Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Failing Upward

It does not suck to be Paul Ryan. He leads the largest Republican caucus in the House of Representatives since 1928 and come January, he will either be ramming through a legislative agenda at the behest of an inexperienced President Donald Trump or leading the opposition to anything President Hillary Clinton proposes while becoming the de facto leader in the clubhouse to run against her in 2020. It is a remarkable thing, made less so by the fawning and credulous coverage he receives by a DC media that frames him as both a serious policy wonk and someone unconcerned with political machinations. 

The former is perverse and the latter is baffling. A supposed budget hawk, Ryan has been in Congress for almost half his life and in that time voted for all the stuff that has increased our borrowing (wars, Medicare D expansion, tax cuts, etc.) and against all the stuff that reduces deficits and debt (tax hikes, Obamacare). A budget “framework” he introduced as chairman of that committee was so austere and crippling to the Social Security and Medicare safety net his own party refused to support it. As Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, Ryan was reduced to playing the overeager student in a starched white shirt and striped rep tie while his own policy positions were shunted off to the side for fear of ostracizing moderate voters who like knowing they will have medical coverage in their golden years along with a check from Uncle Sam. 

You would think such a record would relegate Ryan to the dustbin of political history; instead, he became the Speaker of the House largely by not campaigning for the job after a rump group within his own caucus brought down John Boehner. With the rise of Donald Trump, the media have rekindled their romance with the P90X devotee. Back are the stories of him as a chart-loving nerd who cares passionately about the future of our country. Nowhere are the stories of how what he proposes is deeply unpopular and that his own votes in Congress have helped lead to the very problem he says he wants to solve. His tepid response to Trump is seen as principled, not political, with no evidence other than his own self-serving claims to that effect. 

Of course, things have worked out well for Ryan thus far even though his ideas are widely unpopular and given a national platform four years ago he barely made a ripple. Today, he has become the de facto leader of the Republican Party and a media darling who portray him as the last honest man in Washington. At this rate, Ryan may fail his way all the way to the White House. 

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy 

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