x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Ryan's boring politics?

The man who would be vice president, if Mitt Romney is the voters' choice, is what the Americans call a "policy wonk".

America's politics, often puzzling even to Americans, can seem utterly bizarre to the rest of the world.

To be nominated for president, you must spend millions of dollars campaigning for months without rest on network TV and in obscure hamlets alike. But to be nominated for the vice presidency, you need only wait by the phone.

Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Congressman, was named yesterday as the running mate of Mitt Romney, who outlasted a crowded, mediocre field in the Republican primaries; the two will face President Barack Obama and (probably) Vice President Joe Biden in the November election.

Mr Ryan, who has focused on reducing government spending, is what Americans call a "policy wonk" - not stridently partisan, but always willing to debate the nuances of deficits and taxes. In this, he is the opposite of his 2008 equivalent Sarah Palin. In debt-troubled European countries - not to mention in young governments in Arab countries - such technocratic leaders are seen as essential to negotiate difficult times.

Anyone who has been watching US politics in recent years might see an equivalent crisis. Partisan acrimony and character assassination have made coherent policy a dying art. We'll see if a wonk helps to raise the tone.