In the Republican presidential nominee, Democrats have the embodiment of the rich guy who pays lower taxes than you, and in the Republican vice-presidential nominee, they have the face of the plan to let the rich guy pay even lower taxes than he is already. Mitt Romney gave Paul Ryan a funny look when Ryan started talking about closing tax shelters during their first interview as running mates with CBS's Bob Schieffer. When Schieffer asked whether their budget plans would tax wealthy people at a lower rate, Ryan said, "What we're saying is take away the tax shelters that are uniquely enjoyed by people in the top tax brackets so they can't shelter as much money from taxation, should lower tax rates for everybody to make America more competitive." He was sitting next to the most famous employer of tax shelters in America.
Of course, Romney wasn't looking at Ryan like that because he was uncomfortable with the thought of losing the ability to store money in the Cayman Islands (for the record, the Romney campaign says Romney did not lower his tax bill by putting his money in the Caymans or Switzerland). Under Ryan's plan, Romney's tax rate would go down to less than 1 percent. In one of the primary debates, Romney said he paid all the taxes he owed, and not a dollar more. By picking Ryan, it's like Romney was again shopping around for the best way to pay the least amount of taxes.
For years, Democrats have searched in vain for the perfect tax villain. They tried celebrities people don't respect -- Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian -- and successful businessmen who said they want to pay more taxes -- Warren Buffett, Bill Gates. Those didn't work. But now they have Romney, who paid a 13.9 percent tax rate on $21.7 million in income in 2010, and Ryan, who thinks that rate is too high. Further, Ryan is happy to go on record in applauding how Romney made his money. Romney's business record at Bain Capital is "outstanding," Ryan told CBS. "It's a record of creating businesses and turning around struggling businesses. That's what we want to see happen throughout the country..."
Conservatives and Democrats both seem thrilled with the terms of this debate. Enchanted conservatives think it could be 1980 all over again -- the supposedly "radical" conservative crushes the weak Democratic incumbent. But you get the feeling Romney doesn't believe it will be all that easy. In his CBS interview, he made the political faux pas of talking about "if" he's elected president, instead of the more confident "when." ("If we become president and vice president we'll work together, looking at issues together," Romney said.)
Gleeful Democrats seem convinced Mitt Romney just turned himself into Barry Goldwater (he didn't quite) and think they're on their way to a landslide. The Washington Post's George Will favorably compares Ryan to Goldwater, saying Goldwater's famous line, "extremism in defense of liberty is no vice," was just something cribbed from Martin Luther King Jr. Goldwater was defeated in a landslide in 1964. The National Review's Jim Geraghty preemptively declares future late-night jokes about Ryan are both unfair and unfunny. (He envisions Saturday Night Live saying Ryan's favorite song is "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," and he's right, that joke isn't very funny.)
And The Washington Examiner's Byron York says conservatives should not compare Ryan's pick to Bob Dole's selection of Jack Kemp to be his running mate in 1996. Kemp, Ryan's supply side mentor, was an egomaniac and a "terrible candidate," York says. "Ryan will be vastly better." This is funny, because Ryan is like Kemp in that he's very ambitious. He's also like Kemp in that he's vain -- he famously does a workout tape called P90X and posted the photo at right on Facebook in 2009. Ryan is not like Kemp in that he will do the thing Kemp was condemned for being too vain to do by George Will in 1996. "Like the Cheshire cat’s grin, nothing lingers from Jack Kemp’s campaign but the image of him preening about being too virtuous to be 'divisive' by making a sustained, principled attack on the people who, by enforcing racial preferences, are dividing the country with a racial spoils system," Will wrote. Ryan's not like that at all -- he'll be in Iowa Monday attacking Obama for giving people welfare without making them try to find a job.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.