim at a central conceit of the president and his supporters: that his political troubles have stemmed from not doing enough to explain his record to Americans. “He said his job is to ‘tell a story to the American people’ -- as if that’s the whole problem here? He needs to talk more, and we need to be better listeners? Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House.”
The main Democratic attack on the speech is that Ryan told a lot of fibs. To my mind none of the would-be fact-checkers have scored a direct hit in any of their critiques, though, and I suspect that what most undecided Americans who watched the speech saw was a nice, smart young man who sounded awfully reasonable. If Romney comes close to performing as well as Ryan tonight, the party will have had a good week.
(Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)
Margaret: You're right, Ramesh -- it was a "winsome" speech. The Kid can talk. Paul Ryan has always been good with a PowerPoint presentation before his caucus of like-minded conservatives on the Hill, and he showed last night he can reach beyond that.
For the first time, he wore a suit that fit and put his youth to work for him. He gave us a glimpse of Mitt Romney that Ann Romney didn't: Romney is the stodgy dad who listens to elevator music, while Ryan is the kid backing him up who'll keep him current (but not too edgy) with AC/DC and Zeppelin. You're also right that his line about those childhood bedrooms nicely captured the fragility of the youth vote this year. Ryan's personal moments were also winners -- those are some cute kids -- and what a fetching tribute to his mother.
But where you saw a "nice, smart young man who sounded awfully reasonable," I saw a callow doctor who walked into my mother's hospital room. You're the one who's going to be making life-and-death decisions about my mom? But the kid's bedside manner is so seductive, and his mastery of medical data so impressive, I'm soon hanging on his every word.
The danger is that I won't realize until it's too late that this doctor ordered too many tests and performed unnecessary surgery.
I also have to disagree with you on the facts. Ryan made so many dubious claims about Obama that I'm surprised his nose didn't grow right before our very eyes. He asked for the stimulus funds he decried, and he enjoyed doling them out in his district. That empty GM plant he talked about? It closed on Bush’s watch, not Obama’s. The $700 billion he claims Obama raided from Medicare? Obama takes it from overpayments to insurers and providers, while Ryan's plan takes it from seniors themselves. He criticized Obama for not supporting the Bowles-Simpson fiscal-reform plan, while Ryan himself did not support it.
Still, I agree that this young doctor did no harm and may have even revived the listless, moribund patient that is the Republican convention. Now let's see what the senior resident can do tonight.