When Paul Ryan was added to Mitt Romney's ticket in August, many assumed the campaign would get an immediate infusion of wonky substance. After all, we were told, the right-wing House Budget Committee chairman has a unique expertise in policy minutiae. Finally, the Romney campaign would start filling in the details of its vague agenda.
Seven weeks later, how's that working out?
For those who can't watch clips online, Ryan sat down with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, and the host asked about the cost of the proposed Romney-Ryan tax cuts. Ryan denied independent estimates of a $5 trillion price tag, but refused to answer several questions about his own estimate.
Eventually, Wallace grudgingly conceded, "I have to point out, you haven't given me the math." Ryan responded, "No, but you, well, I don't have the time, it would take me too long to go through all the math."
I see. So, Ryan wants you to believe a Romney-Ryan administration can slash tax rates, increase defense spending, increase entitlement spending, and reduce the deficit -- all at the same time -- and it'll all be paid for in a revenue-neutral way.
How? Ryan could tell you, but he doesn't "have the time."
In fairness to the far-right congressman, I'm not unsympathetic to the challenge of explaining complex budget policy in the middle of a television interview. But the larger point is, neither the candidates nor their advisers have "had the time" to explain their arithmetic problem in any setting, ever.
Ryan has been on the ticket for seven weeks. Romney launched his 2012 campaign nearly two years ago. It would "take too long to go through all the math" during a Sunday-show interview? Fine. When might the campaign be willing go through all the math?
If the answer is "maybe after the election," I'm afraid they're missing the point of a campaign.