Time to saddle up

'Let Me Get This Straight' by Barry Knister

“leader. noun. 1. A person who leads others along a way; a guide. 2. One in charge or in command of others.” Along with these definitions, The American Heritage Dictionary includes the following: “the foremost horse or other draft animal in a harnessed team.”

Mitt Romney has finally hitched himself to a running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Depending on how you view this year’s political rodeo, these two men will now either plod or gallop their way toward November.

The race gives every indication of ending in a photo finish. The Democrats are raising less money, but have the advantage of incumbency. Like every president before him, each time Obama rides into town, he dismounts and passes out taxpayer-funded gifts, then climbs back on his horse and hightails it to the next watering hole. Most recently, he bankrolled new drought-related subsidies for farmers in Iowa.

Saddle bags flapping and stuffed with Super-pac loot, Romney and his new sidekick are sure to be close behind, hell-bent for leather and itching for a scrap. They will be quick to accuse Obama of trying to rustle the election with a feedbag full of Big Government.

This means it’s time for voters to scout the horizon for rhetorical smoke. Following the announcement, The Naples Daily News was fast on the draw in publishing a list of reactions from key Florida politicians. Senator Mark Rubio says of Ryan that he “is a courageous reformer who understands our nation’s challenges, has proposed bold policy solutions to solve them, and has shown the courage to stand up to President Obama….”

The key fightin’ words here are “bold” and “courage.” Anyone bold is “fearless and daring,” and has courage. Question: in what way does formulating policy in the halls of Washington call for fearlessness and daring? Ryan is a career politician, tethered all his adult life to the governmental hitching post. Like his running mate, he is a child of privilege and family money, but unlike Romney he has never held a job in the private sector. Neither man has served in the military, where fearlessness and courage are actually conditions of employment.

Chauncy Goss is “delighted to know Mitt Romney chose my friend Paul Ryan…. He is a leading thinker in the Republican party and will elevate the debate….” Keywords here are “friend,” “thinker,” and “elevate.” Goss wants voters to know he is tight with the new VP candidate. He also wants to assure them that Ryan’s intellect operates in a rarified, “elevated” atmosphere. At that altitude there’s less oxygen, but also less pollution.

Governor Rick Scott thinks that “like Gov. Romney, Congressman Ryan understands that government doesn’t create jobs, people do. And that the best way to create jobs is to get government out of the way.” This is classic political snake oil. “Government” is an abstract concept. Until put into practice by people, it means nothing. As for creating jobs, government is the single biggest employer in Florida. If Scott succeeds in accomplishing his goal of shrinking government, what will the employees do? Sell insurance?

Naples Mayor John Sorey, honorary Collier County chairman for Romney’s campaign believes “it couldn’t have been a better choice. I think the voters will have a very clear choice as to how they want this country to go forward, if we want to continue to build on our capitalistic foundation as opposed to the socialistic direction we’re currently headed."

Too bad about the missing preposition “in,” but the obvious keywords from Mayor Sorey are “capitalistic foundation” matched up against “socialistic direction.” If these nags aren’t ready for the glue factory, they should be. The U.S. gave up “pure” capitalism early in the last century, when President Teddy Roosevelt introduced the income tax. As for socialism, excepting recent government bailouts, the federal government doesn’t own any “means of production.” Such ownership figures in any socialist system.

Perhaps wanting to suggest fiscal austerity, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson used clipped British militaryspeak to express his misgivings about Ryan: “Romney VP pick bad for seniors. Signals an end to Medicare as we know it. My commitment to Medicare never stronger.”

Thanks, lieutenant. By referring to seniors, and repeating “Medicare,” Nelson wants to raise the specter of old people dumped on mattresses at the curb of Naples Community Hospital, beseeching passersby for insulin and Lipitor. With or without Romney/Ryan, this won’t happen. Canes and walkers would come raining down on the passing limos, and that’s no photo-op anyone wants on Inauguration Day.

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