National Commentary

Scary Enough to Trigger a Stampede

A lot of probably-sound speculation is circulating that Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan as his running mate signaled his concession to Obama in the November election.

Romney was sinking in the polls in irreversible ways. That is, it was based on factual revelations of his business and political history, and not some fixable gaffe or poor tactical decision. The minute Obama began bashing away at Romney’s offshore accounts, his concrete record of deference to the rich over the poor, and such attacks began gaining traction, it was all over for Mitt.

A Washington Post headline yesterday asked, “Can Romney Become More Likeable?” The answer is, based on what’s driving up his negatives, no.

If fact, his biggest weakness still looms in the shadows, awaiting prime time to leap to center stage. It’s what’s behind his unwillingness to disclose his tax returns. Obama won’t let the anyone forget about that, and his drumbeat can be expected to get louder and louder as the campaigns progress into the fall.

How bad must those tax returns really be for Mitt? Only he knows for sure, but we can imagine. He showed them to John McCain in 2008, and McCain was left with no choice but to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate.

If they show the worst, then could it be that Romney’s gaffe last week introducing Ryan as the “next president of the U.S.” might have been more intentional than anyone thought.

There is an eerie parallel between the choice of Palin in 2008 and Ryan now. Both have been characterized as “Hail Marys,” desperation heaves into the end zone highly unlikely to avert defeat as the clock runs down.

Pundits fail to grasp the similarities when they think only of the candidates’ superficials, such as their images and acumen or lack of it on the important subjects of the day. In reality, what the voting public confronted in Palin and now in Ryan is a kind of exceptionally off-putting Neanderthal barbarism on matters of social and fiscal policy.

Already, but much more as people learn more about Ryan in the next months, they will care less about Romney the person, and more about Romney’s undisclosed tax returns, on the one hand, and the things that Ryan does not hide, but spouts from the mountain tops, on the other.

With as many votes as he’s cast in Congress, with as many bills as he’s introduced, the full vetting of Ryan’s record will reveal the shocking extent of his extremism as a slavish ideological devotee of Ayn Rand.

Of course, Wall Street loves this guy. In reptilian fashion, without blinking an eye in just the way those Wall Street snakes like it, Ryan sets the poor and elderly against the rich, and says the former must pay to please the latter. His firebrand approach may be perversely entertaining, like watching some Sunday morning fundamentalist on TV rail against America as a modern Sodom and Gomorrah.

But just as with touring a snake farm, folks gain a sense of relief from knowing there are heavy glass barriers separating them from the creepy forked-tongue reptiles that might otherwise induce panic. Watching such phenomena with a “glad it’s not me in there” operational sensibility, whether in reference to a fundamentalist’s or a snake’s den, people feel sufficiently insulated to remain calm.

But then comes Ryan, with a face that, painted up right, could easily resemble a sinister clown, bursting through those calming barriers of separation, jumping into the lap of every senior citizen and struggling middle class American with bug eyes and an ear-piercing, “Boo!” followed by shrieking laughter.

That’s the psychological effect that Ryan’s unfiltered call for ripping up all the nation’s social safety nets will have on the electoral process this fall.

Among those Republicans most upset about this are all those running “down ticket” from Romney-Ryan in U.S. Senate and Congressional races.

Suddenly, every one of those races is now impacted to their core by the “Ryan factor.” Ryan isn’t just a “silly Sarah” when it comes to this, he’s scary enough to trigger a panicked electoral stampede away from any Republican.