I'm glad Mitt picked Paul Ryan. Of the finalists who've been floated in the last few weeks, he is the best choice. I like him, although as I've said before, he's not quite the Captain Courageous some on our side portray him to be. But he is more serious about dealing with our financial catastrophe than most of the Beltway GOP. As Mark's never-to-be-missed weekend column illustrates today, that's not exactly not a high bar, but hey, that's the hand we're dealt. Bottom line: I feel better about Romney because he made this choice, and I imagine most other conservatives will, too.
The pick also made me chuckle a bit because of the week I've had speechifying over the Muslim Brotherhood's influence on our government. A little over a year ago, I wrote a column about President Obama's speechifying. In particular, I was contrasting the difference between the way he treated the guests he famously took pains to invite to two of his speeches: Paul Ryan and the Muslim Brotherhood. It started out something like this:
There is always great intrigue in Barack Obama's speeches. Not much heft, mind you, but substance is not the point. In this Chicago-style presidency, what is said is often less telling than who is invited to hear what is said. That's where you find out who is in and who is out.
Count Rep. Paul Ryan among the outs. The GOP budget guru got a coveted invitation to hear the president outline his new vision for escaping the economic catastrophe wrought by his current vision. The speech was much anticipated, because it was Ryan's own ambitious plan to slash trillions in spending that roused Obama from his customary crouch in the tall grass.
Ryan was reeled in by the suggestion that the invitation was an olive branch, a White House concession that he had grappled responsibly with a monstrous problem and that a gracious, cooperative presidential response was in order. But it was a setup. The Chicago mob strategically seated Ryan a few paces from the lectern, whence the don went Al Capone on him. The congressman was made into a prop, Exhibit A in a presidential tirade that mocked his plan and his party as scourges of the elderly, the destitute, and the chronically ill.
It wasn't that way in Cairo in June 2009. That was when al-Azhar University — the font of Sunni theology and training ground for the virulently anti-American clerics who green-light jihadist terror — sponsored Obama's eagerly awaited oration on U.S. relations with the Muslim world. As usual, the speech was specious: a whitewash of the legacy of Islamic savagery, the expurgation of violent injunctions from Islamic scripture, historical ignorance of the Jewish claim to Israel, and even the adoption of "resistance" as the euphemism for Palestinian terrorism — a touch that must have brought a smile to the faces of Hamas and the president's pal Rashid Khalidi, the former PLO mouthpiece turned Columbia professor.
More interesting than the speech, though, was the guest list. The Obama administration made a point of inviting prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood. And they didn't get the Paul Ryan treatment. This really was an olive branch, more like the Corleones having the Tartaglias over for a sit-down. The ramifications rumbled through both Egypt and the United States.
A lot of things have changed in the 14 months that have followed. But one thing hasn't: the difference in Obama's tone when he growls over the GOP and swoons over the Brothers. Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood luminary just elected Egypt's new president, has been honored with an invitation to visit Washington in September. Obviously, Representative Ryan will also be a pretty hot conversation topic around that time. Anyone want to bet me on which one the Obama White House will laud as America's friend, and which one it will rebuke as an existential threat?