Tuesday, August 07, 2018


The problem with Mark Leibovich's New York Times Magazine feature on Paul Ryan is that it focuses almost exclusively on Ryan as a victim of a force beyond his control -- Donald Trump -- and downplays Ryan's own agency.

For instance, Leibovich writes:
Far from any unified governing philosophy, the animating objective for much of today’s Republican Party has been reduced to whatever Trump does or wants. The main goal of many elected Republicans is to curry the approval of the president, avoid provoking him (or, worse, a tweet) and thus not inflame the “base.” Being deemed an infidel inside the Church of the Base can be lethal for even the most ensconced incumbent....

Ryan made a determination after Trump’s election that to defy the president too forcefully would invite a counterreaction. He tends to speak of the commander in chief as if he were sharing a coping strategy on dealing with a Ritalin-deprived child. “It boomerangs,” Ryan says of being too critical of Trump. “He goes in the other direction, so that’s not effective.” He added, “The pissing match doesn’t work.”
And Ryan himself wants to blame our problems on the political climate, which is an easy way of blaming no one at all, while shifting blame away from himself:
I caught up again with Ryan on a soupy Thursday morning in the Capitol. “You’re going to ask me about Donald Trump 16 times, right?” he asked me as we buckled ourselves into the back of his armored Suburban. He has this practiced-exasperation shtick down pretty well at this point. He was headed to do an onstage interview with Jonah Goldberg on the subject of political leadership in “an age of tribalism and identity politics,” a topic that Ryan says he has given a great deal of thought to. To Ryan’s mind, tribalism and identity politics are twin scourges that contributed to the environment that exists today. “Donald Trump didn’t give us all this,” Ryan told me. “Donald Trump is showing us what it looks like.”
In this profile, Ryan evades responsibility for his own actions, which don't seem to interest the author. I recommend that you skip the profile and read Richard North Patterson's brutal Ryan takedown in The Boston Globe instead:
... the stark truth is that Trump is a political mutation spawned by Paul Ryan’s big ideas.

Those ideas – promoting free trade, slashing entitlements, and shredding the social safety net – offered nothing to a base beset by economic insecurity and racial anxiety. To win their votes, Ryan and his party offered diversionary scapegoats – feckless bureaucrats, lazy welfare recipients, secular elites, job-stealing immigrants, and venal minorities practicing “identity politics.”

... Abruptly, the party became Trump’s hostage; Ryan, his court eunuch. Ryan stood mute as Trump vilified Muslims, shafted Dreamers, and separated refugees from their kids. He supported Devin Nunes in reducing the House Intelligence Committee to rabid pit bulls bent on killing the Russia investigation to protect Trump from impeachment. Cruelest of all, Trump signed a version of Ryan’s donor-driven fiscal fakery into tax law. Reality, indeed, bites.

Thus ended Paul Ryan’s fatal deception. He becomes in history what he always was in fact — the avatar of a fiscally-ruinous wealth transfer to America’s 1 percent.
Read the whole thing, which would have made a much better sendoff for Ryan in the Paper of Record.

(Patterson op-ed via Downpuppy.)

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