The Proto-Paul Ryans of My Salad Days

obama romneyI have a flashback just about every time I see Paul Ryan on TV. It’s not that Paul-Ryan-looks-like-Eddie-Munster thing, though he does resemble the apple of Herman and Lily’s eye, all grown up.

Ryan reminds me of the campus Republicans at Murray, Kentucky, State University, my alma mater, in the late sixties, when I was in school. Almost all of them were scrubbed, fresh-faced, clean-cut, white boys who sizzled with self-righteousness.

They were a tad too young to have voted for Barry Goldwater. But they loved Au H2O — Ayn Rand and Brother John Birch, to boot.

They were uber-hawks on the Vietnam War, which was going big-time. The college conservatives wanted to bomb Uncle Ho and his commie hordes back into the Stone Age. But they wanted somebody else actually dropping the bombs.

A 2-S college deferment kept us out of the draft and Vietnam. But I wondered why the young Republicans didn’t skip college and volunteer for the military after high school.

Or they could have gone through the university’s advanced ROTC program and earned commissions as army second looeys. Maybe some did, but I don’t recall any of them doing that.

Like the college Republicans of my day, Ryan is crazy about all things military. He also opted for college over military service.

Ryan was almost 21, prime military age, when Operation Desert Storm began. He was gung-ho for that conflict, too. But he stayed out of harm’s way at Miami University of Ohio, where he was in the College Republicans.

The student Republicans at Murray State even protested war protestors. Mitt Romney did likewise when he was hitting the books at Stanford University.

Romney used student and religious deferments to avoid the draft and Vietnam. Then he got a high number in the draft lottery that all but guaranteed he’d never get called.

romney ryan military serviceThe war was still on, and Romney still could have volunteered. But he preferred to keep the home fires burning at Brigham Young University, where he graduated in 1971 before heading off to Harvard law school.

Irony always seems to be lost on these feckless, you-go-fight-and-I’ll-hold-your-coat phony patriots.

Romney trotted out Ryan as his running mate in Norfolk, Virginia, using as props lots of American flags and the U.S.S. Wisconsin, a World War II-vintage battleship that’s a museum.

They want John and Jane Q. Public to see them as macho Mitt and rough, tough Ryan, who famously pumps iron. They claim Uncle Sam’s enemies would never dare mess with them. They even hint they might mix it up with Iran.

Okay, in between Stanford and BYU, Romney did go overseas to fight – for converts to his Mormon Faith in France.

This just in: MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell just called out Tagg Romney, one of Mitt’s pro-military, just-say-no-thanks-to-military-service kids, for joshing that he wanted to “take a swing” at President Obama in the second presidential debate. O’Donnell challenged Tagg to try taking a poke at him instead of aiming one at the president.

He called Romney and his sons, non-veterans all, “Romneymen, that loveable clan of Republican warmongers who never met a war they didn’t like but never dreamed of serving in the military themselves.” (O’Donnell’s not a vet, and neither am I. But we don’t cheer on wars fought by other folks.)

Tagg could have thrown a real punch with an M-16 at Saddam’s Republican Guard. But like father, like son, the Taggster preferred rooting for the home team – from home.

Back in 2007, when Romney unsuccessfully ran for president, somebody asked him why his strapping lads were never in service. “One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected because they think I’d be a great president,” Tagg’s daddy said.

I’ve always wondered what’s up with Republicans who are pro-war yet fall over themselves staying out of war.

It’s basic psychology, says psychologist Leslie Page: Deep down inside, they’re ashamed of themselves.

“It is common for individuals to feel an urge to do or say something and then do or say what is effectively the opposite,” added Page, who teaches psychology at the community college where I teach history.

“It may serve a defense against negative valuation by others. Freudians call this particular behavior ‘reaction formation.’

Berry Craig“For example, if a man who is gay has a number of conspicuous heterosexual affairs and openly criticizes gays, he is engaging in reaction formation. Basically, a person goes overboard in one direction to cover up the fact that he really has an opposite view.

“In the case of war, perhaps individuals would come out as being very pro-war, when in actuality, they fear that their real views might cause others to judge them as cowards.”

In Kentucky we call that the guilty pig squealing the loudest.

Berry Craig

Posted: Friday, 19 October 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on October 19, 2012
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.