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Must-Read Op-Eds for Oct. 16, 2012



Ryan had worn the mantle of the “serious man” for some time in Washington. It was a reputation burnished by both sides (In 2010, President Obama called his budget plan “a serious proposal”), and when Ryan was selected, it led many D.C. Thought Leaders to praise Romney for his bold and substantive stroke. In the time I spent with him, everyone around Ryan was very invested in conveying that he is indeed a detail-obsessed man of great substance...Ryan is gifted at shrouding a cutthroat ambition in sheepish nonchalance. It is a key political still — trying constantly to impress without looking as if you’re trying — and one that has eluded many politicians past and present. He is also deft at conveying precision and specificity without being the least bit precise or specific. He has honed his image carefully and promotes it relentlessly on the stump.


Is Mitt Romney surging ahead of Barack Obama in the battleground states that will elect the next president? USA Today says "yes" and insiders in the Democratic Party are growing more concerned by the day that the President's built-in advantage in the Electoral College has all but disappeared. A new USA Today/Gallup poll has Romney leading President Obama by 4 percentage points among likely voters in 12 battleground states. The reason? USA Today says women in these swing states are moving Mitt's way. ... Just yesterday, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll had President Obama surging ahead of Mitt Romney and breaking past the 50 percent mark, so who knows what the next poll brings. But one thing is certain, the tightening race does give us all one more reason to tune into Tuesday night's presidential debate.


Biden’s performance will be forever remembered not for its content but for its tone. I have occasionally admired Biden’s emotional transparency and “happy warrior” enthusiasm. His debate presentation in Kentucky, in contrast, was a collection of disturbing, disorderly appetites. He displayed scene-chewing antics and preening exhibitionism and smirking rudeness and egotistical exuberance and bullying condescension. ...This has complicated Obama’s life in another way. The road-rage wing of the Democratic Party...views the Biden meltdown as a pioneering achievement in political discourse. ...Since adopting this model would disqualify Obama for the presidency, elements of the left are bound to be disappointed with the president’s debate performances. And it will be harder for Obama to claim the mantle of bipartisanship when his running mate is celebrated for his incivility.


Although they will not admit it, both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama agree on what to do about the Syrian civil war: Let the killing continue. ... Romney had strong words about Syria in his foreign policy address but tepid proposals. There is no substitute for American leadership. If weapons are to be provided, then America ought to organize their distribution. If a no-fly zone is needed, only America can do it. If someone has to create an anti-Assad coalition in the region, then America, not Turkey — the former colonial power, after all — is the one to do it. It was good of Romney to point out Obama’s lack of leadership on Syria. It would have been better if he had provided some himself.


Hillary Clinton ducked questions Friday about what and when she knew about the nature of the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, and then she got the heck out of D.C. The Secretary of State, who flew to Peru Monday for a conference on women's empowerment, is savvy enough to smell political trouble. Throughout the fallout from Libya, she has taken a low profile. But this position is becoming increasingly untenable. ...Mrs. Clinton finally addressed the White House comments by saying "I take responsibility" for what happened in Benghazi. ...That's nice, but it still leaves many questions, such as why her own comments to the U.N. differed so much from the substance and tone of Mr. Obama's. Saying you take "responsibility" in brief interviews from faraway Peru is a long way from acting as if you're responsible.


...The American people watched "the smartest guy in the room" struggle to put together a simple declarative sentence, and then ask the moderator to move onto another topic after Mitt Romney had given a strong statement about jobs and growth and tax revenues. Some 67 million Americans were watching on TV. What they saw was the scene from the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy's dog pulls back the curtain to reveal there is no wizard at all, just a man from the Midwest who pumped himself up into something far beyond his mortal self—and got the whole of Oz to believe it. ... In the two remaining debates, Mr. Obama will surely be more assertive, more competitive, and more engaged than he was in round one. But this time the curtain has been pulled back and the aura is gone. That means Mr. Obama's Republican opponent—for the first time in two presidential contests—will finally be contesting a mere mortal, not a wizard of his own Oz.