Leave it to Sarah Palin to stir up the hit buzzword of the campaign season.
In a statement to The Weekly Standard, she said, ”With so much at stake in this election, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should ‘go rogue’ and not hold back from telling the American people the true state of our economy and national security.”
She then added, “They need to continue to find ways to break through the filter of the liberal media to communicate their message of reform. America desperately needs to have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment in discussing our big dysfunctional, disconnected, and debt-ridden federal government.”
One would hope the Romney/Ryan camp would take ANY advice from Sarah Palin with a grain of salt.
Yet… the media became crazed with the idea that Paul Ryan may be doing just that — GOING ROGUE.
“Going Rogue” Romanticism
The word “rogue” conjures up images of bold individuals that would do whatever it took to achieve greatness.
This notion appeals to the American Cowboy in us. We like the idea of a #2 in command choosing his own path…
Disobeying orders… Writing his own quirky speeches… and looking out for his own political ambitions.
Michael Douglas did it in Falling Down. Edward Norton did it in Fight Club. Kevin Spacey did it in American Beauty.
Thomas Jefferson did it. Teddy Roosevelt did it. Although relatively unsuccessful, Sarah Palin and John Edwards did it.
We think of a “rogue” as someone who knows just how to “stick it to the system” from within the system…
Shake things up, change Washington. Isn’t that what we needed in 2008… and still, in 2012?
Will The Real Ryan Please Stand Up?
Then there was a quote from Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa. He reportedly told The New York Times, “I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.”
The article alleged that Conservatives are buzzing “Let Ryan be Ryan.” Rather than worrying the #2 will upstage the #1 on the ticket, campaign staff should just let Ryan “take a detailed, policy-heavy fight to President Obama and the Democrats.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker complained that he’s not seeing the level of “passion” he’s used to seeing — and he attributes that to a “pushback from the national campaign.”
Some supporters worry that Ryan’s progressive thoughts on overhauling Medicare in a substantial way are going to be steam-rolled by Romney’s more broad-based solution to simply “repeal Obamacare” and “halt all cuts to the Medicare program” — which is a touchy subject for the senior voting bloc.
Personally, I feel the Romney camp is suffering from a lack of specificity right now. Obama/Biden have the competitive advantage of being at the helm nearly four years, so they can — and will — deliver a few specifics. Admittedly, it can be difficult for a Washington Outsider to march into a very particular plan about what he’ll do once in office. Ryan, of course, has been working within the system for quite some time and would be able to offer more detailed plans for enacting reform… but is anyone listening?
Republican Representative from Illionois, Aaron Schock, had a good point. He argued that “The electorate is not ready for a two-hour dissertation on the unfunded liabilities within the Medicare system.”
Perhaps “Ryan going rogue” would look a bit like Ross Perot with his infamous charts. Policy wonks and insiders care about that sort of debate, but the general public has no clue about the intricacies of the system at large. You got the sense that Ross Perot was really, really smart… but he failed to really persuade viewers or appeal to their guts. Ryan runs the same risk with his PowerPoint presentations.
(*For the record: I, personally, would like to hear the Paul Ryan specifics come up in the VP debate, but I’m also aware that the vast majority Americans would rather have their toe nails ripped off than watch an hour of C-SPAN.)
From Buzzwords To Obsession: The Damage Has Been Done
So let’s get down to brass tacks. There is a MEDIA CIRCUS at hand. A few days ago, Politico’s Roger Simon wrote a satirical article that many (less intelligent) members of the media took as Gospel and reprinted, without thinking.
It’s hard to believe people would believe that Paul Ryan refers to Mitt Romney as “The Stench” – but sooo many pundits did! From PoliticsUSA, The Daily Paul, and Pensito Review — to MSNBC and New York Times’ Paul Krugman…. EVERYONE fell for it and reported the fake quote as fact. Bummer. Maybe satire is dead.
Or maybe Roger Simon’s parody struck a nerve. As John Cook at Gawker wrote, “The substance is that Ryan believes that Romney is a failed candidate, and is more concerned with preserving his own political reputation than trying to pull out a win against all hope.”
There is a very real fear of the Republican campaign coming apart at the seams like McCain/Palin ’08. Once people start thinking there is dissension in the ranks, they begin to question the team’s ability to lead. That’s why the Romney camp wants to keep it close to the vest. Yet, the Republican party is still divided, as some call for a bolder, bigger solution — which is, more or less, what won Obama/Biden their current positions four years ago.
Whether the Politico column was meant to be humorous or not, some collateral damage has been done. Perhaps the article itself will become “The Stench” that plagues the campaign from here on out — or at least until the debates. Articles penned by left-leaning pundits will undoubtedly continue in this vein in an effort to swing public opinion and sink the Romney ship. It’s like how Gore “was a robot”… Dole was a “hot-tempered sore loser”… and McGovern was “for amnesty, abortion and acid”… and Kerry was a “Flip-Flopper”…
In a nutshell: Media portrayals and public perception matter!
Life After The Campaign Trail
Many people are worried about what will come of Paul Ryan if he is, in fact, on the losing ticket. According to the New York Times, he is still up for re-election in his current position and he has a Plan B of attacking the tax code to chart his own path… and return on the top of the ticket next time after carving out a reputation of his own.