Lack of edge may be the Rubio edge

In an previous post, I divided six leading Republican VP candidates into (1) seemingly safe choices (Portman, Pawlenty, and Thune) and (2) more charismatic choices (Rubio, Ryan, and Jindal). If I had to guess, I’d put my money on Romney making a safe choice. John McCain, Romney is not, for which, on balance, I am thankful.

Even so, I’d be tempted to select Rubio, assuming that he makes it through a stringent vetting process. Rubio would generate the right kind of excitement, would be an attractive, articulate advocate of conservative principles, and might help Romney among Hispanic voters and/or in Florida.

Today, during an experience on NPR, Rubio gained more good will from me by expressing concern about federal spending on public broadcasting. Rubio argued that private donations should provide the sole support for an enterprise like NPR, and that plenty of outlets are available to house that ideology and format. He added, however, that he enjoys Rehm’s show and that NPR’s funding is low on the list of costs that should be cut.

That addendum, though I’m lukewarm on the first part of it and disagree with the second, illustrates another advantage of adding Rubio to the ticket — his ability to take some of the edge off of his articulation of conservative ideas. In that sense, he’s the anti-Palin. Charisma without undue antagonism is a nice combination in politics.

Astonishingly, Rubio’s NPR host Diane Rehm seemed to perceive irony in the fact that Rubio was calling for an end to federal funding of public radio while appearing on NPR. ABC News also purports to find this ironic.

This is idiotic. A person may believe that public money shouldn’t be used to build a baseball stadium but still, without hypocrisy, attend a ball game at the stadium once it has been built. A person may believe that a new highway shouldn’t be built, but still, without irony, drive on that road. Indeed, if one’s money is being used to fund a project, one would be foolish not to utilize it.

The ABC News/Rehm point is characteristic of the fuzzy thinking that plagues supporters of federal funding of public radio. The amount of federal money that goes to public broadcasting is a drop in the bucket, of course. But it’s a noxious drop, and turning off that faucet should not be low on the list of cuts.

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