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Paul Ryan Convention Speech Draws a Line in the Sand

TAMPA, FL – Mitt Romney may be the Republican nominee for president, but last night was Paul Ryan’s time in the sun to present himself as the voice of conservatism for years to come. His acceptance speech as the Republican vice-presidential candidate was everything Romney and the party could ask for.

Most notable was Ryan’s energetic presentation of the clear distinctions between the current administration and a Romney/Ryan ticket. The Romney/Ryan ticket approach would be to take responsibility and lead a unified nation. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, only offers “a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that’s already passed.”

The 42-year-old Wisconsin lawmaker drew sharp contrasts with the incumbent while introducing himself to a larger audience outside the conservative movement getting their first clear look at who may be the next vice-president. The Republicans have no gaffe-prone Joe Biden here. Ryan speaks with conviction and clarity, and from this and previous performances will likely mop the floor with his Democrat opponent in any debate.

One of the most personal and moving moments of the speech was when he pointed to his mother and told how, when he was a teenager, she built a small business after his father died. The theme was clear, “She built that business, not the government.”

My mom started a small business, and I’ve seen what it takes. Mom was 50 when my dad died. She got on a bus every weekday for years and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison. She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn’t just in the past. Her work gave her hope.  It made our family proud.  And to this day, my mom is my role model.

Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC who, in post speech analysis, claimed Ryan’s speech was “long on passion and energy but short on substance” apparently listened to someone besides the speaker last night. Ryan’s substance was simple and direct – the time for blame is over. “We will not duck the tough issues; we will lead,” he said. “We will not spend four years blaming others; we will take responsibility.”

Ryan took on President Obama’s signature cause, healthcare, head on. He criticized Obama’s health care law as a “long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of healthcare.” And he deftly ignored a few Code Pink protesters, allowing the crowd’s chants of “USA” to quickly drown them out.

“Obamacare,” he said, “comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country.” He then pointed out that the “biggest, coldest, power play of all in Obamacare” came at a high cost for America’s seniors.There could be no doubt he was humanizing the healthcare debate since his mother is a Medicare recipient.

Ryan took exception to comments by President Obama that the healthcare debate is over. “Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate,” he said.“A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours,” he said. “So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the left isn’t going to work.”

Paul Ryan demonstrated that he stands as a go-between for different generations. “We’re a full generation apart, GovernorRomney and I. And in some ways, we’re a little different,” he said. “There are the songs on his iPod, which I’ve heard on the campaign bus and on many hotel elevators. He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, ‘I hope it’s not a deal-breaker Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin.’”

This allowed Ryan, who is young enough to be one of Romney’s sons, to address the generation preparing to enter the workforce from college. “If you’re feeling left out or passed by, you have not failed; your leaders have failed you,” he said.“College graduates should not have to live out their twenties in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters, and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” he said. “Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the where and now.”

Since President Obama won’t or can’t run on his record, Ryan reminded listeners of that record for him. Paul Ryan has been at the forefront in Congress when it comes to tackling the deficit so he speaks with authority when it comes to the economy.

The first troubling sign came with the stimulus.  It was President Obama’s first and best shot at fixing the economy, at a time when he got everything he wanted under one-party rule.  It cost $831 billion – the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal government.

It went to companies like Solyndra, with their gold-plated connections, subsidized jobs, and make-believe markets. The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal.  

What did the taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus?  More debt. That money wasn’t just spent and wasted – it was borrowed, spent, and wasted.    

Maybe the greatest waste of all was time. Here we were, faced with a massive job crisis – so deep that if everyone out of work stood in single file, that unemployment line would stretch the length of the entire American continent.  You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation, and nothing else, his first order of economic business.  

But this president didn’t do that.  Instead, we got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care.

Ryan didn’t hammer the president but rather let Obama’s legacy do that for him.

Obamacare, as much as anything else, explains why a presidency that began with such anticipation now comes to such a disappointing close. 

It began with a financial crisis; it ends with a job crisis. 

It began with a housing crisis they alone didn’t cause; it ends with a housing crisis they didn’t correct. 

It began with a perfect Triple-A credit rating for the United States; it ends with a downgraded America.   

It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.

At the conclusion of his speech, Ryan returned to drawing sharp lines between the current administration and what he and Mitt Romney envision: self-reliance vs. reliance on government.

Each of these great moral ideas is essential to democratic government – to the rule of law, to life in a humane and decent society.  They are the moral creed of our country, as powerful in our time as on the day of America’s founding. They are self-evident and unchanging and sometimes, even presidents need reminding that our rights come from nature and God, not from government. 

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