MY USA Today Piece on VP Debates

You can find that here. The title is “One memorable veep debate,” though I argue most of them are fairly memorable.

How this happened was USA Today called me up earlier this week and said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Hey Mr. Vice Presidential Expert Guy, how would you like to watch the veep debate between Paul Ryan and that other guy, kind of a grin with a body behind it, and then file an insta-analysis for us that reacts to the debate and puts it in a broader historical context and does not bore people to tears?”

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Paul Ryan, You’re No Jack Kemp!

Over on one of Patheos’s progressive blogs, Faith Forward, Franky Schaeffer has written a very highly trafficked, angry post whose point is summed up in parentheses: “(Ryan Is No Kemp).”

Republicans can only pray to the gods of the Electoral College he’s right about that. Jack Kemp as vice presidential pick was an unmitigated disaster.

Kemp’s debate with Al Gore — in which he responded to Gore’s charge that he was one of the few non-racists in the GOP by thanking him and twice refused to say Roberto Alomar shouldn’t have spit on an umpire — was a worse performance than when Dan Quayle got pasted by Lloyd Bentsen in 1988. It helped to rehabilitate Gore after the beating Quayle had delivered in 1992 and set him up to run for president in four years.

None of that would have happened if Kemp had been an even minimally competent debater or was a little less in love with his own self-image as Mr. Nice Guy.

Unlike the presidential snoozefests, the vice presidential debates are serious slugfests. Kemp didn’t get that at all. He led with his chin the whole time and got bloodied. If the GOP wants to win in November, Ryan had better be willing to lace up.

The Mind of Romney

I used my piece in the Real Clear Politics Sunday afternoon update to try to get at Mitt Romney’s mind by way of his vice presidential pick, Paul Ryan. There’s a lot there that is of only passing interest to religious readers, and a bit that is very relevant. To wit:

On the related subject of demography, consider these four facts: a) Romney carried Catholic voters in most GOP primaries; b) a recent Pew poll showed Catholic bishops have managed to move the needle slightly with Catholics on the question of religious liberties; c) Team Romney has decided to make this a campaign issue; and d) Ryan is a serious and articulate Catholic.

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Worst Piece on the Paul Ryan Pick–So Far!

This New Republic take wins the prize for stupidest piece — so far! — on Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan the GOP nominee for vice president. That much was obvious from the title, but I had to read the whole absurdist article, just to make sure a weekend editor hadn’t wildly misrepresented Noam Scheiber’s cockamamie point.

(Sure, there are more insults than usual in the above. But really, one can only read so many so much of his invective-laced prose — “lunacy”; “fatwa”; “political salvation through ideological extremism”; etc. — without sniping.)

Scheiber says that there are “two ways” to read Romney’s VP pick. The first is, How does it affect the race? But that perfectly sensible mode of evaluation holds no interest for him.

So what’s behind door number two?

“The rationale for the Ryan pick,” writes Scheiber, “strikes me as pretty clear.” Nominating the Wisconsin congressman “is the way Romney and his aides escape blame for their now-likely defeat — blame which would have vicious and unrelenting — and pin it in on conservatives instead.”

Oh balderdash! Romney is a smart guy but he’s just not that calculating a figure. He’s been laying the groundwork for this campaign for the last six years and he’s going all in.

Romney has picked a candidate who has proven both dogged and articulate and, sure, conservative, to help flip the electoral college from blue to red. It might work or it might not, but picking Paul Ryan wasn’t about damage control or ideological spinning.

This article, however…