Thursday, June 21, 2018
Opinion

Ryan the pandering persuader

As profiles in courage go, this did not quite measure up to that solitary, lonely Tiananmen Square protester standing in front of a column of tanks.

Sending Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan into the Villages to defend his proposal to transform Medicare into a bingo game had all the faux moxie of Pat Buchanan lashing out against same-sex marriage before the College of Cardinals.

The Wisconsin congressman has been getting no small amount of grief for his idea to reshape Medicare into a voucher program. It is axiomatic in elections that Social Security is considered the third rail politics. Touch it and your public life is dead meat.

If that is true — and it is — then certainly noodling around with Medicare has to be considered the gallows of the campaign trail. Try to interfere with a health care system that helps millions of senior citizens and you can practically hear the trap door swinging open.

So this would seem to be something of a conundrum. To win the White House, Mitt Romney needs to carry Florida with its millions of seniors dependent on Medicare. What a brilliant idea, then, to select as a running mate a chap who advocates blowing up the current Medicare system and creating a future voucher program that would in all likelihood also increase out-of-pocket expenses for all the old coots. Say, there's a voter-friendly winning formula.

He might as well have picked Che Guevara III as his a running mate.

Why Ryan, the Atticus Grinch of Congress? Was Simon Legree unavailable?

So it was rather telling the Romney camp sent Ryan into the Villages, the Stepford Estates of the tea party, to defend the Medicare equivalent of "Hey you, geezer! Get off my lawn!"

Only in the Villages, where folks probably regard the Koch Brothers as more liberal than Sacco and Vanzetti, could Ryan expect a rousing, cold-blooded reception from the inhabitants for wanting to transform Medicare.

The Villages might be the only retirement enclave in Florida where a politician can advocate stiffing senior citizens on their medical care and be welcomed with the same enthusiasm as North Korea's Kim Jong Un showing up in a famine-stricken village to tout the South Beach diet.

This was venturing into the belly of the ballot-rich bacchus feast to gorge oneself on filet of elephant.

If the Romney campaign had wanted to demonstrate bold, visionary leadership and sell critics on the intellectual superiority of its ideas, Ryan would have been dispatched to Century Village in Broward County or perhaps Top of the World in Pinellas County, where the veep-in-waiting might have experienced somewhat fewer hosannas than the Children of the Corn-esque tea party accolades the Villages offered up.

Chances are among this particular constituency, after the tossing of tomatoes and vague unfortunate references to his parentage, Ryan might have been told where he just might file his Medicare voucher program.

Well, when in Demagogueville, do as the Demagoguevillians do. So Ryan wasted precious little time firing up the Villages with accusations that Trotskyite in the White House wants to gut Medicare's budget by $700 billion and reduce the plan's effectiveness to the point a senior citizen won't be able to get a government-funded suppository.

This went over rather well, by the way. Score it 10 harrumphs out of 10, with a "Darn right!" thrown in for good measure.

Oddly enough, Ryan didn't mention to the throng of tricorner hats that his plan has the same $700 billion in reduced Medicare spending. Why needlessly confuse people with picky little details? Besides, it's understandable that caught up in the rapture of the Ayn Rand fan club, he probably just forgot.

Ryan is just the troubleshooter the Romney campaign can rely on to take its message to those on-the-bubble groups. Perhaps Ryan can use his considerable gifts of persuasion to advocate for fewer gun laws before the National Rifle Association.

Maybe Ryan the pit bull can be sent as an emissary to Wall Street to urge the financial community to get on board with fewer banking regulations.

And if not Ryan, who else could charm the oil industry to come around in support of the Keystone Pipeline project?

It's entirely possible between now and Election Day, Ryan will be spending less time in the company of senior citizens than Playboy's centerfold director. Instead of wooing people who have already been seduced, maybe Ryan should feel free to drop in at Century Village. It might be worth a hoot — or two.

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