How Will Obama Respond To Ryan?

By the weekend, efforts by both progressives and by the MSM to illustrate the extraordinary mendacity of Paul Ryan’s attacks on Obama (and misrepresentations of his own background and agenda) will have either had an impact, or will have failed. A complicating factor, of course, is that a new pack of lies may rise into the airwaves from Tampa with a powerful smell of brimstone tonight, before or during Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech.

But next week, of course, Democrats will have their convention, and it’s possible to speculate how they will parry both the attacks and the presentation of the Romney-Ryan agenda as a brave answer to the nation’s challenges that happens not to affect anyone negatively except maybe those people who live on welfare and/or hope to benefit from ObamaCare or other “income redistribution” schemes.

WaPo’s Greg Sargent has a good prediction of where Team Obama will likely go:

The crux of Ryan’s argument was that the GOP ticket will have the courage and responsibility to level with the American people about the difficult choices required to salvage the nation’s ecomomy and finances.

Obama and Dems will respond by trying to transform the debate into one about priorities, seizing on the priorities undergirding the Romney/Ryan plans to lampoon their idea of what constitutes tough and courageous choices.

Obama and Dems will point out that it is not tough or courageous to cut taxes in ways that hugely benefit the rich, even as you promise to tackle the deficit. They will point out that it’s not tough or courageous to promise everyone an across-the-board tax cut hugely benefitting the wealthy without saying how it would be paid for — especially since it will require doing away with loopholes and deductions that will likely hike the middle class’s tax burden. They will point out that it’s not tough or courageous to cut spending in ways that disproportionately hurt those who can least afford it. They will point out that it’s not tough or courageous to reduce the sacrifice the rich make towards deficit reduction in ways that will increase the sacrifice of everyone else.

I’d add that part of the counter-attack may be to illustrate how little any of the Romney/Ryan agenda has a thing to do with jobs or economic recovery, unless you buy the economic theories that were also beloved of the George W. Bush administration. The same people have been peddling the same agenda for many years, in good economic circumstances and bad, in times of budget surpluses and budget deficits (including the deficits that agenda did so much to produce). And big chunks of that agenda involve radical cultural positions that they might not want to talk about, but are committed to with promises in blood.

It’s not that hard a case to make, but it will be tempting for Democrats to get down in the weeds of this or that batch of Ryan or Romney lies (which they can be expected to multiply like a college debater “spreading” an opponent) and fail to stay focused on the big picture.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.