Keller: 'Lackluster' Mitt Romney Allows Ryan to Play Tim Tebow Role

Bill Keller, op-ed contributor and former executive editor of The New York Times, discussed how GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s political entourage will affect his campaign – and the role of his vice presidential pick of Paul Ryan.

Responding to a caller’s comparison of Ryan to headline-grabbing Jets No. 2 quarterback Tim Tebow, Keller told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on Friday that the veep pick has stepped into the stoplight because Romney does not invigorate the base.    

"To some extent he gets to be Tim Tebow because the starting quarterback is so lackluster to begin with," he said. “Romney has not ignited the Republican party base. … You have to give Romney credit for being willing to put somebody on the ticket who's more vibrant than he is.”

Tebow is the No. 2 quarterback for the Jets, but his megawatt starpower has somewhat pushed starting QB Mark Sanchez out of the spotlight.  

Keller most recently wrote about Romney’s political entourage in a piece in which he explores whether “anything short of hyperpartisanship” is possible today for a Republican leader.

The columnist also speculated about the fate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was granted political asylum by Ecuador on Thursday. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past two months, and faces arrest and extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges if he tries to leave.

Assange has said if he goes to Sweden, the U.S. would file its own extradition request and Assange would face espionage charges for putting classified U.S. documents on his Wikileaks web site.

Despite their well publicized battles over what should and should not be reported from the documents, Keller says it would be wrong to try Assange under the espionage act.

"I think the United States is very ambivalent about Julian Assange and what they want to do with him," Keller said.

Keller says the U.S. would like to hold Assange responsible for the massive data dumps, particularly hundreds of thousands of State Department diplomatic cables, which he called "quite embarrassing to the United States."

But they "can't figure out a way to hold him responsible that wouldn't also apply to the New York Times and other organizations that published this material."