This morning I wake up to this;
House Speaker Paul Ryan will not seek reelection to his Wisconsin congressional seat.
I’m still digesting the news and wrangling to place it in some perspective as to what to make of it going forward. 20 minutes later I come to this conclusion; although it’s great news for Paul himself, for the rest of us it means very little.
Since he got the job, one he never coveted, craved, or lobbied for, he has been attacked by the very same blogs and readers that I mostly align myself with. All the usual dopey names; cuck, rhino, sell-out, even neo-con if you can believe it, any pejoratives you can imagine because when you are the head “R” it is assumed that, like Santa Claus, you will magically grant every wish for all the other R’s. I’ve never been a party to any of it.
Pelosi makes it look easy because she is a beast, an unprincipled war-time consigliere who knows where the bodies are buried and has no reluctance whatsoever in adding more. She uses her position to cajole, intimidate, threaten, and persuade, whatever mode that will get the ball moving. She lies. She plays the MSM like the best conductor. In essence, she keeps the troops in line. Ryan sucked at all of this. Ryan is a strategy guy, not a tactics guy. The job requires manipulating, negotiating, back slapping, and butt kicking. He had a vision as elucidated in his Path To Prosperity, a vision of smaller government with more money going back to the people and a more stream lined entitlement program.
He got part of what he wanted done, the tax cuts, but he knew going in that Trump’s intransigence and certitude in not touching Medicare and Medicaid was a problem.
Ryan does not get enough credit for the stuff that has gotten done. That was his tax cut more than Trumps. Ryan placed multiple Obamacare repeal bills in front of the Senate; it was McConnell that could not make it happen. Ditto with that huge omnibus spending bill, Ryan’s House passed more conservative bills but McConnell’s Senate rejected them all.
The sad thing is that many GOPer’s, whether it’s the big blue wall approaching in November or the fractious environment of a Trump government, many congress critters are packing it in. Here is a partial list;
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is leaving Congress. So are Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Pat Tiberi (R-OH), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Lynn Jenkins (R-KA), Sam Johnson (R-TX), John Duncan (R-TN), Ted Poe (R-TX), Dave Trott (R-MI), Ryan Costello (R-PA), Bill Shuster (R-PA), Gregg Harper (R-MS), Tom Rooney (R-FL).
Some, like Jeff Flake, are quitting because their constituents were going to throw them out anyway. But that list above, all those guys are popular within their districts and would easily be reelected. Ditto with Ryan. So other factors are at play.
We have talked about the landmine environment any politician must navigate with Trump as president. Every time you have an idea and want to bring it to the public, your news conference is peppered with questions about Trump’s latest dopey tweet, sex scandal or WH firing. Ryan was never a Trump guy, and to say nice things about him for purposes of comity, it is exhausting. He knew his agenda was different from Trump’s; pushing against a closed-door can be disheartening.
We should take him at his word, he does not want to see his kids grow up without him; a nobler gesture does not exist. He should be commended for this, not derided.
My position has always been that Ryan was a good man, principled, compassionate, and dedicated to trying to make Washington more accountable and more efficient. I think when he leaves he will be disappointed that very little of his agenda was realized, but circumstances like a fractious base, a duplicitous Senate majority leader, and a president’s agenda at odds with his, all these became obstacles, a bridge too far.
So, here’s your chance to either praise Ryan or bury him. Give him a grade if you want, but if you are going to rag on him, give me specifics. What should have done differently?