Cable News Is Determined to Turn Paul Ryan Into a Sex Symbol

A P90X-crushing, tie-eschewing VP choice is more fun than guy who wants to cut Medicare.

For the second consecutive election, the Republican Party has chosen a vice presidential nominee who’s not only considerably more popular among the conservative base than the presidential nominee, but was better-liked by that crowd than anyone who ran in the primaries at all. And much like with Sarah Palin in 2008, the vice presidential nominee’s clothes have, ridiculously, become an issue in the campaign.

A whole lot of strange things came out of Mitt Romney’s introduction of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick, from Romney accidentally calling his veep pick “the next president of the United States” to the choice of a warship as the venue, when neither Romney or Ryan served in the military, not to mention the undeniable echoes of the most optically tone-deaf moment of George W. Bush’s presidency.

Then there was the choice of entrance music: the theme from the movie Air Force One (1997), which didn’t exactly fit the story of the day, considering that in that film the vice president was a woman (Glenn Close), and the president personally fought off Russian terrorists who hijacked the presidential plane. The idea of Mitt Romney in a mid-air fistfight with terrorists—or even with Gary Oldman dressed as a terrorist—is one of the more humorous scenarios I can contemplate.

Then again, I’m wondering who remembers Air Force One so well that they were able to instantly recognize the theme song. Did some reporter on the campaign trail Shazam it?

But really, it’s all about the clothes. At least that’s the impression I got from a silly CNN segment that ran shortly after the introduction. Guest and Democratic strategist James Carville proclaimed himself “a little shocked” that Ryan had not worn a coat and tie during his introduction. And after conservative blogger-turned-talking head Erick Erickson changed the subject to the lack of a Southern or military veteran on either ticket, host Wolf Blitzer pivoted back to the tie question, asking guest Donna Brazile if she remembered what her former boss Al Gore had worn to his vice presidential introduction.

When people talk about how frivolous and ultimately worthless cable news has become, this sort of thing is the reason why. Why not discuss the very different approaches to the issues taken by the two campaigns? Why not take a look at the Ryan-authored, Romney-endorsed “Path For Prosperity,” its differences from the Obama approach to governing, and what the difference means to Americans?

Also ironic was that Carville, less than a month earlier, had appeared on MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes in a Washington Nationals warmup shirt and baseball cap. Hayes said he wouldn’t take offense that Carville was not wearing a suit and tie.

Ryan has also been criticized for wearing a too-large suit, but once again, I’m more bothered by Ryan’s plans for Medicare and the rest of the social safety net than I am about his wardrobe.

If you’re still watching Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom on HBO, last week’s episode dealt with the fictional Atlantis Cable News’s News Night attempting to stave off a ratings decline by stooping to cover the Casey Anthony trial. Guess what? The segment above may be more substantive than the Tot Mom case. But just barely.

There were news reports this week that CNN is thinking about a programming Hail Mary to reverse its long ratings decline and resulting red ink, with everything from a late-night talk show to weekend reality programming on the table. Some have pointed out that this is wrong and the destruction of a great news brand, but if CNN’s news legacy means four people arguing about Paul Ryan’s tie, the alternative has its merits.