Former NYT Chief Editor Bill Keller Sprays Conservative Targets Ryan, Bork, 'Slander' by Swift Boat Vets

Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller went after Republicans and the party's "disciplined conservative infrastructure" in his 1,200-word Monday column on Romney's vice presidential pick Paul Ryan – "The Romney Package." Pecking at a multitude of conservative targets, Keller also said Reagan conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork was "attacked (with justification) as a radical," and accused the Swift Boat Veterans for truth of a "slander" against John Kerry in 2004.

Brace yourself for weeks of chatter about Mitt Romney’s running mate. Vice presidents matter, as we have been spookily reminded by the recent re-emergence of Dick Cheney on our TV screens. And Paul Ryan matters more than most.

But these days you don’t just elect a ticket of two; you elect a whole package. Presidents come with a cast of advisers, think tanks, lobbyists, legislators, donors and watchdogs. Some in the entourage end up in key jobs; others operate as a kind of shadow cabinet, vetting choices and enforcing doctrine.

This is especially true of Republicans, who have spent decades building a disciplined conservative infrastructure that recruits talent, culls dissenters and lays down the law. Compared with Democrats, who are scattered left and center, a Republican administration is more than ever a conservative turnkey project.

After the standard cliche that "moderate Republicans are scarce and endangered," Keller followed with "a sampler of what you get with a President Romney, some of them his choices, some thrust upon him. The primary campaign pulled Romney sharply to the right. Here are some of the forces that are likely to keep him there."

Ryan would have been a powerful voice in a Romney administration even if he had not been chosen for the sidekick role – the younger, quicker, more conviction-filled half of the ticket. His manifesto for lower tax rates and severe cuts in nonmilitary spending has become his party’s master plan, a brutal alternative to the recommendations of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles fiscal reform commission (which Ryan participated in, then voted against because it included tax hikes). Ryan gets demonized as a guy who wants to privatize the safety net, and not without reason.....Ryan embodies a philosophy that most public needs -- even such sensitive needs as health care and retirement security -- are better served with a lot less government and a lot more trust in the dubious mercies of the marketplace.

Keller said Reagan's 1987 conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork was "attacked (with justification) as a radical and denied confirmation; to conservatives he is a martyr and an oracle." Sen. Ted Kennedy infamously smeared Bork on the Senate floor in 1987:

Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is – and is often the only – protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy."

A few more hits: Keller described a Romney "mega-donor" Bob Perry as a "bankroller of the Swift Boat slander" and said Rick Santorum's hypothetical appointment to secretary of health and human services would be "a horrifying sop to social conservatives."