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The Triumph of Ryanmania

Ryanmania has triumphed:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has picked Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate, according to a Republican with knowledge of the development. They will appear together Saturday in Norfolk, Va., at the start of a four-state bus tour to introduce the newly minted GOP ticket to the nation.

The Ryan boosters appear to have had their way. Portman seemed the obvious choice, but perhaps he had become entirely too obvious and predictable, so I was wrong in assuming that Romney would pick him. Romney said he would choose someone ready to be President, and then chose someone who doesn’t really meet that requirement. Ryan’s fans will be able to test their theory that campaigning on making major changes to entitlements during a weak economic recovery is political genius. Now many movement conservatives have their consolation prize to make Romney’s nomination a little less offensive, and they won’t be able to say later that Romney ignored them or failed to be “bold” (a.k.a., desperate and trailing). In terms of political risk in the general election, choosing Ryan is certainly bold, but at the same time it is not a very surprising outcome. In the end, Romney gravitated to the one person on his reported short list that would generate enthusiasm among movement conservatives, and in so doing managed to sabotage his campaign’s theme of competence and readiness. I still see the selection primarily as an election gimmick, but Ryan’s fans will see it differently, and pleasing them seems to have been the more important consideration here.

Jonathan Bernstein revisits something I have mentioned a few times already:

Third, I don’t think it will doom the campaign or anything like that, but it is worth noting that this is a shockingly inexperienced ticket, especially when it comes to national security and foreign policy. Dan Drezner wrote about Ryan and foreign policy back in the spring, and it’s worth looking at, but there really isn’t much there, I don’t think. Governors almost always pick someone with serious foreign policy or national security credentials, and one would think that would be particularly true with the nation still at war. The only ticket I can think of that was similarly lacking in foreign policy credentials would be Carter-Mondale in 1976, but at least both of them had military service in their backgrounds.

That’s a comparison that is sure to inspire confidence. Romney has been eager for Carter comparisons to be used during this election, but this probably isn’t what he had in mind. The lack of experience on these issues is particularly unusual for a Republican presidential ticket. There has probably not been a ticket this lacking in foreign policy experience since Dewey-Warren. Then again, the same would have been true of almost any Republican ticket this year. While Ryan is even less experienced than most, all of Romney’s most likely choices were noticeably lacking in this area. There has been a shift in the relative political strengths of the two parties, so perhaps it’s not so strange that the Republican ticket would be the one so heavily inclined towards domestic policy. Perhaps this is a concession that Romney and his advisers know that they are going to be at a disadvantage on foreign policy no matter what they do, so they may as well not even try to compete.

If there isn’t much to Ryan’s foreign policy, what we do know of his views isn’t encouraging. His Alexander Hamilton Society speech was standard neoconservatism complete with heavy reliance on Krauthammer’s “decline is a choice” argument, and he remains opposed to any reductions in military spending. He is a product of the Bush era, and in his foreign policy views he seems to have learned nothing from Bush era mistakes.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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