Yesterday I had the privilege of seeing VP candidate and Congressman Paul Ryan speak at my school. Living across the street from one of the largest venues in the city at the second largest university in the nation is quickly showing its benefits; a couple days ago I got to speak to Herman Cain. I wonder who will be next? I’m hoping Alan Keyes or Jimmy Macmillan, but that’s pretty unlikely.
There were about 2000 people in attendance, most of them either elderly or college aged. The first guy to speak was a local Baptist minister, and the crowd applauded after his prayer. As you might imagine, this put me in a bad mood. Applause is for human achievements, not prayer, which should come from God.
The next guy was the local GOP president. Now, this was a rally, so I expected a lot of partisanship, but I did not expect so much pressure to be visibly enthusiastic. After laying out the benefits of early voting via absentee ballots, he then instructed everyone who was going to vote in that way to raise their hands and cheer. Ummmm…. I’m going to vote like that because I don’t live where I am registered, but I still didn’t cheer or raise my hand. It’s disconcerting to me how political events encourage groupthink and conformist activity. Whenever a speaker said something, I would hear murmurs of “yes” and “exactly” all around me. If a political enemy was mentioned, then noisy booing would break out. I saw this at the Cain event as well, and it bothers me. I go to these events to get a firsthand view of the political figure and their views – not to uncritically swallow everything they say.
They showed a video before the keynote speakers came up. I’ve looked for it online but I can’t find it anywhere. It talked about Romney’s role in the 2002 Olympics and 9/11, which I was not aware he had any involvement in. Something worth researching. It also painted a picture of Romney as family man – thrifty, madly in love with his wife, a playful father, a successful businessman. It was a pretty effective video, especially the parts where he talks about his wife. Either he’s the world’s best actor or he really is smitten. But a few of the charming anecdotes about Gov.Romney had rather unflattering undertones. One of his sons showed how Mitt was too cheap to buy the correct replacement bulb for the stove, so it stuck out and blinded the cook. Mr.Romney solved this by taping a piece of paper over the protruding bulb. It shows him to be creative and thifty, but it could also be interpreted to show that he is stingy to the point of jerry-rigging important things rather than fixing them properly-hardly an image a president wants. Similarly, another son told how after work Mr. Romney would drop his briefcase by the door and not think about it until the next morning. So he’s a family man, good. But he’s also a man who is unwilling to put his job before his family – a good quality in a father, but perhaps not in a president.
After the video, a surprise. Craig Romney, Mitt’s son, showed up and said a few flattering things about his dad. He was followed by a retired astronaut who gave the predictable spiel about how we need a manned space program and Obama has gutted it. I agree with what he was saying. The space program, in addition to being a huge economic issue in my region, is a matter of national pride that shouldn’t be neglected. But I am getting tired of hearing about it-I can’t help but think that the people of Florida are being pandered to whenever a politician mentions the space shuttle.
Finally, Congressman Ryan himself showed up. I really want to be critical about him, but I can’t. He was excellent. He was passionate, but there was substance to what he was saying. He spoke knowledgeably about every issue that was presented – mostly about the debt, but about the various implications of Obamacare and on foreign policy as well. He used scary looking graphs to make his point about debt, but I had enough time to look at it closely and his X and Y axis could have easily been manipulated to be much scarier. Here it is:
So, the really scary part is just a projection and probably ought to be scrapped in the interests of accuracy, but the actual debt per person from 2009 to the present basically doubles. Still pretty damn scary. Mr.Ryan framed the debt crisis as a moral issue – we must rein in the debt for our children’s sake. Fair enough, but in light of the larger moral issues such as abortion, that point rang hollow in my ears. I read an article the other day about how in the future people are unlikely to care about peoples’ stance on “the economy”. The moral issue of the day is abortion, much as slavery was 150 years ago.
Mr.Ryan was also careful to mention that he thought both parties were to blame for the debt crisis, not just the Democrats. A fair point, and a noble point coming from a GOP candidate, but it seems to me a funny thing for someone who was in congress at the time to be saying. Just like in the video, there is a nobly self-deprecating undertone in Mr.Ryan’s rhetoric that could cost the GOP the election. The Obama campaign, from what I’ve seen, refuses to accept any blame.
It was a small factoid last week that Mr.Ryan had gotten booed at an AARP event, but at this rally, attended largely by the elderly, his views on Medicare and social security were well received. He warned that for people 55 and under, these programs might not be the same as they are now. In other words, they won’t cover as much or they won’t exist. He used euphemisms, but this was the first time I’d heard a politician admit this. I’ve been saying for quite some time that I don’t expect benefits from these programs when I get old; I just want to hear somebody come out and say it. Sweet vindication!
Mr.Ryan spoke forcefully about the HHS mandate, using terms that any Catholic can appreciate-churches as mediating organizations between government and individuals that must be kept independent, the principle of subsidiaries, individual (he said “human person”) as the basis for society. He even cited JPII’s criticism of welfare states. In the end he blamed the whole issue on Obamacare, which I think is fair to say.
On the whole I came away with a much improved opinion of Mr.Ryan. I still haven’t decided for sure if this will translate into a vote in November. I’m a terrible monarchist.
I didn’t get to ask him my carefully prepared question about his and Governor Romney’s slightly divergent views on abortion, but as he left the stage I did manage to shake his hand and ask him who his patron saint is. The answer?