Coupla weeks ago, I posited that William Saletan may have taken a wrong turn down Lude Lane when penning his Poe’s-Law endorsement of Paul Ryan. Saletan is rightly renowned as a counterintuitive thinker, but this piece was so far around the bend it read as if it were tapping its own shoulder out of concern.
I still can’t speculate on Saletan’s sobriety, but yesterday, in a rare case of journalistic honesty and awareness, Saletan published a full retraction, recanting almost every single point he made two weeks ago. The last time a public thinker ate this much crow, it was 2006 and everybody and their mom was apologizing for their support of the Iraq War.
If you’re still on the fence about Ryan—hey, a full third of poll respondents are, though they’re not likely readers of this blog—then Saletan’s change of heart is a must read:
I knew you weren’t perfect. I didn’t like your vote against the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction plan. I worried that your weakness for tax cuts would squander the savings from your budget cuts. But I should have studied your record more carefully. I didn’t understand how pivotal you were in sinking the budget deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner. I paid too much attention to what you said about cutting the defense budget and not enough attention to what you did. You accused the military of requesting too little money—a concern that makes no sense to anyone familiar with the acquisitive habits of government agencies. You also objected to setting financial savings targets and forcing the Pentagon to meet them, even though that’s how you proposed to control domestic spending.
As is clear from that paragraph, Saletan should have done some more (any) homework before proclaiming Galt-For-Halloween some sort of fiscal savior. But in Saletan’s defense, Ryan’s arguments since becoming the Vice Presidential pick have been sloppy and at times arbitrary, like he’s gotten ahold of a gun he control:
Since Mitt Romney tapped you as his running mate, you haven’t stood for fiscal restraint. You’ve attacked it. You warned voters in North Carolina and Virginia that cuts in the defense budget would take away their tax-supported jobs. And I cringe when I recall what I said about you and Medicare. “Ryan destroys Romney’s ability to continue making the dishonest, anti-conservative argument that Obamacare is evil because it cuts Medicare,” I wrote. “Now Romney will have to defend the honest conservative argument, which is that Medicare spending should be controlled.”
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Four days after Romney put you on the ticket, you began parroting his Medicare shtick. You protested that Obama’s $700 billion savings in the future growth of Medicare payments to providers—a spending reduction that any sensible conservative president would have sought, and that you had previously included in your budget plan—would “lead to fewer services for seniors.” You depicted a horror scenario: “a $3,600 cut in benefits for current seniors. Nearly one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are going to go out of business.” You assured seniors that the Romney-Ryan agenda for Medicare “does not affect your benefits.” And you promised future retirees “guaranteed affordability” of health care.
[…] You even embraced the delusion that government is a threat to Medicare, when in fact government is the funder of Medicare. This misconception used to be a joke, an illustration of popular ignorance. But now you’re peddling it. “Mitt Romney and I are going to stop that raid on Medicare,” you told voters in New Hampshire a week ago. “We’re going to restore this program, and we’ll get these bureaucrats out of the way of standing between our senior citizens and their Medicare.”
Saletan was, by my count, the only respectable voice out there on Ryan’s side, certainly the sole public intellectual not on the payroll of NRO or the Weekly Standard; it took Ryan two weeks to burn him good. Remember, this is the Republican’s “serious” candidate.