Paul Ryan: Friend or Foe to the GOP?

By Rachel Kaly

On Saturday, August 11, 2012, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced his choice for vice presidential candidate: Paul Ryan, a Republican Congressman from Wisconsin. While many will agree that Ryan is certainly a handsome and charismatic addition to the Republican ticket, many question whether or not it was really right the decision.

Romney, a wealthy banker and businessman from Massachusetts, is already understood to be economically-minded. Many Americans feel that he is prepared to face the domestic crisis facing the United States. Voters are forgetting, though, that the economic turmoil the United States finds itself in is not everything. There is aftermath from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, uprisings in Syria and Libya, and diplomatic ties with Western Europe that need to be maintained. One of the most truthful criticisms of Romney is his lack of foreign policy experience. His recent tour to London, Israel, and Poland was called a series of “gaffes” by a German news website, and a Swiss newspaper said that he failed in “demonstrating foreign policy expertise and diplomatic skills.” In 2008, Obama was also criticized for his lack of international experience, but made up for it by selecting as his vice presidential running mate Joe Biden, who headed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2001-2003 and again in 2007-2009. But who does Romney appoint to compensate for his shortcomings? Another businessman with virtually no foreign policy experience.

Thomas Mann, Senior Fellow in governance Studies at the Brookings Institute, says that Romney and Ryan’s general foreign policy deficiency will not be an issue unless something big happens on the international scale between now and November. Granted, this election will mostly boil down to domestic economic issues; but that in and of itself is a problem. We need someone who knows diplomacy. After all, once the economy gets off of its shaky legs, it’s going to need good relations with other nations to remain healthy and stable.

Many Republicans have rushed to the Romney-Ryan ticket’s side, including Newt Gingrich, who said that it is actually beneficial that the two are less experienced than President Obama and Vice President Biden because it means that “they are not part of the current mess.” It is at the very least humorous to note that Gingrich attacked Obama in 2008 for his lack of foreign policy experience, when he said: “Who do you trust more to deal with the dangerous world... somebody who has read about it and vaguely thought about it but hasn’t really collided head-on with it?”

Now with the tables turned, Republicans are placing a lot of pressure on the Obama campaign, stating that he is responsible for a lot of the mistakes in Syria, Israel, and the Arab Spring, at which point the GOP rushes to say that Romney will do a better job. Perhaps a new slate would improve things; but in order for things to get better, you have to know what you’re doing. John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate, noted that Romney has the same amount of foreign policy experience as President Ronald Reagan when he entered office, and that Romney’s knowledge is existent: he was a Mormon missionary in France for two years and has a “warm friendship” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Maybe as a team Romney and Ryan are sort of fit to run the country from an international perspective. It’s true that both of them have traveled the globe for business purposes, and needless to say some of the foreign policy issues that will confront the new president include economic issues abroad (look no further than Europe).

But what happens if Ryan has to step in as the commander-in-chief? 29% of Americans do not think Ryan is qualified to be president should something happen to Romney, while 23% are undecided. Only Sarah Palin, McCain’s 2008 vice presidential candidate, and Dan Quayle, the 1988 vice presidential candidate, have scored lower. A poll by Reuters/Ipsos found that in a 44 to 29 percent margin, Americans believe Biden is more qualified to serve as president if necessary than Ryan.

It seems as though Ryan may detract from the Romney campaign more than the GOP may have hoped; but then again, if voters decide the biggest issue is the economy, Ryan may have been the right choice. 


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