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Op-Ed: Ryan's Retreat

Following Paul Ryan’s decision not to seek re-election, Douglas Bloomfield explains why the Republican from Wisconsin will not be missed.
Paul Ryan Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan may now be able to take his manhood out of that blind trust and get that spine transplant he's needed since he met Donald Trump. He will certainly be able to afford it. Look for the Number One Republican fundraiser in Congress to use that talent to pull down five and six-figure lecture fees throughout a very profitable retirement.

Ryan may be relieved that no he longer has to be Trump's top toady. Some of us are old enough to remember all the way back to 2016 when the Wisconsin wonk was able to criticize candidate Trump's outrages and racism. But he apparently gave that up on election day.

“Ryan, more than any other prominent Republican, personified the devil’s bargain the GOP has signed with Trump,” observed Ronald Brownstein in the Atlantic. He was a free trader with a protectionist president, an internationalist with an isolationist, a supporter of immigration reform with a racist isolationist, a policy wonk with a know-nothing.

Someone forgot to tell him that as third-in-line to the presidency and the top Constitutional official of the separate and equal legislative branch, he could have asserted leadership, putting country first, but instead, tweeted Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, "he has been Speaker of the Trump, the Kochs and Mercers, the Republican Party."

Privately Ryan is said to have confided to friends and colleagues how distasteful he found Donald Trump, but in public, where it counted, he gave blind obedience.

Ryan is the latest in a growing list of Republican lawmakers who won't be back next year. Many are running for another office but most are just getting out ahead of a feared Democratic wave. In Ryan's case, that leaves the leading contender for his seat white supremacist in Janesville, a heavily red district, Paul Nehlen, an unabashed anti-Semite and white supremacist. Other challengers will show up with Ryan out of the race.

Ryan failed to reign in the abuses of Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) in his campaign to smear the FBI, sabotage the investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 election and to destroy traditional bipartisan cooperation on a once-respected investigating committee. 

He won't be missed.

His reaction to the rise in school shootings and mass murders was to offer his "thoughts and prayers." He zealously protected the gun lobby, which gave him an A+ rating and rewarded his loyalty by making him the #1 recipient of their campaign contributions.

For all his talk about fiscal responsibility and small government, his legacy will include a trillion-dollar deficit that not even his yet unborn grandchildren and great-grandchildren will ever be able to pay off.

He championed unjustifiable tax cuts last year that put more cash into the pockets of Donald Trump and their wealthy friends and contributors. When asked how he'd pay for it, he spoke of "entitlement reform." 

That's a euphemism for slashing the social safety net for millions of Americans who rely on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other health and welfare programs. One of his disappointments is that he wasn't able to privatize Social Security and totally repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, without ever coming up with a viable alternative to insure millions of Americans.

Ryan was on the wrong side of much of the domestic agenda of the mainstream Jewish community – health, education, environment, guns, abortion, gender equality, church-state separation and more.

Like former lawmakers of all stripes, whether they left voluntarily or at the behest of voters, he will cash in on his access to his former colleagues and other contacts inside the Beltway. He will get lucrative fees as a lobbyist, memoirist, consultant and cable news talking head. His predecessor, John Boehner (R-Ohio) just signed on sell pot, joining the board of Acreage Holdings, a company that grows and sells marijuana in 11 states.

Typically, former Members of Congress continue to trade on their former titles, some even overlooking using the explanatory "former" or "ex-" when identifying themselves. Speaker Ryan will be no exception.



JOL Blogger | Douglas Bloomfield

Douglas is a Washington columnist, lobbyist and consultant and the former legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Washington representative of the World Jewish Congress.


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