Biden’s Rand Card: Preparatory Advice to Paul Ryan
October 10, 2012 by Paul McKeever
Will Joe Biden play the Rand card in tomorrow’s debate against Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan? How should Ryan respond if he does?
Financial Post editor Terence Corcoran recently wrote that the late author/philosopher Ayn Rand is “the most dangerous woman in America”. The correctness of that view is now daily demonstrated by the heightened frequency of attacks upon Rand in the run up to the 2012 election. “Rand” and “Atlas Shrugged” have increasingly found themselves in the middle of late night political talk show/comedy punch-lines. And it is no coincidence that increased attacks on Rand have been accompanied by the left’s attempt to damage Republican electoral prospects by associating Rand with the Republican platform.
Of course, Republicans have actually helped them out. Ryan has made Rand and her philosophy particularly relevant. A few years back, he gave a speech in which he heaped praise upon Miss Rand and said her books are “required reading” for his staff. A recording of those comments recently was exhumed, and has been used in an effort to make Ryan look – in some fuzzy, ill-defined sense – to be “extreme”.
So, what if Biden attempts to make Ryan look like some sort of frothing-at-the-mouth ideological menace who is going to let granny starve in the cold? Here’s my advice to Ryan, should Biden play the Rand card.
First, do not distance yourself from Rand or her philosophy. If you distance yourself from the idea of being strongly guided or influenced by her, you will lose credibility (because of the recorded speech you gave to the Atlas Society people years back). Do not focus upon how you differ from Rand or upon how you disagree with her philosophy. Do not condemn her atheism, or champion your faith in opposition to her philosophy.
Instead, focus on what it is that you find so admirable and important about Rand and her philosophy, without making yourself look like a dogmatic fanatic. In this circumstance, the best defence will be a good offence. Go on the attack.
For example, in respect of Miss Rand’s epistemology, say: “Miss Rand had important things to say about the way the government should obtain knowledge of the facts before making government policy. In her view, government has a responsibility not to act unless and until it has the evidence to back up the alleged facts: it should not make policy on the basis of mere guesses, wishes, or hunches. I share Rand’s commitment to getting the evidence before spending billions or making a military decision that could affect the lives of many. Now, disagree with me if you will but, in my view, ignorance is not a virtue for government.”
In respect of her ethics, you can, for example, say: “Rand had important things to say about knowing a friend from a foe, and who to blame when terrorists blame their murder of Americans, and their destruction of American property, on a poorly-made fringe film that most of them have never seen. Unlike the current administration, I am not ashamed of the freedom we love and enjoy in America. I share Rand’s view that government must never let murderers and arsonists set the bounds of free speech in America. I champion freedom in America, and my defence of freedom is heightened, not diminished, when Americans are attacked because of that freedom. You and I clearly disagree but, in my view, America’s president must never apologize to murderers and arsonists, or to their sympathizers, for the freedom of speech that we enjoy in America. So, yes, I have learned a thing or two from Ayn Rand’s writings, among others, and I consider that a strength on the side of America.”
Finally: if you are going to talk about Rand, stay away from fiscal and monetary issues. Republican policy in that regard simply is at odds with the free market that Rand championed. If you say anything at all about Rand in conjunction with Republican fiscal or monetary policy say something honest and credible; something like this: “Clearly, there are also areas of disagreement with Miss Rand’s views. For example, our proposals on the role of government in health care and education are not the sort of thing Miss Rand would propose.”
Prepare Mr. Ryan. If Biden plays the Rand card, someone is going to be hewn in two. Make sure it’s not you.