Romney-Ryan seem right as extreme team

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Mitt Romney, the Republican chameleon soon to be nominated as his party's candidate for president, has taken another fateful step in camouflaging his formerly moderate image.

As general whooping sounds across the nation confirm, he has chosen Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a darling of the right, as his running mate. He had little choice, due to the unavailability of other candidates who might please red-meat voters, such as Genghis Khan or Vlad the Impaler.

Unlike old Genghis, who had sociability issues and bad table manners, young Mr. Ryan is said to be personally likable. Just 42 years old, he has a fine head of hair, essential to seeking high office due to the last acceptable form of discrimination in America: baldness prejudice.

He is also thoughtful and smart, a decided improvement on the last VP candidate for the Republicans, the lovely Sarah Palin, who would have struggled to beat a moose in dominoes. (I realize this is an ungallant remark, and I hereby withdraw it as being unfair to moose.)

Some believe Paul Ryan is a handsome candidate, too, although others (OK, me) see a passing resemblance to an undertaker. It is not fair to say he gives the impression of measuring everybody he meets with his soulful eyes. It is just his way of measuring their entitlements, the better to inter them later.

As House budget chairman, he has had ample scope for his undertakings and in the past tried to privatize Social Security, an idea that had all the lift of a concrete balloon. Perhaps he could reprise this plan so that, come another recession, seniors will be forced to eat dog food, which would create many jobs in the dog food industry.

As it is, the budget that Mr. Ryan got through the House this year proposed turning Medicare into a voucher system for younger participants. In fact, if you have any entitlement, it's fair to say he would like to un-entitle you in the interest of fiscal health (the nation's health, not necessarily yours).

Of course, he would increase tax cuts for the wealthy to somehow help pay for it and end the health care law -- modeled after Massachusetts Mitt's plan -- so that Americans can be free to be sick and not suffer the despotism of being responsibly insured.

None of this is really Mr. Ryan's fault. In his formative years, he had the misfortune of falling under the spell of the writer Ayn Rand and her antidote for altruism. Over the years, many young people have been infected by the notion of self-interest as the basis for moral action, despite what they learned in Sunday School.

Indeed, if you rub two grown men (or women) of extremist right-wing tendencies together, at least one well-thumbed copy of Ayn Rand is bound to fall out -- but only after they accuse you of trying to encourage gay marriage with your unorthodox rubbing.

As you can see, I think Mitt Romney has boldly answered his critics who were suspicious that he might be secretly reasonable, compassionate and sane despite all his tough talk during the campaign.

Surely now he has proved such doubts wrong. It takes some guts to go to Capitol Hill and pick one of its leaders to help lead America at a time when the gridlocked Congress is about as popular as a beef steak at the PETA annual dinner.

It takes audacity -- perhaps one might say the audacity of no hope -- to choose as his running mate someone whose working career has been spent almost entirely in Washington, D.C.

It takes daring to choose someone who is on record as wanting to put his government hands on Medicare when during the health care debate Tea Party types famously used to say: "Get your government hands off my Medicare."

At one stroke, Mr. Romney has secured the strong support of those people who would have voted for him anyway. The question is: What does his VP choice do for the rest of us, who think we live somewhere near the center of the political spectrum, or at least not on its extremes? (My own address is 123 Middle Street, the small house slightly on the left.)

Until recently, common wisdom decreed that presidential elections were won at the center, but the center is now the far right, according to Mr. Romney's new geometry. This leaves all centrists up the creek and in danger of losing any paddle with the slightest hint of government connection.

To quote a certain Irish poet: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world ..."

I say it's about time for moderates to summon up their inner Genghis the Voter.

reghenry

Reg Henry: rhenry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1668.


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