When my fellow columnist Juan Williams wrote, “Political professionals are saying quietly that Mitt Romney conceded the presidential race by putting Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report House GOP insists: We’re not giving up on ObamaCare repeal Ryan: Don't tie Planned Parenthood to government funding fight MORE on his ticket,” he was channeling his inner James Reston.
In March of 1980, Reston wrote of Ronald Reagan:
Reagan’s big victory later that year proved Reston wrong, and it wouldn’t surprise me if events will conspire to similarly prove Williams wrong.
The conventional wisdom holds that the American people can’t handle an adult discussion of the tough issues facing this country. But is that an accurate reading of the American public?
The 1980 election offers some clues. At the time, the political fortunes of Ronald Reagan were dismissed as nothing more than a gift to Jimmy Carter. The self-anointed experts viewed Reagan’s philosophy as extreme and unelectable. Voters defied that so-called wisdom by electing Reagan not once, but twice — the second time in a landslide, no less.
Reagan appealed to so many Americans because he was willing to level with them. He was willing to speak the truth about the challenges facing the country. He was willing to explain how the good intentions of big government all too frequently went awry and at what cost they did so. Reagan made the experts uncomfortable because he called for a reduction in the size of government as the answer to fiscal recklessness and dwindling freedom.
Americans today are likely to view the upcoming election in similar terms. Paul Ryan’s presence on the ticket ensures that we will get a real, healthy debate between two starkly different visions of America.
Like Carter in 1980, President Obama has nothing to offer but four more years of the same failed policies. In spite of his trillion-dollar stimulus and trillion-dollar deficits, unemployment has not dipped below 8 percent throughout President Obama’s term.
And with regard to one of the most pressing challenges of our time — saving Medicare — the president has no viable solution and no particularly good excuses. Instead, he has been put on the defensive for his taking $700 billion from the program to pay for ObamaCare.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan actually have a plan that will make Medicare sustainable for the long term. It restores the funding the president has slashed from Medicare to pay for ObamaCare, as it comes up with a better approach to the long-term sustainability of the program. This approach has bipartisan congressional support and will give more options to future retirees to control their own healthcare futures.
That is precisely the kind of debate that the American people deserve. Mitt Romney deserves credit for selecting Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Surely, Romney knew that Ryan’s selection would inspire this kind of debate. And he probably knew that a safer selection might have been more politically prudent, but ultimately less inspiring to the American people.
The voters can handle the truth. They can handle an adult discussion of the pressing issues facing this country. In fact, they hunger for such a debate. The latest polls show that most voters have grown weary of the negative ads and cynical campaigning.
Paul Ryan has won seven elections in a swing district by offering positive solutions. He will bring that same can-do spirit to the Romney campaign.
Juan Williams might believe that this election is over now that Mitt Romney has decided to add Paul Ryan to the ticket. But in my view, Romney has given his campaign more credibility with the voters and put himself in a stronger position to win in November.
Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com.