Mitt Romney announced his vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, in front of the U.S.S. Wisconsin, an Iowa-class battleship on Saturday morning. But don’t interpret the backdrop to mean that the Romney/Ryan ticket is suddenly going to make national security a focus. Like the man at the top, Ryan is a fairly blank slate when it comes to national security, and his tech-policy record is a mixed one. Ryan just happens to be from Wisconsin, and the U.S.S. Wisconsin is moored in Virginia, a swing state.
Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee, which has a say in shaping military spending. But he’s tended to focus more on the budget deficit and domestic policy than national security. Ryan tends to talk about defense policy choices less as a matter of national survival and more in the context of sensible budgetary choices. In the few public pronouncements Ryan’s made about foreign policy, he’s sounded less aggressive than many in his party, but his geopolitical views are a work in progress. Like Romney, Ryan didn’t serve in the military.
On technology and civil liberties issues, Ryan has generally voted along party lines. Ryan opposed net neutrality bills; voted to extend the Patriot Act’s roving wiretaps and to immunize telecom companies from legal liabilities for cooperating with warrantless government surveillance. He co-sponsored a ban on internet taxes. Ryan initially approved of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which WIRED editorialized would “usher in a chilling internet censorship regime,” but backed down in the face of a pressure campaign from the internet-freedom supporters. Activists on Reddit cheered Ryan’s reversal on SOPA — and appear to have reactivated the Ryan thread now that Romney has tapped him to be vice president.
Read more about why Romney’s VP Is a defense and tech policy n00b.