Is Paul Ryan going to run for president?
A month ago, I would have said you're crazy if you suggested Paul Ryan would run for president. Indeed, Ryan seemed to slough off suggestions he run with the kind of offhand dismissal you would expect from a non-candidate.
But I suspect someone, somewhere has been whispering in his ear that he can make a run of it. Ever since former governor Tommy Thompson jumped into the senate race to replace Herb Kohl, thus virtually closing off that avenue of advancement, Ryan appears to have been rethinking his presidential options.
Michael Barone points to this call for Ryan to run from Paul Rahe, a prominent conservative historian, that makes the argument that in these perilous times, those capable of leading should step forward. Rahe writes:
"I do not know Paul Ryan. I am not acquainted with him. I have never even met the man. If I knew him at all well, I would walk into his office and slap down on his desk Jennifer Rubin's post. As she points out, lots of Americans in uniform have answered their country's call. Here is the question I would ask Ryan: 'In this crisis, how can you of all people justify not doing what those soldiers have done?' And here is the argument that I would make: 'You have the preparation; you have the training; you have the temperament; you have the knowledge; you have the persuasive capacity. We now face a great crisis, and you understand what has to be done better than anyone else. Your country needs you. In the circumstances, what possible excuse could trump that? You have a duty to serve.'"
Ryan himself is still saying he won't run. But yesterday, Ryan made a speech on foreign policy to the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington, and Barone thinks this means that Ryan, at least, may be reconsidering his position:
After the speech and colloquy I handed Ryan a paper copy of Rahe's post and urged him to read it. He said he would. My guess is that Paul Ryan is giving serious consideration to running for president, and that something like Paul Rahe's call to duty rather than any crass political calculation is likely to persuade him to do so. I note that over at the Huffington Post Jon Ward seems to be drawing a similar conclusion, citing Ryan's statement to Fox Business News's Neil Cavuto that "I want to see how the field develops."
By the way, how often do House Budget Committee chairmen give speeches about foreign policy?
Sorry, but "crass political calculation" of the most personal kind is going to enter into any decision made by Ryan to run. It's all about timing and when one surveys the historical wreckage of politicians who got ahead of themselves, or missed their golden opportunity, you realize that the decision for Ryan is, at bottom, a personal calculation. Soldiers and sailors may spend time away from their families, but their wife and kids are not thrust into the meat grinder that is the pitiless, relentless, media scrutiny that accompanies a presidential run (not to mention the same treatment multiplied by 10 if Ryan were to win the office).
Barone is correct in urging Ryan to approach the decision with the notion that he has an obligation to run because he is uniquely knowledgable, capable, and has the correct temperment to be president. But Barone, more than most, must realize the burden carried by a father and husband as he gives in to this call to duty and exposes his loved ones to the never-ending media gauntlet. Nor should we hold it against him if Ryan, a seasoned politician at this point, looks at the hard facts and determines that he has little chance of succeeding. Running for the sake of running - a vanity run, as it were - should be left to the Trumps of the world, and not serious politicians.
Ryan may be able to do more from the outside looking in anyway. For all those reasons, I think ultimately, Paul Ryan will choose to run for re-election to the House and leave his presidential aspiration dormant for at least 4 years.