For our November Readers' Review: “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” by Anne Tyler. As we prepare for holiday gatherings, join Diane and her guests to discuss this master work from the author who has made an art of exploring family love and dysfunction.
Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate is already generating momentum among conservatives. But the choice also highlights divisions between the parties over spending, taxes and entitlements. The Wisconsin congressman is the architect of a plan to remake Medicare and cut trillions in federal spending. And despite the boost he brings to the GOP presidential ticket, Romney is already distancing himself from Ryan’s controversial budget proposal. And President Barack Obama is now calling Ryan the ideological leader of the Republican party. Diane and her guests discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the 2012 Republican presidential ticket.
- Michael Gerson columnist for The Washington Post and author of "Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace American's Ideals."
- Byron York chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner.
- Chris Cillizza author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, managing editor of PostPolitics.com and author of a new book, "The Gospel According to The Fix."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate has changed the face of the 2012 campaign. It could offer the most clear choice in a presidential election that we've seen in a long time. Joining me to talk about Mitt Romney's choice of running mate and the strengths and weaknesses of the 2012 GOP ticket: Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, Byron York of the Washington Examiner and political columnist Michael Gerson.
MS. DIANE REHMI know you'll want to weigh in as well. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, here we are, gentlemen. Good morning to you.
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAGood morning, Diane.
MR. MICHAEL GERSONGood morning.
MR. BYRON YORKGood morning.
REHMWell, Byron York, a bold choice also a wise choice?
YORKWell, it was a bold choice. I think there's no doubt about it. A lot of people including me thought that Mitt Romney would pick Rob Portman, the Ohio senator, as his running mate.
YORKSo because -- simply because I thought and a number of people thought that Paul Ryan -- of the finalists, Paul Ryan was the only candidate -- the single candidate -- who's choice would mean changing the direction of the Romney campaign. And by that I meant that it would immediately elevate the issue of entitlement reform and federal spending to a higher place in the campaign than it had been before.
YORKRomney has embraced it all along. He -- and the Republican audiences want to hear about cutting federal spending. But if you look at the campaign that Romney ran until Saturday, he emphasized job creation, the economy in general and his own qualifications vastly more than he talked about entitlement reform or any sort of spending cuts. So in that sense, it's a bold choice. The last thing I would say is it presents two guys who are really smart, really good and very interesting ticket.
REHMA wise choice, Michael Gerson.
GERSONWell, as an observer, it's certainly a welcome choice. You know, this election was unbelievably dreary, small, negative, and now we're entering a different phase where there are going to be a debate on consequential ideas particularly the role and size of government. And I do think that there may have been some political need here. You know, Mitt Romney -- you know, this race was rather stable but not in a favorable position for Romney. And so I think that there was a political need.
GERSONI guess I would the decision both responsible and risky. You know, Ryan's an impressive figure, thoughtful, upbeat, decent, idea oriented. It's risky because it calls a bluff. You know, independents and American voters say that they're really concerned about fiscal irresponsibility and long-term economic problems, and now we're going to see.
REHMNow, we're going to see. Last night, the two were on "60 Minutes" with Bob Schieffer, and here's the part that raises questions in my mind.
MR. BOB SCHIEFFERThere's no question your campaign has been trying to make this election a referendum on Barack Obama. Now, some people are saying you are making it a referendum on Paul Ryan's budget plan.
GOV. MITT ROMNEYWell, I have my budget plan, as you know, that I've put out. And that's the budget plan that we're going to run on. At the same time, we have the record of President Obama. If people think, by the way, that their utility bill has gone down, they should vote for him. If they think jobs are more plentiful, they should vote for him.
REHMChris Cillizza, is this now a clear-cut choice, or is Mitt Romney's sticking to his goals, his economic goals or choosing those of Paul Ryan?
CILLIZZAI think the answer to both those questions is yes. Mitt Romney seems to believe and his campaign believes that simply by putting Paul Ryan on the ticket there not literally embracing the proposal, the budget proposals that Paul Ryan has put forward in there passed the House in each of the last two years.
CILLIZZABut, they are embracing him in a less literal and more symbolic way, which is to, both Byron and Michael's point, they're embracing the idea that Paul Ryan represent big ideas, big change, a serious person willing to speak hard truths. I don't know if you can get the symbolic meaning of Paul Ryan with also in a political context dealing -- having to deal with the literal meaning of Paul Ryan.
CILLIZZADemocrats are already on the warpath regarding Paul Ryan and what his proposal would do to Medicare. I'm not sure that Mitt Romney's budget proposal is going to trump the high profile that the Ryan proposal already has and that Democrats are working to give it.
YORKWell, Romney has already embraced a premium support version of Medicare reform. I think that the bigger question is how big a role it plays. And Mike said that he -- that the campaign had been dreary, small and negative up to this point. There's a possibility it becomes dreary, big and negative because there will just be continued attacks on Ryan's plan.
YORKNow, Ryan has tweaked his plan somewhat since he first introduced it. And he's really tried in a good faith way to deal with this problem of if the government gives a Medicare recipient, current Medicare recipient in the future, a support for them to pay their insurance premiums, what happens if the price of health care goes up faster than the support goes up and then they start falling behind, it cost them more out of their pocket.
YORKRyan has really tried hard to deal with this, but it's a complex issue. And selling it in Florida and other places is the challenge of the Romney campaign in the next couple of weeks.
REHMMichael Gerson, what about the issue of taxes?
GERSONWell, I think that there's a consistency between the two men on taxes. I mean, they're, you know, the Ryan approach is suppose to be revenue neutral actually in the way that it deals with that set of issues. You know, the both men have strongly resisted marginal tax rate increases. So I don't see much like there. I think this is going to be a critique from Democrats in either case. The real difference in a lot of ways is how firmly you embrace Medicare reform.
GERSONI think it's worth pointing out though that Democrats made this charge about Ryan's blueprint on these issues before the 2010 election. They thought this was going to be the big key that going to turn things around. And, in fact, it didn't in that election. People were genuinely concerned about the size and scope of government, particularly following the health care debate. And I think they're hoping this is not the same cycle as 2010, but they're hoping that people are, you know, still in that mood.
CILLIZZAYou know, I think one thing -- I think it's important to focus on policy and the fact that Paul Ryan brings kind of a clear sort of serious policy mind to this, whether you agree or disagree with those policies.
CILLIZZAI do think, however, that a lot of the pick was made not necessarily on policy but on chemistry, which I think is fascinating, is what you've seen come out -- and I don't know how much of this is just the narrative the Romney campaign once told and how much of it is actually true -- is that a lot of the Romney senior staff were not against Paul Ryan but iffy on Paul Ryan due to concerns that Democrats could sort of turn him into the guy who wants to destroy Medicare for seniors.
CILLIZZAAnd the story that came out while Mitt Romney pushed and pushed and pushed and wanted him. I will say whether or not that narrative is true, Mitt Romney is at best a decent campaigner on the stump. He is not someone who is, you know, incredibly gifted in that particular regard. Both of the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va., and then yesterday in North Carolina, it looked like, dare I say it, Mitt Romney was having a good time. You know, he looked as natural as Mitt Romney can look.
CILLIZZAI don't think you should underestimate the rule to which chemistry does matter if it helps Mitt Romney feel kind of energized, engaged. Now, we're two and a half days after the announcement has been made. Let's see how we do two and a half weeks from now and two and a half weeks after that. But I would say, don't understand that. Mitt Romney respects and likes Paul Ryan and enjoys being around him.
REHMAnd that showed, Byron?
YORKOh, yeah. You could see that in Wisconsin...
YORK...during the primary when Ryan and Romney were campaigning together. So it's been apparent for a while. And in addition to kind of looking like Mitt Romney's sixth son, Paul Ryan seems to be the kind of really smart young man that Mitt Romney would've hired at Bain Capital, I mean. So it's -- they really kind of come together.
GERSONI actually talked with a Romney associate, long-term Romney associate who said that this is the -- exactly the kind of candidate that Romney has always hired: young, bright, detail oriented. This was very much a CEO decision, and I agree. I mean, you know, I remember the Clinton-Gore ticket. When he picked Gore, the sum seemed larger than the parts. They actually got along together. They seemed to represent something. They fed off one another. I think you're beginning to see some of that dynamic on the stump, and that's a, you know, it's a positive right now. But I -- it is further...
REHMAt the same time, voters are not just going to make their decisions because two men get along?
CILLIZZANo. And I would say, Diane, that I actually think -- we're focusing on Paul Ryan, and I actually think he does do more to impact the dynamic that Byron made is when he does more to impact the dynamic of the race certainly, Diane, or change the dynamic of the race and Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty or a lot of the other folks...
REHMCould have done.
CILLIZZA...were talking about doing. That said, I think his primary impact in a way is kind of what he brings out of Mitt Romney. I still think that ultimately if you go back in history, there are very few examples. There are a few, but there are few examples in which the VP pick was kind of one-in-one A-decision for voters that most times, voters are making decision based on who the presidential nominee is. That doesn't mean the VP doesn't matter because the VP rounds out, I think, in a lot of way.
CILLIZZAOr Paul Ryan -- Mitt Romney is hoping Paul Ryan changes in a way what people perceive Mitt Romney to be. This is not the pick of a spineless person who lacks a core. He could've simply said, we're going to base -- we're going to pick somebody like Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty who's going to just allow us -- it's not going to be a big moment in the campaign but allow us to keep the folks entirely on Barack Obama. This is not that pick. I think that's what the Romney people are hoping it changes that shape-shifter narrative around Mitt Romney.
REHMA couple of things. Of course, Paul Ryan has public experience in the Congress having served seven terms, and he's as young as his own son, which is really very interesting. We'll take a short break here. I'd like to hear our listeners weigh in with their comments, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd we're back looking at Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick. The ticket now becomes something very exciting for especially conservative Republicans who believe that Paul Ryan represents the kind of financial ethic that they would like to see adhere to. I'm going to open the phones very quickly because I want to hear what our listeners have to say. Let's go first to Jeremy in Dallas, Texas. Good morning. You're on the air.
JEREMYGood morning, Diane. I wanted to know who the panel thinks is the best vice presidential nominee that was on an unsuccessful ticket.
REHMAre you talking recently? Are you...
JEREMYNo, over the spectrum of history.
REHMGoodness gracious, that's kind of a hard question. Any thoughts?
CILLIZZAThe best VP pick?
CILLIZZAI think -- well, I would say, 1960, Lyndon Johnson...
REHMExactly. A lot of people would say that.
CILLIZZA...of Kennedy solely because it helped Kennedy win the White House. They were foes clearly, although Lyndon Johnson and Jack Kennedy's brother Bobby were even more opposed to one another. So, I mean, that's kind of the pick that is clearly shown where the VP mattered. I would say, and Mike mentioned this earlier, I would say there was a kind of sum greater than the parts, to borrow Mike's line, about Gore-Clinton, that is was kind of a doubling down young, Southern Democrats that contrast with George H.W. Bush.
CILLIZZAI'm not sure that Gore necessarily helped that much, though they did win Tennessee after Republicans had won Tennessee in '84 and '88. But I think, again, it was more symbolic. It was what picking Gore said about Clinton as much as it was Gore himself.
REHMAll right. To Palm Coast, Fla. Good morning, Monica.
MONICAYes. I'm concerned and I'm puzzled. You know, you look at the people that somebody like Paul Ryan admires and one of them way up on the list. I think he considered her as his guru, Ayn Rand, who was an atheist, who believed in abortion, who was not a fan of Ronald Regan, but she was a capitalist economic endorser.
MONICAAnd it just seems strange that as a Catholic that Paul Ryan won't meet with this group of nuns that are traveling around by bus, and they want to speak to him about the morality of his budget. He won't speak with the nuns as a Catholic boy, but he admires Ayn Rand. Very strange.
REHMAll right. Michael Gerson, what do you think?
GERSONWell, I think that Ayn Rand is a youthful enthusiasm of a lot of people with a background in the conservative movement, and I think that’s that's the way that Paul Ryan would probably characterize this. He's a very serious Catholic. He's actually engaged the Catholic bishops in an interesting debate on the nature of Catholic social doctrine and what that implies about public policy.
GERSONThey've given speeches back and forth and had been in a lot of communication. So I don't think he's refused to engage with Catholic authorities who are sometimes critical, by the way, of his budget plans on these issues. He feels like he has a social justice case to make, and he's tried to make it. But I would agree with the listener that this is going to be something that he's going to have to address pretty forcefully because he has recommended the book to his staff.
GERSONHe's talked about it in the past. He's spoken to a conference, I believe, an Ayn Rand conference. And she is a genuinely disturbing character in the way that she has perched a lot of issues.
REHMAnd Philip in Rochester, N.Y., says, "I find it curious Ayn Rand inspired him to have a career in government. Name me one hero in an Ayn Rand novel who is a politician."
REHMI don't think...
YORKI think the thing about Paul Ryan and Rand is that he clearly admire some of the themes of self-sufficiency and economic self-reliance.
REHMMore than some, Byron.
YORKNo. I think he admires those things. I don't think you could ever say that he was an objectivist, that he was actual follower of Ayn Rand's philosophy. And I don't think he went the whole way. But clearly, he was an admirer, and I don't see this as being anywhere near the size of an issue as his budget. But he'll probably talk about it at some point.
REHMAll right. And to Long Island, N.Y. Good morning. You're on the air.
MALEHello. I'd like to bring up something that's been spread around not true. People over 65 on Medicare right now are going to be affected by the Ryan budget. It's not only the people under 55 in the future. The doughnut hole has opened up under the Ryan plan. It means thousands of dollars out-of-pocket. In addition, there's no preventive care visit in the Affordable Care Act for seniors. That's gone.
MALEIn addition, the last thing, probably the least important but maybe and eventually the most important, $12,500 out-of-pocket starting in 2020 under the Ryan plan, the people on Medicare -- no, I'm sorry, about 6,000 then.
YORKWell, I think what you're going to hear from the Romney-Ryan campaign about this is that the immediate changes to Medicare will come about as a result of President Obama and Obamacare coming into law fully in 2014, and they'll say that we don't have a choice of having Medicare as you always knew it. We, Romney-Ryan, will offer that to people who are age 55 and older for the rest of their lives, but for everybody else, there really isn't that choice because Medicare changes in 2014 with the full implementation of Obamacare.
YORKAnd what the president did and Democrats and Congress did was they took a large sum of money out of Medicare and they're using it to cover currently uncovered individuals. It's absolutely pure redistribution. Now, if E.J. were here, he'd say, well, great. What's wrong with a little redistribution? But that's an argument that we'll have...
REHME.J. Dionne you're talking about?
YORK...that's an argument we'll have on the stump. But Romney and Ryan are going to make the case that Medicare is changing next year as a result of Obamacare. And we, Romney and Ryan, are the ones who make a more substantial change in the future.
REHMAnd if E.J. Dionne wants to come in and call in, present his own perspective, we welcome his doing so. Chris.
CILLIZZAYou know, I think one -- there's one number that stood out to me over the weekend. It got lost amid the 600 million Paul Ryan stories. But one number that The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation did some polling earlier in August, they asked people, would you rather have, you know, Medicare as you currently know it or the language that basically approximates what the Ryan plan said?
CILLIZZAFifty-eight percent of people said they'd rather have Medicare with absolutely no change. Now, to Byron's point, that's not possible in the long run in terms of solvency. The issue is that's a hard thing to explain to people that what Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are trying to say is, look, this system as you know it cannot sustain. We are trying to offer a solution for it. You may not like it as much as your current Medicare, but your current Medicare system in 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years is simply not sustainable.
REHMBut what about the doughnut hole right now, Michael Gerson?
GERSONWell, you know, I'm not as knowledgeable about that issue. I feel like -- I agree with Chris that you have a, you know, a situation where there's a tremendous communication challenge on the part of the Romney-Ryan ticket basically because people are happy with the current system. But we're dealing with a demographic and cost increase crisis that's not sustainable in the long term.
GERSONWe have -- they need to make the case that for the last 40 years, federal non-health related spending has been relatively stable as a percentage of our economy. And during the same period, federal health spending has increased as the share of the economy more than five times, and it's going to double again by 2015. And that's going to be, you know, that this is not a sustainable system. That's the case that they need to make. It's a tough case.
YORKCan I -- you know, I'll just mention -- Chris mentioned a number that was not in the debate over the weekend. Watching the CBS "60 Minutes" interview, the number that wasn't there was 8.2. They didn't talk about the unemployment rate. There was a lot more about Medicare, and here we are talking about Medicare all of this time. This is a result of the choice that Romney made, and he needs to get the conversation back to 8.2 percent unemployment.
REHMAll right. Let's get on to yet another subject. To Alpharetta, Ga. Good morning, John.
JOHNHi. Thank you for taking my call.
JOHNMy point is just that Romney has based his whole campaign on his business experience and how important that is for the country. And yet he turns around and checks the man to be a heartbeat away from the presidency who has no business experience. Plus, Romney has no foreign policy experience, you think he would pick someone with some foreign policy experience. And, again, he picks someone with no foreign policy experience.
REHMWhat about that, Michael Gerson? Foreign policy.
GERSONWell, you know, I don't think that's the subject of this election, although it's always an important thing for a president of the United States. Both of them are kind of...
REHMShouldn't it be in this era of, you know, concerns about nuclear weapons in Iran, concerns about Syria, Egypt, all the rest?
GERSONWell, I think Paul Ryan has spent the last year trying to develop his foreign policy knowledge views and credentials, gave a major speech at the -- I think it was the Alexander Hamilton Institute or Society this last summer. He's been in briefings with a variety of people, including Elliott Abrams and other Bush administration officials, and he's been trying to brush up on this. I think that the Romney campaign would tell you that any of the options they were considering had drawbacks. So if you do Rob Portman, he's the Bush guy.
GERSONIf you do, you know, Condoleezza Rice, she's never had elective office. If you do Paul Ryan, he hasn't been in business. It -- you know, you're -- whenever you're choosing a vice presidential candidate, you're choosing which problems you want in addition to which advantages you want.
REHMLet me ask you about women, Chris Cillizza...
REHM...because, of course, Paul Ryan is Catholic. Mitt Romney has said he wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood. Lots of women out there are wondering, what does this mean for me?
CILLIZZAAnd I would say, Diane, it's not just rhetoric -- excuse me -- on the campaign trail. I always say a candidate can say anything they like or a campaign can say anything they like. But if they put actual real money behind it in ads, it means they believe it. This is -- if you live in the D.C. media market, like we all do, you have seen lots of ads, women in Obama ads essentially testifying, saying Mitt Romney wants to defund Planned Parenthood, among other things. So, clearly, the Obama team believes that this is a path to go.
CILLIZZAI would say that what -- this is not a pick purely aimed at winning over women, let's be frank. This is a pick, I think, aimed to be about big things that are not gender-specific. It's aimed to say, look, in picking Paul Ryan, what Mitt Romney is doing is saying the concerns of suburban men, suburban women -- people who live in rural areas, whether they're men or women, people who live in cities, whether they're men or women -- is that we are facing a time of close to fiscal calamity.
CILLIZZAWe know, no matter who wins this election, we're facing this fiscal cliff in the lame duck session that Congress either will or won't handle and will deal with sequestration. But the point is that the pick is not meant to pigeonhole or to target a certain area of the country, to target a certain group of people. It is more to say, this is a big, bold pick because it is what you America say you want. I think Mike made this point earlier. It's what you say you want. Do they really want it? Do you want hard choices that involve sacrifice?
REHMChris Cillizza of The Washington Post. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Somerville, Va. Good morning, Matt.
MATTHi. Thank you for taking my call.
MATTI had a quick question for your commentators. Since Ryan has been picked, there's been a lot of what seems to me to be editorializing about how smart of a guy he is, how much of a policy wonk. But as far as I know, you know, he read Ayn Rand in high school, and he put forth a budget proposal. I was just kind of wondering whether your commentators can sort of back up more about why we should think Paul Ryan is a smart guy.
YORKWell, I think -- first of all, I'm sure everybody here has had actual discussions with Paul Ryan about the budget, and his knowledge of the budget is encyclopedic. And he's displayed that many, many times, not just in set piece speeches, but in back and forth with people, including President Obama.
YORKAnd we know from reports that President Obama views Paul Ryan as a pretty formidable character to be involved when -- with the -- in -- with debate when that debate hits on the federal budget. So I think the state of -- the degree of Ryan's knowledge about the federal budget is just really beyond question.
REHMMichael Gerson, we have an email from Maryanne, who says, "What do you think scared Mr. Romney away from Marco Rubio?"
GERSONWell, you know, it's a good question. I mean, Rubio has a lot of tremendous advantages -- a Florida tie, which makes more sense. He is a riser. He has Tea Party credibility, but is seen as a responsible conservative more broadly, similar to Paul in that way. Marco Rubio, interestingly, endorsed Ryan's blueprint when he was running for the Senate in Florida, which is a tough thing to do, and one with the message saying, we're not going to, you know, affect your current Medicare, but we're not going to bankrupt our grandchildren.
GERSONSo I think there are -- you know, there were significant advantages there, and particularly outreached to the Hispanic community. You know, I think the -- my view is that the determination was, in many ways, the chemistry. It's how they got along. And Marco Rubio is not quite as tested on the national scene as Paul Ryan, who, even though he's a member of the House of Representatives, has been at the center of, you know, fundamental budget and philosophic debates for the last several years.
GERSONHe's been the main effective critic of the president. And so I think if you're going to argue experience, even though Ryan doesn't have the same age as some of the other -- you know, he's packed a lot of experience into that age.
REHMMichael, you mentioned Hispanics. What about both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on immigration?
CILLIZZAWell, it's -- I mean, it's a topic that I don't think either of them make a centerpiece of what they talk about, and Paul Ryan certainly has talked about the budget.
REHMMitt Romney has talked about it a fair amount. Yeah.
CILLIZZAWell, in the primary he absolutely did, Diane...
REHMHe sure did.
CILLIZZA...to get himself to the ideological right at the time. It seems odd now. But he needed to get to the ideological right of Rick Perry at the time, and Rick Perry in Texas had done some things that were -- did not make the immigration folks happy.
REHMSo you're saying he's changed his mind now?
CILLIZZANo. It's not that he's changed his mind. He just changed talking about it. He just very rarely talks about it now because he knows in a general election it's not a winner. I would say I think that while picking Marco -- while putting a Hispanic on the ticket, whether it's Marco Rubio or new -- the governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, the governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, the last two much more -- much less likely.
CILLIZZAWhile that doesn't mean that you all of a sudden win the Hispanic vote if you're the Republican Party, it might be a step in a process that will get you somewhere closer. They simply can't exist as a party in 2020, 2024, 2028. I know I think about these things, and very few voters do.
CILLIZZABut as you go along demographically, if they lose the Hispanic vote, 65-35 -- McCain got 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008 -- it's just hard to see as whites continue to be a declining percentage of the composition of the overall national vote. Republicans win whites overwhelmingly. It's just -- it's a tough piece of math...
GERSONWell -- and Romney's not just been bad, but very bad on these issues. He's demagogued it against Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani and others. I'll mention, though, that Ryan supported Bush's Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which may have a little entree for him to speak to those issues.
REHMMichael Gerson. He is a columnist for The Washington Post, author of "Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace American's Ideals."
REHMAnd joining us now because he wants to put in his two cents about the selection of Paul Ryan is E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post. Good morning, E.J.
MR. E.J. DIONNEGood morning, Diane. I want to say I was invited to put in my two cents...
REHMI'm glad you are. And what do you think about the selection of Paul Ryan?
DIONNEWell, the, you know, here's the thing, I think we can revel in one fact, which is this is the one decision Mitt Romney may make in the entire campaign that made both liberals and conservatives very happy. I don't think this is going to happen again.
DIONNEIt made -- and it made them happy for -- in a way the same reason, which is that liberals and conservatives, particularly on the activist side, believe that if the selection is about fundamentals and about, in particular, what those of us who are liberals see as the radicalism of Paul Ryan's plan, liberals think they would win, and conservatives think that they would win. And so I think whatever else you think of the Ryan choice -- I actually am one of those who believe the campaign was already substantive before Ryan was put on the ticket. Ezra Klein, my colleague, also thinks that.
DIONNEIt wasn't always carried out in the most high-minded way, but we were having a big fight already over the role of government. Ryan -- the Ryan pick just guarantees that. And one of the things I noted in my column this morning is that, you know, if Paul Ryan were a liberal, conservatives would note this is a guy who is essentially a creature of Washington. Except for a very brief time that he spent in his family business, he has spent his whole time either working on the Hill or at Empower America, an ideological think tank with the late great Jack Kemp in particular or as a member of Congress.
DIONNEAnd I think this gives him a sort of form-rooting in the ideological world of Washington. I think one of the things we're learning is that even though Ryan is a well-known figure to all of us in Washington and most people have had perfectly good or very pleasant or better personal relations with Ryan even when they disagree with him, he's still an unknown to a good part of the country.
REHMYeah, yeah. Let me ask you something, E.J. Here's an email from Judith in Rocheport, Mo. She says, "Religion and theology matter because they do affect public policy. The GOP has now selected two men who are active members of two faiths that are historically the least supportive and least progressive on almost every issue involving women's rights and women's place in society and the church. How can any woman support this ticket?" What do you think is going to be women's reactions here, E.J.?
DIONNEWell, first of all, speaking as a liberal Catholic, I actually reject that description of the Catholic Church. I agree that there are positions the church has taken and, you know, notably that we can't have women priests at the moment, that the church needs to do work on. But the Catholic Church is, by no means, a conservative church when it comes to issues of social justice.
DIONNEAnd in fact, recently I quoted Pope John XXIII, a progressive pope who, in the same year Betty Friedan published "The Feminine Mystique," had a very -- a whole series of feminist assertions -- I think that's the only way to put it -- about women's equality in his encyclical "Pacem in Terris." Second quick point, it is significant that the Republican Party, which historically has been less sympathetic to minority religions in the United States, will have a ticket of a Mormon and a Catholic. I think that's significant.
DIONNEAnd just in terms of religious openness, I think that's a good thing. Now, to go to the specific point she made, I think that there will be a lot of argument over where Romney and Ryan stand on issues like abortion, like contraception, and that will be part of the campaign. But I personally wouldn't lay it off in the same way to -- on religion if she does, and I also think -- and, you know, Mike Gerson, even though he's not a Catholic, probably knows Catholics better than anybody.
DIONNEYou know, I think this speaks to an argument going on in the Catholic Church. The Catholic bishops will be very sympathetic to where Ryan stands on abortion, but they were also openly critical of the impact of the Ryan budget on the poor. So I think there's going to be a very interesting...
DIONNE...argument among Catholics in this election. That was already happening, and the Ryan pick will only raise that argument to a new level.
GERSONYou know, I agree with that, and I think that part of the pick, you know, is related to the fact that Ryan is a Catholic, and that's not a drawback. That, in fact, you know, there's a debate going on between the Obama administration, particularly HHS, the Health and Human Services, on whether you apply the contraceptive mandate to Catholic hospitals, charities and educational institutions. A lot of Catholics, even liberal Catholics, have been sensitive about the idea of the state dictating that to Catholic institutions.
GERSONI think that Ryan, before the end of this election, will address that set of issues, and it's an advantage. I would also say, though, it is historic and a good thing about America, you know, that we, you know, there's a Mormon running in the Republican Party. The first Republican Party convention that nominated John C. Fremont ran against in their platform, the twin relics of barbarism, OK, they called it polygamy and slavery. And it was an anti-Mormon ticket. And now we've come a long way, and that actually says some very good things about America.
REHMLet me ask you, Chris Cillizza. We've talked about the budget. We've talked about immigration. We've talked about women's issues. What is going to reach independents? Will the choice of Paul Ryan make a difference to them?
CILLIZZATo be determined, I would -- if I had to put a finger on the scale, I would say probably not because -- I think Byron made this point earlier, is that we are talking a lot about the Ryan budget, and the Democrats would like us to continue talking about it. I still think, at the end of the day, this is about do you think Barack Obama has done enough on the economy? Are his policies working? Did he inherit -- do you believe that he inherited a situation that was almost untenable and he's done the best that he can?
CILLIZZAOr do you believe it is time for a change? If you believe that it's time for a change, I do think Ryan marginally helps Mitt Romney -- Mitt Romney is not exactly -- though they've tried to cast him this, he's not an obvious choice as a change agent. The way he looks, the way he presents himself doesn't kind of wreak change.
CILLIZZARyan, in his approach to politics, I think, you can make that argument a little bit easier, that this is someone -- and Romney has said this in the last couple of days, this is someone who, though he was in Washington, has stood up to interns interest, has tried to do the hard things. So I think it helps reinforce the idea that if you don't want Obama and what he's done, that Republicans represent a distinct and clear difference in change.
REHMByron and then E.J.
YORKWell, by far, the issue continues to be unemployment, and you don't have to tell people that. They know that. They know. They are worried about it. They see it in their own life. They're close to it. So Ryan and Romney will continue to push this idea, I mean, 8.2 percent unemployment, if you add in the people who have given up looking for work, it's 15 percent. I remember a Romney adviser said to me one time. He said, have you been to a job fair in Ohio?
GERSONYou talk to people, you know, a 55-year-old man lost his job and out of a job for a year, it will break your heart. And this is something, you know, Romney meets with unemployed people at almost every stop he makes around the country. This is something that has got to continue to be the guiding force of their campaign, not entitlement reform.
REHMThere is only one problem with that, E.J., in that Mitt Romney has now not explained how he would create more jobs.
DIONNEWell, I think that is a big problem, and there is a lack of specificity, and I think Ryan has presented Romney with a problem. They want all the credit for Ryan being bold without embracing any of the controversial aspects of his program. But I think there's another way to look at the Ryan choice, and David Frum, a maverick conservative, made this point on "Face the Nation."
DIONNEIn a way, this is Romney running away from his initial campaign strategy, which is the election should be all about the economy, unemployment and Obama's record. That didn't seem to be taking him far enough. And the risk of the Ryan choice is that you move the campaign from a campaign of throw the bombs out if you don't like the Obama economy, vote for Romney.
DIONNEYou move it from that to a choice between two approaches to fiscal policy to distributional policy to Medicare, where you had on one of the shows yesterday the two spokespeople for each campaign arguing about Medicare. That's not where the Romney campaign wanted these arguments. So I think in some ways, the Ryan choice moves us away from the economic issues and toward the fiscal issues.
GERSONIt depends on what your economic views are because I think Romney and Ryan's view is that in order to solve even the short-term problems, you need stable monitor in fiscal policy and solutions to the long-term debt crisis, which is, you know, destroying confidence of investors and others.
DIONNEAnd the Ryan budget, of course, doesn't balance the budget until at least 2030 and maybe...
GERSONYeah. But no -- but the key here is to increase confidence that the government can deal with these problems, confidence that Obama has not created at all, in fact, quite the opposite. That, I think, is the goal. It's not necessarily to balance the budget tomorrow. That's the Tea Party goal. The goal is to create some public confidence that government is even capable of dealing with this issue.
REHMAll right. To Chapel Hill, N.C. Good morning, Steve.
STEVEGood morning. Thanks for taking my call.
STEVEWhat I'm concerned about the Ryan budget in all of this is that there are -- how much of our -- of the whole budget goes to the military. They want to cut taxes, but they don't want to cut -- no, they want -- Romney wants the military to be the greatest in the world and, therefore, I guess he wants to spend the most possible money on this. And we have all these social problems that doesn't make sense to me that we should be concentrating so heavily on the military when we have so many social problems at home.
YORKWell, I personally want the U.S. military to be the greatest in the world. I certainly completely agree with Mitt Romney on that. And the point is that not there's not waste in the Pentagon because there is waste in the Pentagon. Sen. Tom Coburn just keeps pushing on this even a lot of his Republican -- fellow Republicans don't want to make any cuts in the Pentagon. But you -- there are things you can cut, there's no doubt it. In an organization that big, there is waste.
YORKBut the general trend in countries that adopt sort of social democratic policies like Obamacare is that as the years go by, they spend more money on the pensions and the health care of their citizenry than they do to defending the country. When the Libya action started and Great Britain shot off a few cruise missiles in the action, somebody reported that they had 50 in their entire arsenal left. And that's what happens when you start devoting all of your money to the pensions and your health care of citizenry. And I absolutely agree with Romney on keeping a very strong defense.
REHME.J., do you want to weigh in on that?
DIONNEI do. I just -- I don't often invoke Newt Gingrich. I loved what Gingrich once called himself. He said he was a cheap hawk, which is -- he wanted a strong military but wanted a military that was efficient and funded at reasonable levels. We have had a very long military buildup under President Bush. And the notion that you are going to eviscerate programs for the poor -- two-thirds of the cuts in the Ryan budget or in programs for the poor, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and they are going to increase military spending.
DIONNEWe can have a military that can defend us and do the things we need to do without continuing this build up. And I do think that is a real issue in the campaign. I've been asking my conservative friends for 10 years, why is it that you want a military -- a strong military so much that not only you're not willing to raise taxes to pay for it, you actually want to cut taxes? And I would love my conservative friends someday to answer that conundrum. Pay for the strong military that you say you want. Don't take it out of programs for the poor.
REHMAll right. And let's go to Boston, Mass. Good morning, Maggie.
MAGGIEGood morning, Diane, and thank you for taking my call.
MAGGIEI wish to speak to the Paul Ryan issue of Catholicism in women. I agree with the email that was presented a little while go because I feel as she does that or she seems to that his indication not to speak with the Catholic nuns is another indication of his attitude toward women in general. I am a Catholic. I'm a good Catholic, and I am woman. I'm also an intelligent woman capable of making the choices that I feel are best for me and my family. I deserve that respect.
REHMThank so you much for your call, Maggie. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Chris.
CILLIZZAI take Maggie's point to heart. And I think she is not certainly alone in that view. I would say, however, that what the response from the Romney-Ryan folks would be is this is an election that is not fundamentally about social issues, abortion, gay marriage, these sorts of things. It's about, in fact, the economy and that women feel the struggle of the economy as acutely, if not, more so than men.
CILLIZZAAnd that that is the trump issue that, again, crosses all the demographic and gender boundaries that we're seeing that this is not a pigment to speak to Catholic voters who live in Wisconsin and Iowa. Though I'm certain that they would like that to help them and help him win Iowa and Wisconsin, that this is a big pick about big things, not a small pick about a sliver of demography.
GERSONWell, I would way out that I've -- it makes as much sense to talk about the women's vote as it does about the men's vote in America, that there are plenty of Catholic and Mormon women who are very comfortable with the public attitudes of their church. They're plenty of pro-life women in America. And I agree with Chris though that even among those groups, the people that care deeply about those issues, if you ask them what their main concern is in the coming -- in this coming election, it's not a set of social issues. It's really on economic crisis.
REHMAll right. And for you, E.J. Dionne, the main issues in this election between Romney, Ryan and Obama-Biden.
DIONNEAre playing a major role in this election. If Barack Obama wins, he will win because he has carried the votes of women by a very substantial margin. Some of that is because women are more supportive of the safety net. But some of it, particularly among the upscale women where -- upscale white women where Obama is doing very well, some of it comes from the social issues from voters, like Maggie was her name, you know, I believe because, you know, the margins Obama is running up among women are huge. And that's going to be very important to the outcome of this election.
REHME.J. Dionne of The Washington Post. Chris Cillizza, he's author of The Fix, a Washington Post blog, managing editor of PostPolitics.com. Byron York, he's chief political correspondent of the Washington Examiner. Michael Gerson is the author of "Heroic Conservatism." He's a columnist for The Washington Post. Really an interesting discussion, gentlemen. Thank you, all.
CILLIZZAThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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