The AP reports that Mitt Romney had chosen Paul Ryan to be his running mate. It’s a bold choice, especially considering the talk about Ryan as a potential presidential contender last year. I had a crackpot theory that Bill Clinton actually wanted Congressman Ryan in the White House.
A few months ago, there was some speculation that President Clinton was intentionally sabotaging President Obama. Whatever Bill Clinton says, it’s worth remembering that he’s a master politician, possibly the most effective on the planet. This is a man who is ambitious on an almost unfathomable level. He went from being a small state Governor (the only one ever elected President) who wasn’t just satisfied at being the first Democrat to be reelected President since FDR, and decided that his wife should have the job as well.
An year ago, some were blaming a Republican loss in a special election in a conservative upstate New York state district on Paul Ryan’s bully pulpit and willingness to talk about the possibility of changes in Medicare. Bill Clinton was caught on tape offering Paul Ryan some support at this difficult time. That gave Congressman Ryan bipartisan credibility just when the Republicans might have been considering throwing him under the bus. One possibility is that this was the work of a Centrist Democrat trying to push his party into addressing a serious issue.
But possibly brainwashed from years of discussions with conservative relatives suspicious of Bill Clinton, I considered some other speculations for his motives. My hunch was that if Bill Clinton wanted his wife to be elected President in 2016, and though that the best way for that to happen was for Paul Ryan to beat Obama in the 2012 election.
At the time, Republicans were looking for an alternative to Romney. Ryan’s young, has a compelling narrative, speaks credibly on economic issues, and comes from a politically useful state. He’s qualified enough to run for national office, as a Congressman since Clinton’s last term, Chairman of an important committee and arguably the Republican’s intellectual leader on the deficit. He could have been an effective Republican nominee, helping to rebrand the image of the party, thanks to his youth and intelligence. If the economic mood is dour, that might be enough to topple an incumbent President.
He’s also seen as an Ayn Rand nut, whose big deficit reduction plan involves further tax cuts for the rich. This suggests that he could have become an immensely unpopular one-term President, an ideal opponent for the other party’s candidate.
Hillary has a great chance of being the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, regardless of whether or not Obama is re-elected. But it’s rare for a party to hold the White House for more than three terms. In Where They Stand, Robert W. Merry puts the Presidents elected to two terms and followed by a member of their party in a separate category. Reagan/ Bush was the only recent example since Ike was elected President. And it’s rarer still for a party to hold the White House for four terms, something that would be required for Hillary Clinton to become a two-term President after Obama’s reelection.
It would also be helpful for President Hillary Clinton to follow an ambitious Republican who made some bold choices for the long-term benefit of the country. She would be able to claim credit for any economic boost, without having to take the political hit for it. And she’ll get praise for any steps she takes to restore the earlier status quo, when otherwise she would have to offer concessions to various special interests. That would provide her with a lot of flexibility.
I don’t know what Bill Clinton was thinking during his casual filmed conversation with Paul Ryan. But if it gave credibility to a guy who would hurt the Republican’s chances of getting reelected, that’d probably be about as politically destructive to the party as any casual backstage conversation could be. I mean, if you’re going to go for a conspiracy that revolves around Clinton manipulating things with this, seems like that’d be it. He may have also figured that the Republicans choosing Paul Ryan would be harmful to the party’s image in both the short term and the long term.
Ryan didn’t run for President. But now he’ll be Romney’s running mate. And I think Bill Clinton is pleased with that.