Editor's note: Anita McBride is an executive-in-residence at America University in Washington, D.C., and most recently served as Laura Bush's chief of staff. McBride has worked in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations.
Let the intellectual debate begin. The campaign of 2012 is a real choice now. The selection of Paul Ryan is a national pick that goes beyond a swing state and shows strength on Mitt Romney’s part to go bold and big.
The budget and deficit issues of the 2010 campaign are front and center again and will be recreated on the national level. The debate is reframed around the gigantic fiscal issues facing the next president and the Congress -- and it is a debate worthy of a presidential election.
The enthusiasm level on both sides has been raised and so has the turnout potential. The country is “ready to be told the truth,” and Americans are about to engage in a badly needed civic education lesson about “government by the consent of the governed,” as Paul Ryan said in his remarks Saturday in Norfolk, Virginia.
He believes, and will work to make the case, that the budget and crippling deficits are central to what’s ailing the country. He is a wonk -- a budget expert at a time the future of the country depends on the budget. He has put forth a plan that he will have to defend, and he can expect to be attacked for his ideas. He has the temperament to withstand the assault and appears happy to compare his problem-solving skills to President Obama’s.
Paul Ryan is a leader in the reform conservative movement and no doubt conservatives have been energized by the Romney/Ryan ticket. The Obama team should be concerned that swing voters and independents are traditionally fiscal conservatives, and that they can benefit the Romney/Ryan team.
Independents will now have to learn more about Paul Ryan and the Ryan budget, and in the Republican VP pick, they will find someone who makes the complicated specifics of the budget easier to understand. He will likely make the case with a feisty, vigorous but articulate approach, and he is willing to tell the truth about Medicare, Social Security and entitlements -- no matter how difficult it may be to hear. They will have to explain their plan to strengthen Medicare for current and future retirees and dispute the attack that tax cuts are for the wealthy. At the same time, both he and Mitt Romney promote the vital spirit of optimism and the possibilities of the future that fuel the American way of life.
On the global front, Ryan may have a learning curve but he is a quick study and recognizes the biggest problem in the world today is the perception that America’s best days are behind her. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are unabashed in their belief that America’s ideals are enduring and our place as the leader of the free world is not only in the country’s moral interest but in our strategic interest as well. You won’t hear any apologies from them for America.