The last week must have thrilled anybody playing Romney VP bingo. Rumors suggested Romney would pick Condoleezza Rice. Rice has never run for—nor expressed interest in—elected office, probably couldn't siphon "the black vote" away from Carlton on Fresh Prince, and her candidacy's soundtrack would be Block Rockin' Briefs '01: Bin Laden Determined to Attack U.S. This week the VP rumor was about Tim Pawlenty, who is boring.
Both of these recent rumors were pushed by Matt Drudge. Drudge's job is to promote stories that help Republicans, and any news cycle speculation about Mitt's veep is much better than talking about Bain Capital, SEC filings and his new music video.
Unfortunately, the political aeromancy stuck around for long enough that the New York Times bothered to make A GRAPHIC. In typical news graphic fashion, it's very informative for the citizenry of The Paragraphines and contains up to two or three items of actual biographical data, but it stops there. That's no help. That's why we're here.
Welcome to The Gawker Guide to Mitt Romney's VP Picks.
CANDIDATE: Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
Pros: Christie is the ample, flesh-and-blood avatar of everything Tony Soprano fictionally embodied for white, male suburbia. His tough talk to unions, don't-brook-no-shit attitude from nosy-ass reporters and fondness for humiliating teachers (because they apparently don't love their jobs enough to also love being paid like dipshits) offers the vicarious self-actualizing REAL MAN schtick that terrifically thrills white dudes who feel victimized and downtrodden despite half a millennium of global economic, political, sexual and religious dominance. Christie is the flaccid dick of reality pushing rope-truth up in your stupid word-hole. Christie is the club-swinging arm of the MAN LAW for every sack of shit who ever sputtered, "B-b-b-b-b-b-but the THOUGHT POLICE won't let me say faggot anymore!"
He also wants to be the protagonist in every Springsteen song.
Cons: Like Tony Soprano, Christie's toughness is also fiction. If you can't pick on unions after 30 years of their losing legal, legislative and public-relations battles, you probably can't fog a mirror. Fucking Jerry Brown kicks around unions. Similarly, if you can't cow a press corps or an audience when the rules of journalism and common audience courtesy are to NOT PICK A FIGHT WITH YOU, you are too weak to visit an office, let alone hold it. It's easy to act like a big shot with your own goddamn police force. Also, remember that Christie was damaged goods by 1998, having alienated colleagues and flunking out of machine politics. His position as governor is owed to his position as a U.S. Attorney, which was a Bush administration reward for lobbying and campaign whoremongering. Stop knocking Citizens United: by allowing rich dudes to cut checks directly to candidates, at least glutinous failures hustling every last dollar might no longer get compensated with a fast track to running an actual government.
Also, his economic/"FUCK YOU, FEDERAL MONEY!" policy immeasurably worsens the life of every protagonist in a Springsteen song.
Celebrity "It" Factor: Chris Christie was assembled from A NICE GABAGOOL, the spare parts from shitty mob-movie flashbacks, distressed tailors and a bargain-cufflink factory by a Post-Waistbanded Prometheus determined to reanimate fat. That'll be good for a few votes, among a community already likely to furnish them. Better yet, Republican voters love a paper bully with a ton of backup ("There are some who say they can attack us there... I say bring 'em on"), because there's just something so appealing about seeing yourself in lights. So that'll draw more votes. Finally, despite metaphorical relation to Tony Soprano, Christie looks more like Luca Brasi. Remember: the most important thing Luca Brasi does in the movie is mangle English and get killed by someone capable of two-dimensional thinking.
CANDIDATE: Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
Pros: Has dark skin so, you know, he's basically GOP Obama already. Slashed taxes on business and passed the largest income tax cut in Louisiana history—apparently because Louisiana's robust state infrastructure can run by itself now. Wants to keep medicine out of the magical life-sack women carry beneath the fun-knobs. Runs one of the least transparent governorships in the country, shielding anything that's part of his "deliberative process" from accountability. Has massively farmed out the Louisiana school system to private companies and voucher programs, because when you're likely to get less value and non-standardization for the same price, you've gotta take that bargain. After all, they don't even teach you that Nessie is REAL in Louisiana state schools. Supports Arizona-style immigration laws. Condemned the stimulus money. Loves Jesus and America too.
Cons: Loves Jesus so much that he seriously believes that he exorcised a demon from somebody. (For some people, demons are just a vector for high-school girls in tight tank tops to make a "statement" about "feminism" by having Cleave-Fu fights next to their vampire boyfriends, but for Jindal these things are real.) Took all the stimulus money he condemned. Then credited himself for it, like a fucking weasel. Watches "helplessly" as his wife's charity "accidentally" receives "gifts" from "corporations" with "business interests" in Louisiana. Responded to Obama's 2009 State of the Union address with a bomb of speech so legendarily tone-deaf and dumb that you could rename it Ishtard. Is a total weenie with a face even a mother could punch, trundled out as the multicultural useful hick doormat with an unctuous delivery.
CANDIDATE: Tim Pawlenty, former Minnesota Governor
Pros: Pawlenty's trick is that he's an evangelical Christian millionaire who favors every bit of GOP boilerplate, and people call him a moderate anyway. This is the same guy who likened the National Labor Relations Board to the Soviet Union and called for eliminating the capital gains, estate and dividend taxes—with a flat tax of 10 percent for everyone making under $100,000 and a 25 percent rate for everyone over that. People don't chalk up that kind of insanely regressive taxation as class warfare, because he's just a fella. His nickname's T-Paw. You can picture a T-PAW decal on a truck tailgate. THIS'N HERE'S T-PAW'S TRUCK. Or T-Paw could be an animal paw. T-PAW STRONG LIKE BEAR, CUDDLY LIKE PUPPY. Or he could be the first white Republican rapper. T'Paw's staring down Ice Cube right now, all, "Check it, citizen, I'm from the mean streets of Minnesota. Do you think that you are colder than I am?"
Cons: The same Pawlenty tax plan mentioned above violated the balanced-budget amendment Pawlenty also proposed. STRONG WORK, SIR. He once proposed trimming government via the "Google Test," which said that, "If you could find a good or service on the internet, then the federal government probably doesn't need to be doing it." This definition applies to everything. (If you're good with languages, you can find people who can make nuclear weapons on the internet. FUCK YOU, PENTAGON.) Also, Michelle Bachmann's brand of subterranean-militia crazy kicked Pawlenty's ass up and down the Iowa Straw Poll and out of the 2012 race. He's spent his time since then not getting hired by FOX News for the same reason he lost in Iowa: the man is box-factory-tour levels of boring.
Celebrity "It" Factor: Looks like someone stuck Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski's head in a vise and squeezed it until it got narrow and pointier. Inspired someone on the internet to make this sublime animated gif (scroll down a bit), which my Pawlenty-expert colleague Idi Amin dug up somewhere. Thank you, creative stranger.
CANDIDATE: Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida
Pros: Young, Hispanic, Roman Catholic senator with a fresh face, new ideas, authentic human touch, strong electoral and legislative record and a harrowing but ideally American tale of family escape from the boot of Cuban Communism could tap into countless different demographics for the Romney campaign.
Cons: While Roman Catholic, Rubio's also an ex-Mormon, which would double the GOP ticket with a religious denomination that southern evangelicals consider suspect—worse than Jews and slightly better than Arabs. Also, reporters really harshed the buzz of his family's anti-Communist bona fides when it turned out that they left Cuba three years before Castro came to power, then went back after Castro ascended to power, then left again. Worse, for all his campaign acumen, Rubio's only in the senate because of a three-way race in which Democrat Kendrick Meek and Independent Charlie Crist split the non-whackjob vote. Speaking of which, despite being a darling of the Tea Party, Rubio stopped spending time hanging out with people who wear Gadsden Flag capes and know where you can get the raddest gas masks.
His distance has been necessary for his senate work in which he's done... well, ahahahaha. That's disappointing coming from the author of 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future—in which he wrote down things other people brainstormed at "Idearaisers" and rounded them out with warmed-over think-tank "innovations" that Newt Gingrich re-styled and -branded in 1994 and re-styled and -branded them again. Ideas like: contract out social services while expanding programs, despite being in a state with no income tax, where you've just proposed a supermajority vote requirement for tax increases! If you want a picture of the ideas in Rubio's book, picture an untended buffet made up of dozens of other buffets that had already desiccated and warmed-over for 25 years. Maybe thinking so hard about how to reword quarter-century-old GOP sales pitches is what caused him to rack up over $100,000 worth of debts on "Republican Party credit cards" while defaulting on a mortgage in the middle of his 2010 senate campaign as the only fiscally responsible candidate.
As for the Hispanic vote, it's hard to imagine many people looking past Romney's support for Arizona's anti-immigrant laws or his chummy policy relationship with their author, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Besides, Rubio's basically despised by the editorial staff of Univision.
Celebrity "It" Factor: Rubio's relentlessly flat affect, along with his sociopathically on-cue and dies-on-the-lips laugh, makes his concealer-heavy face look rubberized. Watching Marco Rubio for any length of time eventually turns into a countdown to the moment he pulls off this useless new human face in disgust at the fact that it's NOT WORKING. Marco Rubio is a younger Lou Reed in the "No Money Down" video.
CANDIDATE: Robert F. McDonnell, Governor of Virginia
Pros: Got his law degree from Pat Robertson's unaccredited diploma mill and fundamentalist clone vat, Regent "University." He wrote a lovely thesis about a Christian tomorrow of broad, sunlit uplands, with way less abortion. There were also way more school vouchers, so people could spend less time on mathematics and more time on what adding Adam to Steve subtracts from God's covenant with America—Christ's time-share continent. McDonnell's frenzied spray of scholarly erudition included the belief that government should use the tax system to penalize "feminists," "homosexuals" and "fornicators." Later, this opposition to loose morals naturally found its expression in trying to privatize state liquor operations, because one supposes that the GOVERNMENT OF A "CHRISTIAN NATION" is less qualified to restrict sales of a disinhibiting drug than profit-oriented private citizens. (Unless one knows those citizens from fundraisers or something.) The liquor privatization is also at odds with the rationale behind his condemning the 1965 Supreme Court case that legalized contraception, because "man's basic nature is inclined towards evil, and when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of... drug abuse... the government must restrain, punish, and deter." Well, cough, see, alcohol is not a "drug," because the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus' Miracle at Cana is....
Cons: A label like "wingnut" isn't fair to a man like McDonnell; it implies some sharp angle you might scrape up against, when in truth he's about as edgy as a bowling ball. He's drifted through the well-traveled currents of GOP politics, until he's emerged like a stone from a child's rock tumbler: shiny, special-looking, still elementally valueless riverbottom garbage, bloodless stone. While putting him next to Romney would make Romney look like a charismatic open-shirted caudillo, there's no escaping the plummeting dead weight of McDonnell's handling of the famous trans-vaginal ultrasound bill in Virginia. It's been said by countless better writers, and merits repetition from anybody, but nothing defines the party of liberty and the individual like mandating that the government wand-fuck every slut bitch within state lines until every God-fearing baby-baking American is scared shitless about appeasing the state of Virginny.
Celebrity "It" Factor: Lookalike ceiling tops out at "badly post-accident surgery Mark Hamill" starring as Uterus Snipe in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Infants, frantically thrusting a wand toward the crotches of female passersby and screaming, "IMPREGNIO!"
CANDIDATE: John Thune, U.S. Senator from South Dakota
Pros: Rugged midwestern individualist-type who combines manly handsomeness with Pawlenty's appearance of being vaguely moderate. Thune meets the #1 criterion of a VP candidate in that he stays reliably on message without saying anything so insane that the media can't debate it into plausible deniability. Yet, for a "moderate," he prioritized ramming a Bush tax-cut extension through congress over any resolution on 9/11 first-responder benefits, is a climate-change denialist, and agrees that Americans are already dying because of Obamacare. Thune also toes the deficit-hawk line by supporting bills that add $3 trillion to the deficit without any means of funding them. Because, of course, the way you offset those deficits is by tearing social programs to ribbons. Naturally, you can end those deficits by endlessly prolonging them via "deficit-reducing tax cut extensions."
Cons: So strategically unobtrusive that he transcends the utility of inoffensiveness and becomes fully forgettable. The sort of person whose avoidance of unforced error effaces anything human-seeming. Give John Thune a realistically lifelike print shirt and an Amazing Gobstopper big enough to keep his mouth busy for a while, and a ficus might out-everyman him. He's supposedly "hot" for a Republican—in most senses—but he's still a costume mustache away from being a poor man's Lee Van Cleef. Ironically, that probably makes him hotter to Republicans, but it will still take plotting and extra characters to round him out. Tweak the script and he could be part of a senatorial Magnificent Seven: like, a bunch of white guys sent to assassinate a charismatic Jew protecting villagers for some dumb communal-rights reason. Thune lacks the gravitas even to ascend to a true GOP Western ideal: a corrupt judge running a town full of outlaws by way of the gun.
Celebrity "It" Factor: Name sounds just like John Thain, a Wall Street criminal who broke the world and still has never seen an indictment. In any other circumstance, the likeness would be detrimental, but as a Republican, the interchangeability only emphasizes JOB CREATOR priorities. Also, he looks unsettlingly like the sort of guy who starred in mid-1980s running-shoe ads, where the nylon Adidas shorts hung down just a tantalizing bris-length past the glans—where two dudes TRYING TO GET A WORKOUT and running on Venice Beach both had sun-bleached chest hair and floppy tank tops and big blonde-brown mustaches that said, "I'M BRAWNY LIKE YOUR PAPER TOWEL AND I'M HERE TO TEACH YOU HOW MEN LOVE."
CANDIDATE: Rob Portman, U.S. Senator from Ohio
Pros: Coming from a historically critical swing state like Ohio—in which Obama's polling ahead of Romney by only three points—Portman offers Romney an immediate hometown bonus in one of the few states in which he doesn't have a vacation home, an automated car garage or a hovercraft lobbyist. Portman also offers journalists the chance to wax half-assedly historical and say things like, "As goes Ohio, so goes the nation," and, "If you'll remember McKinley...." Fits sloppy Beltway narrative by appearing to be one of the good ones. For instance, he did debate prep for both McCain and Bush, playing Obama and Gore in rehearsal, and was a top lobbyist at a mostly Democratic firm. This shows that he's capable of maintaining the illusion of empathy for the other side, which in press corps narrative is indistinguishable from empathy itself. Professorial by government standards: wrote a book about people who make great furniture they can't have sex on. Became a Methodist in exchange for his wife becoming a Republican. Like Thune, his major obligations are being midwestern, ostensibly healthy and not exuding Event Horizon-degrees of partisan insanity.
Cons: Worked for Patton Boggs when it counted the Duvalier regime as one of its clients but—like every other lobbyist for a murderous foreign power—apparently didn't work on that account and surely got his paychecks from company earnings unrelated to the blood money! Is so softly bigoted about gay marriage that somehow he escapes scrutiny for being just as hateful as any other member of the jackal pack, but still inspired one quarter of Michigan Law School's 2011 graduating class to walk out on him. Has earned a genially good-natured compromising National Right to Life rating of 100% and a 0% rating from NARAL. Portman meets the every criteria for being a cynically opportunistic Republican "deficit hawk," including working as George W. Bush's budget chief as we exported jobs to China in exchange for items this country used to make, and the deficit doubled. You couldn't pick someone less apt to fix a broken economy unless your idea for fixing it is doubling down on exactly the same screwheaded ideas that shattered it in the first place. In which case, you're a Republican. Come meet Rob Portman: Huggability-in-Chief!
Celebrity "It" Factor: Looks enough like Major League star Chelcie Ross that his repeated votes to authorize the removal of carbon-based life from Iraq could be summed up by shaking his head and saying, "You tryna say Jesus Christ can't trust a Curveball? You tryna say Jesus Christ can't trust a Curveball? You tryna say Jesus Christ can't trust a Curveball?"
CANDIDATE: Paul Ryan, U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 1st District
Pros: Paul Ryan arguably possesses the highest Q-Rating of any member of the House of Representatives, and he does it by repeatedly introducing large budget roadmaps that show he is a serious person because he adds and subtracts numbers until he gets to zero—or just adds and subtracts projected numbers based on vapor until they get to zero because he wants them to. Ryan does this by playing to the perennial Beltway begged question that deficit neutrality is always good and serious, and deficit non-neutrality is bad and silly, and that's literally all you need to know about budgets. He slams programs, cuts and extremely optimistic projections together until they zero out because there is never a time when a deficit would be okay—like, say, when millions of Americans are out of work, national bridge and road infrastructure is crumbling and massive public rail and solar energy products could cut critical dependency on foreign oil and fluctuating oil futures markets.
And not only does he balance his Candyland budget, eventually, but he does it by slashing entitlements, health programs and other predatory tools of the elderly, disease-riddled underclass. A Ryan America is a more robust America (not cut: military spending), and after three years of ineffectually pitching his budget like some capitalistic totem, he finally stumbled onto a religious justification for it: subsidiarity. It's a budget not just drafted but ordained. And watching him stump around Wisconsin for Mitt Romney, you could almost see the religious conviction with which he mumbled his affirmations for tax cuts and praise of Romney's business experience, while looking like he'd worn an older brother's suit onstage and had to get back to French horn practice.
Cons: Ryan's budget plan inspires lists like this and in Paul Krugman's case, descriptions like "inconceivably cruel." His cuts to the top income tax rate and the corporate tax return $3 trillion in revenue to the top earners. Ezra Klein breaks it down thus: in addition to cutting the "$1.5 trillion that the Affordable Care Act uses to purchase health insurance for 30 million Americans... it cuts Medicaid and related health programs by $770 billion—which is to say, by about a third." It then adds $200 billion in Medicare cuts. But that leaves out the Paul Ryan mathemagic. Krugman writes:
$4.6 trillion is the size of the mystery meat in the budget. Ryan proposes tax cuts that would cost $4.6 trillion over the next decade relative to current policy—that is, relative even to making the Bush tax cuts permanent—but claims that his plan is revenue neutral, because he would make up the revenue loss by closing loopholes. For example, he would … well, actually, he refuses to name a single example of a loophole he wants to close.
So the budget is a fraud. No, it's not "imperfect", it's not a bit shaky on the numbers; it's completely based on almost $5 trillion dollars of alleged revenue that are pure fabrication.
As for Ryan's theological budget underpinning of "subsidiarity," Charles P. Pierce shreds that with the thoroughness of someone already peeved by the misdeeds of the Catholic Church and in absolutely no need of some pervert attributing to it a reading of charity and community responsibility diametrically at odds with the church's own teaching.
If there's one thing that describes the value of Ryan's vision for correcting budget imbalance better than anything else, it's Ryan himself. In 2001, the United States needed to pass tax cuts to respond to the growing budget surplus, which Ryan thought was dangerously underestimated. This is what happens when the doctor is only rewarded for the kind of prescription he gives: the treatment plan is always the same. Do you have too much revenue? You need to balance the budget via tax cuts. Do you have vanishing revenues and debt as an increasing percentage of GDP? You need to balance the budget via tax cuts. At any point in modern American history, Paul Ryan can point to too many people getting too many handouts from the government and the current economic climate will always constitute dispositive proof of this. Paul Ryan's economic model is a disease whose existence is proved by any symptom proximal to it.
Lastly, like every great fraud, Paul Ryan has a stained biographical thread in his life that is antipodal to his ideology. Michelle Bachmann has her loathing of big government and taxes and her career as an IRS lawyer and her marriage to someone who's been cashing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government subsidy checks. Ryan, on the other hand, was inspired to enter government by reading Ayn Rand and embracing objectivism. He cleaves to a Manichaean worldview of a class of noble producers, toilers, geniuses and leaders being sapped and infected by a parasitic leecher class of government-funded layabouts and race hustlers.
Celebrity "It" Factor: At first glance, Ryan looks uncannily like a grown-up Eddie Munster. His gloomy expression, gray complexion and huge widow's peak make him look like some baleful predator. It's just a guess, but his favorite cartoons growing up were probably the "Goodbye Blue Sky" part of The Wall and every sequence in Watership Down when Fiver sees the fields being torn like flesh and the warrens pumping blood like arterial soil. But watching him on the Wisconsin primary trail, humping Romney's leg with the charisma of an autistic undertaker, Ryan looked positively Orthogonian. He's Nixon without the jowls, the education or vision. Ryan has the most famously ill-fitting suits and sweat-beaded upper lip since we booted Dick's ass into exile at San Clemente. And he has the personality and soulless ambition to match. If Paul Ryan didn't have government with which to minister suffering, illness and contempt unto millions, you could easily imagine him applying for a hot new fastracked position as the H.R. Director at a death camp.
Image by Jim Cooke, source photos via Getty and Lobke Peers/Shutterstock.