There was a time when I thought Paul Ryan was a man of conscience, a decent man. I don’t judge people … or at least I used not to judge people … by their political party affiliation, so it didn’t matter to me that Paul was a republican, only that he act in the best interest of the nation. One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, that I believed he had integrity came from a May 2016 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. When Tapper asked whether he was supporting then-candidate Donald Trump, Mr. Ryan said …
“Well, to be perfectly candid with you, I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now. I think what a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard-bearer that bears our standards. I think conservatives want to know, ‘Does he share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution?’ There are lots of questions that conservatives, I think, are gonna want answers to, myself included. I want to be a part of this unifying process. I want to help to unify this party.”
In August 2017, there was another moment when I believed perhaps he had a conscience and would finally stand firm against the abomination some call a president. It was during the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after Trump’s ignominious speech saying that some of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis were ‘very fine people’. Ryan, again interviewing with Jake Tapper, said …
“I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity.”
Well, he talked a good talk, but when it came time to walk the walk, it was another story altogether. Paul Ryan went on to become just as much a sycophant, a boot-licker, as his buddy in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
And perhaps his perfidy had early beginnings that we just overlooked, for in a March 2017 interview with Rich Lowry of the National Review, Ryan said …
“So Medicaid, sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg. . . . I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. We’re on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.”
Taking health care from the poor … something he’s been thinking about since college. And Wisconsinites elected him to the House of Representatives nine times! But then, Wisconsinites are gluttons for punishment, for they elected asshole Scott Walker to the governorship three times.
Ryan has received some ‘fond’ farewells from the press …
In truth, he leaves Congress after his Republican brethren were drowned in the biggest blue wave since 1974. He leaves Congress with his conservative ideals in tatters. He leaves Congress having consoled himself, as he remarked on December 3, “that in a democracy, sometimes you fall short.” – The Atlantic
Ryan’s burden [was] the fact that he had to work with a president who was his opposite in every measure but party affiliation, and it’s easy to think Ryan’s speakership was doomed from the start. – Roll Call
But now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump. – Ezra Klein, Vox
Look, the single animating principle of everything Ryan did and proposed was to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Can anyone name a single instance in which his supposed concern about the deficit made him willing to impose any burden on the wealthy, in which his supposed compassion made him willing to improve the lives of the poor? So how did such an obvious con artist get a reputation for seriousness and fiscal probity? Basically, he was the beneficiary of ideological affirmative action. – Paul Krugman, New York Times
And to these tributes, I would like to add a few words of my own.
Paul, you had an opportunity to stand against a madman, to stop the madness before it set this nation on a path of destruction, and frankly, you blew it. You started out, maybe, with some values and even a bit of integrity, but you sold your soul downriver the day you threw your lot in with the Donald Trump gang. You could have argued against a tax bill that provided huge amounts of cash to those who already dine on steak, and gave nothing to those of us who struggle to put a chicken leg on the table. You had the unique opportunity to speak out against horrible policies that have enabled the fossil fuel and other industries to further damage our environment, our very planet.
So many times, all you had to do was say, “No, Mr. Trump, I will not support you in ______________” (fill in the blank with any of hundreds of examples). You were a huge disappointment to the people who looked to you to use your power, your office, to stop Donald Trump from killing us, and instead you smiled, looked into the camera with your sad-puppy eyes, and lied to us. You fell on your knees before King Trump and when he said “Jump!”, you asked “How high, sir?” You sold us downriver and I cannot say that I’m sorry to see you leave Washington. I wish that I could wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, but the truth is that, as Melania might say, “I don’t really care”.