Paul Ryan for budget chair…

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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A lot of smart people are encouraging Rep. Paul Ryan to run for president.  Jonah Goldberg, for example, writes, “…politics is about moments, and this one is calling him. Unless someone suddenly rises to the challenge, the cries of ‘Help us, Paul Ryan, you’re our only hope!’ will only get louder.”

I sometimes wonder whether talk like this is sincere. After all, pundits must find interesting things to say. Writers must find interesting things to write about. There is an incentive to encourage activity. On the other hand, many of the people hoping for a Ryan run — ranging from Goldberg to Charles Krauthammer — are quite serious people.

My take: If one ever needed proof that “The Peter Principle” — the notion that people rise to his level of incompetence — is a seductive force, this is it.

Paul Ryan, of course, is not without strengths. He is incredibly smart. He is youthful in appearance. He is very good at communicating the entitlement crisis we face. When it comes to being a budget director, he is top-notch. But The Peter Principle insists someone this competent at his job must be kicked upstairs.

Ryan is a member of the House of Representatives — not a natural stepping stone to the presidency. He has just proposed a very serious budget plan which includes changes to Medicare that — no matter how important — may prove to be highly controversial.

While it is true that Ryan could elevate the conversation regarding entitlement reform, what about the other attributes a president must possess?

What if something happens in the world? Can Ryan speak as eloquently about foreign policy? I don’t know. What if Russia invades Georgia before the election? What if there is a terror attack? Should we at that point concede the election?

My guess is that some pundits are more excited about the campaign Ryan could wage than about his prospects of winning. There is no guarantee winning the entitlement argument would translate to winning the election. Is having a national conversation — even a vitally important one — worth another four years of Barack Obama?

This is not to say talk of Ryan is absurd, but for someone pundits are clamoring over, there seems to be a lot of potential problems to address. When your “perfect” candidate still has major problems, you know you are in trouble. The fervent desire for Ryan says more about the 2012 GOP field than it says about Paul Ryan.

The lesson to learn from The Peter Principle is that people on a team play different roles. The best player on the football field should not necessarily be promoted to coaching the team next season — yet that is exactly how many political analysts view elections. Paul Ryan is doing a terrific job right where he is. Why take a star player off the field?

Matt K. Lewis