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?

9 comments

  1. Being Speaker of the House can be a bit like being Prime Minister, although there have been some powerful ones in the past (Sam Rayburn, for example) I understand that it can sometimes be a thankless job. It seems you either have to be a craven opportunist like Newt Gingrich or you take it because no one else wants it. IMO I think Ryan sometimes tried to hard to please both sides, working with the establishment while trying to deliver for his Tea Party supporters. But he’ll be fine-he can run for Senate or to replace Scott Walker as Governor. I don’t think he’ll just ride off into the Wisconsin sunset.

  2. Paul Ryan’s response to Obama’s SOTU in 2011:

    Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis.

    We cannot deny it; instead we must, as Americans, confront it responsibly.

    And that is exactly what Republicans pledge to do.

    The Debt was at around $14 Trillion when he said those words.

    Meanwhile in 2018, his House passed a 1.3 Trillion dollar spending bill a few weeks ago. His House also passed similar bills under Obama. And the Debt is now north of $21 Trillion.

    I had high hopes for him once upon a time. Turns out it was the same hope Obama promised.

  3. Ryan was never a Trump guy, and to say nice things about him for purposes of comity, it is exhausting.

    My bet is that he could not live with having to say nice things about, or generally deal with, Trump any longer.

  4. For what it’s worth I think Rich basically has it spot on. Ryan was always a policy guy rather than a politics guy, and as much as I disagree with his Randian ideology, I believe that he is a good person and doing things for the right reasons.

    But his job sucks. I’d quit it.

    Not only does he have to herd the cats of the irreconcilable wings of the Republican Congressional Party, but then he has to deal with Trump’s random policy swings, ill thought out policy declarations and he has to pretend not to have heard about all the scandals and dramas coming from the President.

    He got his ‘tax cut’ (or basically he borrowed $1.3 Trillion and distributed the wealth disproportionately to the wealthy and to corporations.) Entitlement reform won’t happen under Trump. SO what’s left to accomplish?

    By embracing Trump, the Republican party declared a move away from the Ryan type of Governing anyway.

  5. Yep, part of this decision is knowing full well his party has gone so far off the rails he can’t win.

  6. When you are a family oriented person, it takes a lot to be away. Clearly the clusterfuck he deals with every day is not worth seeing his kids grow up from a distance.

    I gave up a sweet deal when we adopted our son. He needed a Mom, not some chick that blows in from halfway around the world and leaves a couple weeks later for a month. Leaving a cushy job with lots of travel turned out to be one of the better decisions I have made in my life. I can’t fault him here.

  7. Uncle Jay looks like the kind of guy that cruises school districts looking to lure small children in to his panel van.

  8. Or who goes into the dressing room at a Miss Teen USA. Or who comments publicly on his 1 year old daughter’s future breasts. Or…..etc etc etc.

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