Reviewing the bidding, I find that we are engaged in two wars (one of which–the one against Libya–is being prosecuted without any Congressional approval, or serious public debate whatsoever), we are struggling with anemic growth, paltry job creation, and unemployment at 9.2%, we have a terrible education system, we are flirting with the prospect of defaulting on the debt (no, I don’t believe that we ultimately will, but still, things should not have gotten to this sorry state), and we have a President who has manifestly failed to deliver on the promise of Hope and Change.
And yet, some people want to focus on the fact that Paul Ryan spent $350 on a bottle of wine.
Here’s the thing about facile comparisons with John Edwards. When the disgraced former Senator and Vice Presidential nominee ran for President, it was as an everyman son of a mill worker (remember, many people didn’t know that Edwards was a very rich former plaintiffs’ attorney, and they certainly didn’t know that he had, or would have access to millions of dollars that he was willing to spend to cover up the whereabouts of his mistress, and their daughter–whose paternity he initially denied, and tried to convince aide Andrew Young to take responsibility for). Thus, spending $400 for a haircut sounded–and was–especially ridiculous, seeing as how it conflicted so dramatically with Edwards’s claim that he was a regular guy who could identify with the American middle class and the working poor. Additionally, when the story about the $400 haircut came out, most people–and probably, especially men–asked themselves some variation of the following question “what guy in his right mind thinks that he has to spend $400 for a relatively ordinary looking hairdo?” The reasons people laughed about the $400 haircut story was that it was so genuinely mock-worthy.
By contrast, Paul Ryan–who isn’t running for Vice President or President, doesn’t try to put on false populist airs for class warfare purposes, and isn’t ridiculously vain–spent $350 on a bottle of wine. To be sure, most people don’t spend that much on wine, but it is significantly more reasonable to drop nearly four hundred bucks on wine than it is to spend four hundred bucks on a mere haircut.
So, why are we making a big deal out of this? Why are we asking Paul Ryan “how he could live with himself” for spending his own money as he sees fit? Are any of the people badgering Ryan over this non-story also badgering President and Mrs. Obama for going out on expensive date nights either in New York or in DC–and taking a significant security detail and/or Air Force One to the date night locales? Or does Paul Ryan just get this kind of mindless abuse simply because the abusers in question don’t like his politics?
I’d like to think that at some point in time, we as a country will focus on serious issues, rather than spending time discussing trivial nonsense that isn’t even worth a mention on the tabloid pages. Unfortunately, that Golden Age appears to be quite far off. I don’t know if I will see it in my lifetime, and I’m not all that old. In any event, shouldn’t the people responsible for trying to push this non-story be ashamed of the fact that they have proven themselves so manifestly intellectually unserious?