For a movement that likes to point out the disastrous consequences of Barack Obama’s lack of executive experience, conservatives have a blind spot when it comes to their own. Take the budding Paul Ryan for President effort, as Stephen Hayes reports that the Wisconsin Congressman has come closer to changing his mind and entering the race:
Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan is strongly considering a run for president. Ryan, who has been quietly meeting with political strategists to discuss a bid over the past three months, is on vacation in Colorado discussing a prospective run with his family. Ryan’s concerns about the effects of a presidential campaign – and perhaps a presidency – on his family have been his primary focus as he thinks through his political future. …
Sykes pressed him. “Do you think that it is absolutely essential that there be a Republican candidate who is able to articulate…”
Ryan cut him off. “I do. Because this is how we get our country back. We do it through a referendum letting the country pick the path not by having a committee of 12 people pick the path or not by having just the inertia of just letting the status quo just stumble through by winning a campaign based on dividing people.”
Sykes asked if Ryan understands why people think that person should be him.
“Well, I keep hearing that. I’m hoping that people will step up and I’m hoping that somebody – I can help them fashion this. You know my story and you know my answer – and I haven’t changed it. We’ve got a long way to go. There’s 15 months left.”
Ryan has been talking to friends and advisers about a run since last spring. Those familiar with his thinking say that he expected that Indiana governor Mitch Daniels would run. Hours before Daniels released a letter he’d sent to supporters informing them of his decision not to run, he called Ryan to give him a heads up. That phone call profoundly changed Ryan’s thinking.
One Ryan confidante used an analogy to make the point. Ryan sees running for president like taking a swan dive off a cliff. In the early stages of the race, when he started getting calls urging him to run, Ryan began walking away from the cliff at a brisk pace. Then, when Daniels announced that he was passing on a bid, Ryan stopped in place and turned around. In the weeks since, he’s slowly made his way back to the cliff and he’s now peering over the side trying to decide if he makes the leap.
Ryan’s office denied that he’s looking at a presidential run:
“While grateful for the continued support and encouragement, Chairman Ryan has not changed his mind,” Ryan spokesman Kevin Seifert said.
The Weekly Standard, whose editors have been encouraging a Ryan candidacy, quoted an anonymous Republican source saying he was “coming around” and that he currently was on vacation in Colorado mulling over a presidential bid and its effect on his family.
Ryan has previously disavowed any interest in the White House, saying, “My ego isn’t big enough, and my children aren’t old enough.”
I admire and respect Ryan as one of the Republican Party’s deep thinkers and action takers. His plan to address spiraling liabilities in entitlements was measured, realistic, bold, and comprehensive, even if it didn’t satisfy every conservative concern about continuing deficit spending. As Budget Chair, Ryan has changed the grounds of the debate on spending in Washington from “should we cut” to “how much should we cut.”
As a Presidential candidate, however, Ryan lacks the background that gives confidence in an ability to handle the executive branch. Like the other aspirants from the House already in this race, Ryan lacks any executive experience at all, in either the private or public sector. The fumbles of Obama will allow Republicans to argue that his failed presidency results in part from his inability to handle executive power, but we can’t make that argument at the same time that we’re offering a candidate who has never held executive office in any context at all. Even Obama would have more experience in that capacity than Ryan, or his House colleagues in the race at the moment.
The US has not elected a member of the House to the Presidency since 1880 for a reason. We haven’t nominated a candidate from the House in over 100 years for the same reason. We’ve only had six Senators as President in the last century, two of whom became President through the death of another President (Truman and LBJ), and one who had been Vice President after his Senate career (Nixon). Americans normally prefer to have an experienced executive as President, and frankly, we’ve usually done better by electing experienced executives rather than legislators to the position.
Ryan is a good man and good conservative, and at 41, has plenty of time to gain the necessary experience for a future presidential run. He’s ready to fight the battle in the House, but it would be a very difficult argument to make that he’s ready for the Presidency, no matter how much we admire and respect him. Let him do the job he has, and let’s find a candidate with the right experience and track record to beat Obama in 2012.
Update (AP): According to Roll Call, this is more serious than anyone thought.
The House Budget chairman’s fresh interest in a 2012 White House bid was first reported Tuesday by the Weekly Standard, and the Badger State GOP operative confirmed the conservative political journal’s report in a telephone interview with Roll Call.
In fact, Ryan discussed the matter with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) when the subject of whether he should be appointed to the bipartisan Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction arose, according to [a well-placed Wisconsin Republican operative]…
“Despite a new round of urging and conversations, nothing has changed,” the Wisconsin operative told Roll Call. “People continue to urge Paul Ryan to run — that group is growing, not shrinking. But I am unaware of anything changing his calculus or plan to do that.”
“He’s not intimidated by Rick Perry or anything,” the operative said. “But if he were to do this, it certainly just got harder; it didn’t get easier.”
Lay aside the fact that it’s hard to imagine him winning Iowa, New Hampshire (well, maybe), or South Carolina. Here’s the conundrum of a Ryan candidacy for conservatives: Is raising public awareness about America’s entitlements crisis so desperately urgent that we’re willing to accept a second Obama term in exchange for achieving it? If Ryan’s the nominee, we will at long last have that Very Serious Adult Conversation about Medicare and Social Security under the ultimate media spotlight. And even if Obama’s reelected, the political facts on the ground about entitlements will have changed come 2013 because of it. But the fact remains, decades of public dependency on those programs won’t change over the course of one campaign; a full-bore Democratic Mediscare narrative will assuredly be very, very effective. Which is to say, Ryan will be running at a heavy disadvantage despite Obama’s vulnerability on the economy. How lucky do you feel?
Update: At WaPo, Jen Rubin says she hears Ryan will make a firm decision in the next week or two.