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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things – Two Wills Edition

August 17, 2012

William Galston and William Saletan are thoughtful, centrist-oriented policy wonks.  Galston is a professor at the University of Maryland, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and worked for Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Walter Mondale.  Saletan is a longtime correspondent for Slate and a self-described “liberal Republican” who opposed George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004 and plans to vote for Barack Obama in November.  Both pride themselves on their ability to analyze issues and policies carefully and clearly, without being swayed by emotional or partisan influences.

So how did they react to Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as a running mate?  With a rush to preemptively defend Ryan against virtually and all criticism he might receive from Democrats—as if Ryan were a rare and precious flower rising above the muck and the mire of today’s Republican Party, and not the chief ideology officer of the House Republican caucus.

Saletan touts Ryan as “a real fiscal conservative”.  Of course, later in the same paragraph Saletan writes, “My liberal friends point out that Ryan’s plan leaves many details unclear. That’s true. But show me another Republican who has addressed the nation’s fiscal problems as candidly and precisely as Ryan has. He’s got the least detailed budget proposal out there, except for all the others.” 

Here’s a hint for Saletan:  if you find yourself forced to backtrack on a candidate’s principal political virtue before you write your way out of a paragraph…you might want to reconsider the entire premise of your column.

For his part, Galston starts off by saying “Many observers are working overtime to figure out which party benefits from Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan.  I don’t mean to sound holier than thou, but I’m more interested in a different question: how will it benefit the country?”

Here’s a hint for Galston:  if you “don’t mean to sound holier than thou”, don’t write sentences like that one.

Galston goes on to express his fears that if Democrats attack Romney-Ryan for planning to “end Medicare as we know it”—which is what Ryan actually proposes—then if Pres. Obama is reelected, it might mean that Democrats would rule out other measures sometime in the future that would control health care costs.

Keep in mind (as Galston apparently did not) that this is the same Democratic Party that passed the Affordable Care Act which expands health care coverage and reduces federal deficits by trillions (with a “t”) of dollars over the next two decades.  And it’s the same Republican Party that unanimously voted against the ACA, campaigned in 2010 (and is campaigning in 2012) against the Medicare “cuts” in the ACA, and passed the budget-busting Medicare Part D as its sole contribution to health care reform in the past 20 years.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

P.S.  Both Galston and Saletan could benefit from reading today’s column by Joshua Green (another even-tempered political observer) in which Green concludes:  “It may not be pretty, but the fact is that pummeling the opposing party into chastened submission has become the only way to settle significant policy disagreements. Romney’s choice of Ryan will nationalize the election around the most significant ones of all — not just taxes and entitlement reform, but the whole nature of the relationship between government and its citizens. The campaign was always going to be brutal and nasty. Now it will be brutal, nasty, and meaningful.”

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