As featured on Salon.com
The vice-presidency is no longer worth less than “a bucket of warm piss,” as one disdainful ex-VP put it. People from Ireland to Qatar are talking about Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Just who is this conservative, budget-cutting fitness-buff? What does his selection mean for the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? And why does he claim his veins “run with cheese“?
- Adrian Hamilton of the Irish Independent says the conservative Ryan is a gifted politician who can present economic issues in “simple terms of American values and optimism.” But he worries what the Romney campaign’s rightward turn means for the global financial situation: “At a time of faltering recovery in the world’s largest economy, we can ill afford a lurch back to the contraction and the social strains that heavy cuts in public expenditure would bring.”
- Der Spiegel offers its own round-up of the German press’s take on Ryan, whose 2011 “Path to Prosperity” budget proposal the magazine calls “a radical restructuring of America.” The center-left Süddeutche Zeitung sees Ryan’s selection as an opportunity to put a serious face on Romney’s campaign, which has so far resisted giving details of its policy proposals. Meanwhile, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a conservative paper, believes Ryan will energize a Tea Party base that is unimpressed with Romney’s right-wing credentials. And the business daily Handelsblatt writes that Ryan’s selection is “risky, surprising, courageous.” But the leftist Die Tageszeitung disagrees: it says the new vice-presidential candidate is a “radical ideologue . . . [who] could push many so far undecided voters to the center.”
- In Thailand, a Canadian (and ex-U.S.-soldier) writing in the Bangkok Post argues the choice of Ryan is a “smart pick” and a “gutsy, risk-taking move.” Smart because Ryan’s selection could turn the superficial 2012 campaign into a serious debate on economic and budget policy. Risky because the Obama camp might smear the 42-year old Wisconsinite as someone who will gut public services, thereby killing “poor people and little cuddly babies.” That would be a fine distraction from hearing about outsourcing at Bain or the secret White House mosque, wouldn’t it?
- Writing in the National, a newspaper from the United Arab Emirates, Omar Karmi also sees risks in Ryan: he wonders how elderly residents in Florida, a crucial battleground state, will respond to Ryan’s stance on privatizing Medicare. At least the fresh-faced “Young Gun” isn’t as much of a Hail Mary pass as Sarah Palin was in 2008, he says. Karmi thinks the Ryan pick draws a clear line in the sand for American voters: “The most significant consequence of the choice probably lies in setting up an election campaign that will be fought as much over Mr Obama’s less-than-stellar record in office as it will be over Mr Ryan’s own proposals for addressing America’s fiscal woes.”
- In Canada’s Globe and Mail, the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, David Shribman, sees the Ryan pick as a turn to the right. “In selecting one of the young rebels of the new Republican right,” he writes, “Mr. Romney has indicated that rather than repudiate or mollify the Tea Party movement that has roiled American politics, he believes these conservative rebels are onto something – that their energy and passion, once harnessed, could fuel his journey to the White House.” Ryan, he argues, brings something to the table American voters haven’t seen since Barry Goldwater: a national politician willing to question the sanctity of entitlement programs.
One thing we didn’t see mentioned in the foreign press: the Romney-Ryan ticket—one Mormon, the other Catholic—is the first in presidential history without a Protestant.