Romney Reveals Ryan to be Running Mate: Republicans Rejoice and Revile

It’s official: Mitt Romney has chosen Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to be his running mate. He is most well-known for his work as chairman of the House Budget Committee, in which he proposed some drastic cuts to Medicare. He has risen to near-celebrity status as one of the Republicans’ primary attack dogs, and he brings with him a set of characteristics that have the potential to cut both ways, and either help or hurt him. To be specific:

1. He energizes the conservative base/He is very alienating to people outside the far right.

Romney has been dealing with the problem of his conservative credentials being questioned due to his socially liberal past, as well as his apparent tendency to flip flop, and his gratuitously uncharismatic style. Paul Ryan provides a message that excites, in particular, the Tea Party, as well as the religious conservatives (he is a devout Catholic). I would think there could be more conservatives at the polls thanks to this choice. However, the flip side is that his reputation as both a social conservative and a “budget hawk” will give the Democrats a more definitive conservative figure to rally against. Obama’s top adviser David Axelrod has already called him a “right wing ideologue.” The lack of liberal enthusiasm for Obama could be solved by this choice, and independents may in fact be more likely to vote for Obama if they feel that his proposed cuts could threaten their well-being. This particularly applies to seniors. Also, with two white males on the ticket, this effectively leaves most minorities in the Obama camp, particularly after all the Marco Rubio buzz.

2. He is highly intelligent/He is an egghead.

The Republicans have had an unfortunate tendency for their own to say many things that made them sound, well, stupid (i.e. Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, George W. Bush, Dan Quayle, etc.) Paul Ryan presents no such problem. His grasp of economics, budget issues, and politics in general is impressive. He will not get himself into trouble with silly catchphrases. He has even been compared to Bill Clinton in terms of his wit. Independents in particular may be drawn to this. However, note that academic intelligence has sometimes caused candidates to be perceived as out of touch, and it can cost them (i.e. John Kerry, Al Gore, Adlai Stevenson). Although it is typically Republicans who accuse Democrats of being egghead know-nothings, it would be interesting if this reversed that trend.

3. He presents bold and concrete proposals for change/He frightens certain factions of people.

While his plan certainly is bold, it also has potential consequences that would be devastating for groups such as seniors, an obviously influential voting bloc. Many fear that his plans could greatly cost them, which can be a bad political move during an economic crisis.

Honorable mentions: He scores high on the comeliness factor/He looks like a politician; He is an upstanding family man with like values/He exacerbates Romney’s trouble with women; You know exactly where he stands/You know exactly where he stands (i.e. Barry Goldwater).

In conclusion, I find this to be a strategically poor choice, in which the second option for the above points may play out more often than not. For all the talk about energizing the conservative base, I would say that they didn’t really need that, as the anti-Obama hysteria can do that for them. Now, Obama has much more of a rallying point that he hasn’t really had since 2008. Picking a diehard conservative with a divisive fiscal record will cause headaches with all the key groups: women, Blacks, Hispanics, independents, and seniors (there goes Florida). I think this shows Republican strategists are already looking to 2016, much like in 2004 the Democrats were looking to 2008. They will use this election, as well as the Republican National Convention, as launching point for several of what they consider their good candidates. Most likely Marco Rubio, as well as Paul Ryan, and possibly others. Bottom line, Obama will win because he is not hated enough. Plain and simple.

2012 Steelers Preview

2012 Steelers Training Camp

It’s hard to believe the 2012 NFL season is already upon us, with the Steelers’ first preseason game tomorrow night against the Eagles. Those of us who are Steeler fans are itching to see what our boys are made of after the devastating playoff loss to Denver. We had always assumed that getting “Tebowed” was something that happened to other people, not us. Boy, were we wrong.

The main headline in training camp at this point is whether speedster Mike Wallace will play this year, as he is holding out in hopes of a lucrative contract, which the Steelers’ management has said is off the table until he signs his tender. He is arguably the fastest player in the league, and our offense quite simply would not be the same without him.

I can best describe myself as hopeful. While we no doubt are fielding a good team with a lot of strong points, there are some unanswered questions. What I am certain of and uncertain of are basically as follows:

The Certainties

 

1. Coach Tomlin will remain a force to be reckoned with as a coach. I mean, have you ever seen anyone able to keep his cool like this guy can? He has never panicked about anything, he has an incredible work ethic which he instills in his players, and he maintains an alpha presence on the sidelines that they legitimately respect. This calm was what allowed us to drive down the field in the final minute of the Super Bowl in 2009 and win the game.

 

2. Ben Roethlisberger will remind us why we have made him a franchise quarterback. The guy just wings it. Every freaking game. His protection will completely collapse, and he will still find a way to elude a gazillion sacks and throw a touchdown. How did he does this? Or this? Or this? In a franchise where uncertainty on the offensive line has been the norm for about half a decade now, the guy doesn’t let this stuff affect him at all. He thrives with his back against the wall. Thus, given the fact that the Steelers have beefed up the offensive line this offseason, who knows how much more effective he will be?  Of course he could also falter with the boredom!

3. It’s still the Steel Curtain. Many commentators believe that age has caught up with the Steelers’ once (and still)-feared defense. They kind of looked like it at the end of last year. However, injuries played a big role in that. On the d-line, there is concern with the retirement of Aaron Smith, and Casey Hampton is aging. However, he is still a major force, and the line is anchored by Brett Keisel and His Beard, with Steve McLendon and Ziggy Hood providing awesome young talent. The linebackers lost the invaluable veteran leadership of James Farrior, but Larry Foote has stepped up, and recovered from their injuries is the unstoppable trio of Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, and Lamarr Woodley. Ike Taylor and William Gay have proven mostly reliable cornerbacks. Ryan Clark is a hard-hitting free safety whose absence in last year’s playoffs proved costly. And as always, Troy Polamalu plays other-worldly, though not quite as well as at one time. Still, not every year will be 2008. And Dick Lebeau continues to lead the defense, with his incredible play calling and poise.

 

The Uncertainties

 

1. How will the offense fair under its new coordinator, Todd Haley? Bruce Arians (not exactly a fan favorite, but close to Roethlisberger) has departed, and he’s been replaced by Todd Haley, the former Kansas City head coach, and before that the offensive coordinator in Arizona who nearly defeated us in the Super Bowl. It rumored early on that there was bad blood between him and Ben Roethlisberger, but fortunately, that appears to be overblown. It is also rumored that he prefers a run-heavy offense, and wants to “rein in” on Ben. We’ll see if this is the case. First-year coaches can have trouble. However, many Super Bowl winners have had coordinators and even head coaches in their first year.

 

2. How will the Mike Wallace drama affect the passing game? With Mike Wallace refusing to sign his tender and holding out, this opens up many questions about how the receiving corps could be affected. Wallace is faster than a speeding bullet (I know, I know), and has become better in short and medium yardage situations as well. Hines Ward, a true Pittsburgh legend has retired, which means that all are hoping that Jerricho Cotchery will step up and take the veteran leadership role. Antonio Brown has signed a large deal. He has made numerous clutch catches, including this one and this one. However, I wonder if some of this success has come from opponents concentrating on Mike Wallace, leaving him open. Emmanuel Sanders is injury-prone. Rumor is that Todd Haley favors heavy use of the tight end, which could lead to further utilization of Heath Miller, in my opinion the most underappreciated Steeler.  I really, really hope the Wallace thing sorts itself out.

 

3. The running game. This one could spell trouble. Again, word is that Todd Haley will use them a good bit more than Arians. And with the draft of numerous new offensive linemen, particularly David Decastro, there is hope that more holes will open up. However, Rashard Mendenhall continues to recover from an injury sustained against Cleveland on New Year’s Day, and may not return until mid season. Isaac Redman remains to be judged whether he can carry the load as the starter for an entire season. We released Mewelde Moore, in my opinion a very underrated third down back. It’s hard to make any judgments about Barron Batch, Jonathan Dwyer, or John Clay. Hopefully they blossom. But this is really sketchy to me.

 

Conclusion

While I am concerned about the issues on offense, the Steelers’ defense will keep the team’s head on the ground, and the resiliency they have shown in the past may come in handy this time, combined with the toughness of Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin. While we may not win the Super Bowl, I see no reason to think we won’t be a playoff team, possibly as a wild card, as I am wondering if this may be Cincinnati’s year to win the AFC North. I think the Steelers’ puzzle is mostly put together.

So Yeah, the Chick-Fil-A Fiasco

 

It seems only fitting that I write a post regarding the whole issue with Chick-Fil-A, since that’s a hot topic right about now. Many gays and their allies are calling for boycotts of the restaurant after it became public that CEO Dan Cathy has donated to the Family Research Council and other conservative groups that argue for traditional understandings of marriage, and hence oppose the extension of marital rights to the gay community. Some have gone so far as to refer to these as “hate groups.” Chick-Fil-A’s supporters by contrast, decided to designate August 1 as “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” and eat there en masse.

I went to one such restaurant on that day, and it was indeed packed, with the line stretching out the door. The whole experience kind of fused a bunch of thoughts into my head together, which I’ll try to summarize.

The first thing I’d like to note is that there has been significant rhetorical dishonesty from certain portions of the left. Some of my more liberal friends have referred to general moral disapproval of homosexuality as “hate speech” and “bigotry.” Sorry friends, this is not right on your part. Merriam-Webster defines bigotry as “one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance” Our culture has to descended to the point in which telling someone that what they do is wrong constitutes hatred. It is, in my opinion, extreme cowardice on their part. Furthermore, there are legitimate concerns about freedom of speech, as certain mayors have made statements indicating their intent to block Chick-Fil-A for their stance on homosexuality. That bothers me, as saying that gays should not marry, even if, theoretically, is bigoted, is not sufficient grounds for government to block it.

On the other hand, some on the conservative side have overplayed the free speech concerns. Many have acted as though the gay community’s boycotts are themselves an attack on free speech. I have seen this attitude rampant on Facebook. However, the fact is that gays and their liberal allies are fully within their constitutional right to boycott and picket Chick-Fil-A. Freedom of speech only protects one’s statements from government retribution. It does not mean the public cannot show their disapproval through economic and rhetorical means.

I think it’s a good thing that people want to show solidarity with someone who has made a statement in accordance with what he believes to the biblical view (and I believe as well). However, it also seems that the culture war mentality has gone a bit too far. What I sensed among many of my conservative evangelical friends was almost a belief that we were akin to St. Stephen because we were eating at Chick-Fil-A.  Part of me is bothered that, when Christ has called us as Christians to be a voice for voiceless, it seems like an incorrect priority to claim to be standing up for Jesus by patronizing a multi-million dollar corporation. Furthermore,  in I Corinthians 6, our bodies are referred to as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Are we really glorifying God, therefore, by eating this incredibly unhealthy fast food? And like most fast food chains, they likely utilize factory farming, in which animal and worker alike are subject to less-than-ideal conditions, which I also feel is against God’s plan.

In summation, I’m glad to see Christians willing to take a stand in solidarity with someone who dares to speak what they believe to be right in the midst of our postmodern culture that dishonestly labels its ideological dissidents. And I enjoy the occasional tasty Chick-Fil-A sandwich. However, what I would like is to see that action coupled with action on behalf towards the poor and downtrodden, including in the realm of corporate malfeasance. As one meme that I’ve seen circulating Facebook notes, why don’t this many Christians ever seem to line up at homeless shelters, prison ministries, etc?

I am all for standing up for what is right. I am hesitant to designate eating at a fast food restaurant as a moralistic crusade.