Thursday, March 14, 2013

Paul Ryan Jumps the Shark

Jonathan Bernstein pointed out an interesting controversy brewing over Paul Ryan, Steve Kornacki has argued that being the VP on a losing ticket is bad for your career while Ed Kilgore argues that's not the case.  It's an interesting argument and like all arguments that involve different courses in history it's fundamentally about a lot of things that are unknowable.  I'd probably come down on Kilgore's side and say the two main problems with Kornacki's argument is that he ignores Ed Muskie, whose later career was in many ways based on his VP selection in '68 and looks at "political careers" in the wrong way.  You can label someone a "failure" (insert a nicer word if you'd like) if they persue the White House and never make it there but that's not fair at all, the vast majority of people who seek the Presidency never succeed but that doesn't mean they flopped, it just means becoming president is really hard.  So if you take any sub-section of that group of office seekers, and most people who are on a national ticket for the VP slot have sought the Presidency, most are going to not succeed in the end.  Again because wining is hard, not because it was a bad choice.  Add in the fact that most people seek the Presidency in their political prime and by definition go into decline after that and you get a recipe for it looking like the spot on the loosing ticket did them in, but that's just not the case.

Throat clearing aside I'd say that Kornacki's piece made me realize something else, especially this passage:
On the plus side, he [Ryan] remains a very relevant figure in Washington and in his party. On the downside, you’d never know that just a few months ago he was the nominee of a major political party for the second most powerful office in America. Watching his latest budget rollout, there’s no evidence Ryan enjoys any additional clout or stature thanks to his vice-presidential campaign. He’s playing the same role he played before Mitt Romney drafted him onto the GOP ticket last summer. In fact, if his V.P. bid is affecting him now, it’s probably a net-negative, with some in the press taking a more critical view of his plans than in the past.
What struck me about this passage had nothing to do with failed VP bids, no what struck me is it looks like the first crack in the damn of Ryan's invincible reputation of past!

We, and reporters, like to think of Washington as this great palace of decision making and political intrigue.  It is of course both of these things, but I've always felt that is also influenced by the same whims of being "in" and "out" that play out in Hollywood or high school cafeterias.  People having been writing for a while about Ryan the flimflam man and for those years he's shown a remarkable tendency to never get stuck with with the fact that his math doesn't add up, his plan lacks specifics and his "deficit reduction plan" doesn't, ummm, actually reduce the deficit at all.  Lots of liberals got incredibly frustrated at this fact over the past two years.  But now a new threat to Ryan's career has emerged and it's worse than those three problems combined.  Paul Ryan has caught a much more dangerous Washington affliction: he's boring.  As Alex Pareene pointed out in Slate:
...everyone please just continue hammering away at Ryan and his ridiculous regressive fantasy budgets, but I think it’s worth noting what the non-liberal liberal media was paying attention to today [March 12th].

CNN spent the day talking about the pope. Joe Scarborough and his chums seemed more interested in the soda ban. Politico was still fixated on Obama’s “charm offensive.” The Senate Democratic budget actually got more play. Hell, the National Review Online devoted more digital ink to the pope election today than to Paul Ryan and his 10-year plan. I think the apex of mainstream Beltway press attention was when Luke Russert live-tweeted his own reading of the budget for like a half-hour.

I think — and let’s all hope I’m actually right and not just being incredibly hopeful — this finally confirms that Ryan is “over” as a figure the Beltway press treats with incredible reverence.
I really couldn't agree more with Pareene.  We can't be sure as of yet, but it's looking more and more like no one cares what Ryan thinks or says.  He had his day in the sun and now journalists will look for more interesting topics than Ryan's quest to radically remake American society and massively transfer American wealth from the poor to the rich.  Just imagine how much more massive a story about Chris Christe getting stomach staple surgery would be that anything Ryan could ever do at this point.  This is the way a career ends, not with a bang but with a deluge of pope jokes on twitter.   

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