Gov. Mitt Romney's choice of Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate is one of those decisions that seem obvious -- if not inevitable -- in retrospect, even though it was by no means obvious to most of us beforehand.
Anyone who wants to get a quick sense of who Paul Ryan is should watch a short video of a February 2010 meeting in which Congressman Ryan politely, but devastatingly, "schools" Barack Obama on the utter fraudulence of the statistics that the Obama administration was using to claim that ObamaCare would reduce the deficit. That video is available on the Drudge Report.
As a long-time member, and now chairman, of the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan is thoroughly familiar with both the facts and the fictions in the federal government's budget. In recent years, the fictions have grown much bigger than the facts. But, as Congressman Ryan reminded the president, hiding spending is not the same as reducing spending.
If this year's election is going to be decided on the basis of hard facts, the Obama administration is doomed. But the Obama campaign is well aware of that, which is why we are hearing so many distracting innuendoes and outright lies about such peripheral issues as what Mitt Romney is supposed to have done while running Bain Capital -- or even what is supposed to have happened at Bain Capital, years after Mitt Romney was long gone.
The Obama campaign's big smear, about how Romney is supposed to have caused a woman to die of cancer, has been exposed as a lie by CNN, hardly a Republican network. What smears like this show is that the Obama administration cannot run on its track record, so it has to run on distractions from the country's real problems.
When Sen. Harry Reid claims that Mitt Romney hasn't paid his income taxes, and demands that Gov. Romney disprove this unsubstantiated allegation, that raises an obvious question as to why the Internal Revenue Service has not prosecuted Romney, instead of leaving that to a partisan politician in an election year.
What makes this a farce is that Sen. Reid himself has not released his own income tax records, while claiming that Romney's release of only two years of his income tax records is not enough, even though it has been enough for other candidates in other years.
If Mitt Romney releases all his tax records going back to his childhood, it will not put a stop to this fishing expedition, much less bring an apology when those records show nothing illegal. It will just provide more material for making more distracting claims to change the subject from the track record of the Obama administration.
When Ronald Reagan ran against President Jimmy Carter back in 1980, he asked the question that should be asked of the voters when any president is seeking re-election: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
Four years later, when Reagan ran for re-election, he implicitly asked and answered that same question in a campaign commercial titled "Morning in America," which listed the ways the country was better off than it had been four years earlier. Don't look for any "Morning in America" ads from Obama. "Mourning in America" might be more appropriate.
This election is a test, not just of the opposing candidates but of the voting public. If what they want are the hard facts about where the country is, and where it is heading, they cannot vote for more of the same for the next four years.
But, if what they want is emotionally satisfying rhetoric and a promise to give them something for nothing, to be paid for by taxing somebody else, then Obama is their man. This is not to say that the public will in fact get something for nothing or that rich people will just pay higher taxes, when it is easy for them to escape taxation by investing overseas -- creating jobs overseas.
Even if most Americans do not have their own taxes raised, that means little, if they end up paying other people's taxes in the higher prices of goods and services that pass along the higher taxes imposed on businesses.
There are no doubt voters who will vote on the basis of believing that Obama "cares" more about them. But that is a faith which passeth all understanding. The political mirage of something for nothing, from leaders who "care," has ruined many a nation.
(Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.)