I can't tell them we really plan to end Medicare as we know it. I'm running for President for pete's sake. (CNN)
At least when it comes to specifics, both are already distancing themselves from the budget blueprint laid out by Ryan nearly two years ago, which Romney had previously voiced support for up until about 96 hours ago. Romney even went so far as to say he'd sign Ryan's budget into law within the first 100 days of his administration.
Previously we've heard how "courageous" Ryan is to put forth such a budget that compels us to have a "serious conversation" about changing Medicare from a contribution program to a voucher program and potentially changing other entitlements. The beltway media love to have serious conversations about having serious conservations about cutting entitlements, as long as their sizable beltway media incomes aren't taxed at a higher rate.
But now that his plan is receiving more scrutiny outside the beltway and outside the base of his party, so far Ryan is backtracking awfully fast and Romney is claiming Ryan will fall in line and disavow his plan, even though it's the same plan Romney said he would sign if he were President.
That would seem to be the opposite of "courageous." It isn't all that courageous to propose a budget plan that carries out a 40+ year goal of the movement conservatives in your party, which includes upper income tax cuts and entitlement and spending cuts that transform the budget in a way that most Americans do not support.
In 2003-04, a young rising star in the Democratic Party named Barack Obama received some coverage for his "courageous" stance against the Iraq War. Much like Ryan's budget plan, his position was very popular among the base of his party, but less popular with independents and the other party. And then imagine a world where during the 2008 campaign, Obama attempted to run away from that position, or at least perhaps tried to muddy the waters to try to conceal what his original position was, when it turned out 2/3 of the country held the opposite opinion. There would be a lot of terms to use to describe Obama's new messaging - politically savvy, hackish, etc, but "courageous" would not be a term anyone would use. Yet with Ryan, he's still portrayed that way by most of the balance-obsessed media.
Here's the thing, either Ryan's plan does what it says it does or it doesn't. If it does, then all the attacks the Obama campaign is going to make on it are mostly accurate. If it doesn't, then the plan was a fraud to begin with and Ryan should have no credibility on these issues. Or as Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, and others suggest - perhaps the plan is honest about the massive cuts, while being fraudulent when it comes to revenue estimates and deficit reduction. And the clarity isn't helped when Romney keeps signaling that the Ryan plan is great, but also is different from his plan in many, many secret ways that he'll be glad to tell us all about after we elect him President.
In any case the Republicans have a huge problem right now. At least one of the following three things must be true: 1)their Presidential ticket plans to end Medicare as we know it, while cutting taxes for upper incomes, 2)their budget plan couldn't possibly work, not should it be taken seriously, and/or 3)the result of their plan will severely increase the deficit, painting their 3+ year campaign in favor of deep spending cuts to reduce the deficit as nothing more than a charade to co-opt the Tea Party and re-take power.
So which is it?