Saturday, August 11, 2012

For Romney, It's Lose-Lose

They used to say that the reason Nelson Rockefeller never got elected President is that he had squeaky shoes.  Worse: nobody told him he had squeaky shoes, because who is going to tell the truth to the likes of Nelson Rockefeller?

Mitt Romney isn't Nelson-Rockefeller  rich (just ask his sponsors), but I'm beginning to think he has the kind of cluelessness that comes from spending so much of his life inside a swaddle of bubble-wrap. How else explain the series of own-goal errors that have placed him so he is struggling to keep even in a race where he should be leading by 20 points?  It must be that he honestly didn't know (perhaps still doesn't) that he was putting his foot in it over tax returns, over the Olympics, over the Palestinians, even the powerful dressage Mafia--and now, of course, over his introduction to the "next President"--oops, pardon me, Vice President of the United States, Paul Ryan.

Don't misunderstand, Romney may win in November.  As Shaw's Don Juan says "even a stupid general can win battles when the enemy's general is a little stupider" (the Commander adds, "some donkeys have astounding luck").  But by picking Ryan, he puts himself in the spot where he will be humiliated either way.

First way: if he loses, people will say that he never should have taken that fool Ryan and should instead have run with (pick one: Jindal, Pawlenty, Palin, Portman, Trump, Grizzly Mom, Catwoman,whoever).

But what if he wins?  I know, that is supposed to be easy: giving it to Ryan shunts him out of a power position in the house and into a hall of mirrors. Tthe vice-presidency is an empty suit, the rocks and shoals of otherwise promising careers.   Grant that there is a lot of evidence for that, but it misses a central truth: Paul Ryan would be the first Veep in modern times with a constituency.  I was going to add "stronger than the President's," except it's not clear that the President himself has, or will have, any constituency at all.  

Review the bidding. The first thing any President wants in a Vice-President is that he not threaten the President.  Nixon picked Agnew so that no one would dare impeach him (worked, too: they had to get rid of Agnew before they could get rid of Nixon).  George HW picked Dan Quayle to leave the path open for Jeb his son.  Joe Biden is much more seasoned, savvay and connected than than either of these, but Obama judged correctly that that Biden had truly abandoned any Presidential aspirations of his own.

And what have we in Ryan?  Let's begin by conceding that he is not every conservative's darling.  He's gone squishy on immigration, on gay rights, even (when the concerns of his district are on the line) on issues that concern blue-collar unions.  But by good luck or good planning (likely both) he has positioned himself as one Republican whom everyone is supposed to respect.  More than that, he is and remains down with the money men, the true angels of the party, in a way Romney will never be.  Which is to say, he may be the first Vice-President in modern history (maybe ever) with independent power base, equipped to tell even the President what to do.

They say that with every new President, there comes a point about six months into his incumbency when you can see the twinge of horror in his face, as it begins to sink into him how little he can do and how much--how many--he has to fear.  In Romney's case it might take the peculiar form of discovering that the job he struggled so hard for isn't really his after all.


Ken Houghton said...

How soon you forget Richard Cheney. (You're strikeout above is accurate.)

Buce said...

Intriguing comparison, Cheney. But he never really had a constituency, unless you count the Washington Neocon Cabal. What he had was illimitable energy and focus and a President who didn't give that much of a damn.

Able said...

If Romney loses... he can't be blamed by his own party for joining Ryan to the ticket, at least until Ryan is no longer sainted. But they can blame him for everything else.

At best, this is an attempt to shore up his base, and hope 2012 is 2010.

The other option is it is a hedge against losing, to maintain his bona fides with the faithful. I don't see what good it does -- if Romney loses, his party will blame him for losing.

Anonymous said...

What evidence is there that he's squishy on gay rights and immigration?

Buce said...

Touché, I think I got ahead of my skis on gay rights. But on immigration, there's this:

Unknown said...

My son, who has the moral certainty and clarity that only a bright 21 year old can enjoy offers this analysis. Romney can now lose with honor and help move his party back from the right wing crazies. I paraphrase slightly.