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Must-Read Op-Eds for August 14, 2012

LET THE REAL DEBATE BEGINBY JOE NOCERANEW YORK TIMESOn the one hand, talk about limiting the federal government and shrinking the deficit has been central to Re

LET THE REAL DEBATE BEGINBY JOE NOCERANEW YORK TIMESOn the one hand, talk about limiting the federal government and shrinking the deficit has been central to Republican rhetoric for years. On the other hand, historically, most Republicans haven’t really meant it. ...Ryan, however, means it. What sets him apart is that he is the rare politician who has been willing to put meat on the bones so that everybody can see what he has in mind. ...Mitt Romney, who seems unable or unwilling to go beyond the bromides in his campaign speeches, lacks both the skill and the genuine fervor to have this debate. But, with Ryan on the ticket, it is at least possible. I think the Democrats will win this debate, but we need to have it openly, and nationally — rather than having the shrink-the-government movement conducted as a kind of guerrilla warfare, carried out in lightning strikes like the debt-ceiling crisis.

THE BOLD TO MITT’S BLANDBY FRANK BRUNINEW YORK TIMESRyan has precisely the kind of styling and clearly defined brand that Romney lacks. It’s striking. From Romney we’ve been given only a fuzzy portrait of how his biography and ideology supposedly converge, of what set him in motion and what makes him tick. With Ryan it’s the opposite. ...Right after Romney announced Ryan, who has positioned himself as the wonk prince of the Republican Party, there was some barbed commentary that Romney had outsourced the policy for his campaign, answering the question of what he really stood for by standing with Ryan. You could argue that Romney outsourced the emotion, the charisma and the narrative as well. It’s the you-complete-me strategy of vice presidential selection with a steroidal twist: you fill in my overarching blank. And it’s a reminder of how bizarrely colorless Romney’s bid has been.

SAVING PRIVATE ROMNEYBY ROGER COHENNEW YORK TIMESThe Romney gamble is huge because the line of Democrat attack against him and Ryan is so clear: They are the heartless would-be destroyers of Medicare, the health insurance program for retirees (who abound in battleground state Florida), and Medicaid; and they are the architects of a massive redistribution of income from bottom to top at a time when the top, unlike the middle and bottom, is doing just fine. ...The shape of the Republican counter-attack is equally apparent: Obama, with a little bit of studious this and a touch of worthy that, has no serious plan to stop Americans living on borrowed money. The economy is stalled, unemployment high. ...Behind this battleground a mountain stands. It is composed of debt. I applaud the Ryan pick because it places front and center what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, has called the greatest long-term threat to America’s national security: its debt. PAUL RYAN ON HIS SOAPBOXBY DANA MILBANKWASHINGTON POSTThe lanky lawmaker from Wisconsin made his first solo appearance as Mitt Romney’s running mate on Monday, and the Romney campaign chose to have him do it from the Iowa State Fair. This was a mistake. ... It was not exactly the kickoff Ryan and Romney wanted, but it did help to establish why Romney chose the young House Budget Committee chairman as his running mate: Ryan is almost as awkward as Romney. Ryan has a deft touch in Washington when he speaks at think tanks or mixes it up with reporters. He has an easy manner and a confident command of policy. But he hasn’t been tested much as a retail politician. He doesn’t have to worry about close campaigns in his heavily Republican congressional district, and he hasn’t had to win over voters much beyond Racine and Kenosha.  THE KING OF THE REAGAN BABIESBY KEITH KOFFLERPOLITICOObama’s spin doctors are salivating at the chance to dissect Ryan’s conservative record and politically disembowel him with it. But they don’t understand that Ryan’s conservatism is not going to hurt him anymore than Ronald Reagan’s did in 1980. Bearing, like Reagan, a specific plan of action for difficult times, Ryan may be just the man to ride his conservatism straight into the West Wing. ...Like Reagan, Ryan stands implacably for something – something that, as with Reagan in 1980, is an alternative to the dismal state of affairs the country finds itself. ...The power of Reagan and, now, the Romney/Ryan platforms are, far more than their conservatism or their clarity. It is the suggestion that there is light at the end of the tunnel — and a map to get there.WHY THE RYAN PICK WON’T BRING CLARITY TO THE BUDGET DEBATEBY JON MEACHAMTIMERight out of the gate, Romney made it clear that his choosing Ryan did not mean he was also adopting Ryan’s budget as his own. The Democrats, meanwhile, are quite pleased to be able to depict Romney and Ryan as wild-eyed right-wingers who will punish seniors and the poor in favor of the well-off. In other words, it’s just possible that the naming of a serious-minded fiscal hawk to a national ticket will impoverish rather than enrich the debate over the fiscal future, for Romney is already distancing himself from his running mate’s work, and the White House is already sounding traditional Democratic themes that seem to foreclose the possibilities of compromise by casting budget and taxation reforms in apocalyptic terms. It all makes basic political sense, but it does not suggest that significant reform will come in the new year if whoever wins does so by running away from the hard choices that must be made.