Via Jim Antle at The American Spectator, the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein takes up the question of Paul Ryan as VP. Klein’s right that if a Romney-Ryan ticket loses that Ryan’s budget will be discredited. Not that he is actively trying to help the Republican Party, but Klein repeats a sentiment many seem to share – that Ryan can influence a Romney White House from his perch in the House:
“As House Budget Chairman – or, potentially, Ways and Means Chairman – Ryan can be a conservative check on the Romney White House. They’ll have to negotiate their policies with him, they’ll be so afraid of disapproval that they’ll always get his sign-off first.”
There isn’t much reason to believe this because Ryan has already been a member of the House of Representatives during a Republican administration and he wasn’t a conservative check on anything. Rather, he voted for every major piece of spending legislation including the Medicare expansion he is now accused of trying to gut!
There also isn’t much precedent that a legislator from the president’s party, committee chairman or not, will put the brakes on the White House’s agenda. Typically politicians don’t rise to committee chairmanships because they buck party orthodoxy. They are either in Washington long enough to get seniority or it’s because they don’t rock the boat. And Ryan showed during the Bush years that he is not a boat rocker.
With a Republican president the pressure will be on the minions in the House to give Romney what he wants. Anyone who thinks the president is going to ask permission from a member of House before enacting his agenda hasn’t been paying attention to the evolution of presidential power over the last four decades. And with a Republican president again, and the cult of personality that inevitably flowers, Ryan’s celebrity status, and therefore his influence, will fade.
Paul Ryan has done a service by producing his own budget and helped make deficit reduction a national issue. He might also have some of the right instincts – entitlement reform is badly needed – but the only judgment anyone can make with any certainty about Ryan is that he is a better spokesman for economic liberty and entitlement reform when the other party is in power.