Demogoguing Paul Ryan

The Obama campaign doesn’t want to argue the specifics of Paul Ryan’s budget plan because a) they think they can get more traction by telling people Romney and Ryan are going to break into their homes and steal their asthma inhalers, and b) they’re afraid that they’ll lose the argument. The New Republic (“liberals who can be reasoned with”), explains why that’s a bad idea:

Before Ryan’s selection, the 2012 presidential contest was the worst that most of us had ever seen. Although the country faces massive economic and fiscal challenges, the presidential campaigns weren’t talking about them. Instead, they were trading low blows about tertiary issues. Ryan’s entrance, it is said, will “elevate” the debate by forcing the real issue back onto the agenda. The candidates will be arguing about Medicare and tax reform and the role of government in our society. We’ll get the real debate we need, and whoever wins, the country will be better off. 

In the famous words of Jake Barnes, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” Here’s what I fear will happen instead. The Obama campaign will not take the other side in a high-minded debate. Instead, it will relentlessly attack Romney-Ryan for plotting to “end Medicare as we know it,” and for leaving the poor to go hungry without food stamps and suffer, even die, without health insurance. In the process, the Obama campaign will rule out not only the Romney-Ryan plans, but also less draconian reforms that might be part of a long-term solution.