Ryan And Trump — Two Con Artists Who Deserved And Destroyed Each Other

It has been apparent for many years, well over a decade now, that Paul Ryan was just another sanctimonious fraud. His policy goals of gutting the New Deal in order to shove even more wealth toward the already well-to-do were transparent but also designed to ingratiate himself with the moneyed power brokers within the Republican party. In other words, those policies were Ryan’s means to reaching his ultimate goal, the one he desired most of all, of becoming President.

To reach that goal meant that he couldn’t just be another ordinary GOP hack. Instead, he needed to cultivate this kind of Clintonian image (though he would loathe that comparison) of a policy wonk. It also meant having to continually pretend that he cared about the deficit and the national debt, despite proposals that continually exploded those numbers. His Social Security privatization plan cost nearly $2.5 trillion over just 10 years and added to the debt for the next 75. His 2010 budget and tax plan promised to reduce the deficit in half over 10 years but did no such thing as the so-called “magic asterisks” provided all of the savings. Incredibly, his tax plan gave 117% of the savings to the top 1% by raising taxes on the bottom 95%.

When Mitt Romney was forced to take Ryan on as his Vice Presidential candidate in 2012, there was probably a majority of the Republican party who actually would have preferred a Ryan/Romney ticket rather than the other way around. But Ryan took that thankless role with the belief that Romney would lose and he would become one of the de-facto leaders of the Republican party, which is exactly what happened.

Similarly, when John Boehner decided he’d had enough of herding the cats in his Republican caucus, Ryan played the reluctant savior for all it was worth before becoming Speaker in late 2015, the seemingly perfect platform for running for President in 2020. As Speaker, he could direct the continual investigations and attacks on Hillary while making more fraudulent tax and spending proposals that would appeal to the big donors and enhancing his image as a “real reformer” but that Clinton would veto even if they made it through the Senate. After all, this is essentially what Ryan had done during the Obama years.

For Ryan, the road to the Presidency was moving along as planned, that is until Donald Trump showed up. Ryan was continually coy about his support for Trump, constantly pretending he was concerned about Trump’s fitness for the job and insinuating that he probably could not support him but always giving cover to his Republican colleagues who did. Admittedly, the Trump candidacy put Ryan in a difficult position, but he believed he would be rewarded by the base and his colleagues if he kept the caucus relatively united and the GOP maintained control of the House, further solidifying himself as the top candidate for 2020.

The shocking election of Trump, however, through all of Ryan’s plans out the window. Now, his chances for a 2020 run were gone. Worse, the GOP had total control of Congress and the White House and the increasingly restless base and the newly empowered Freedom Caucus would demand results. So results he would give them.

It was Ryan who persuaded Trump to go all in on repealing the ACA, gutting Medicaid, and cutting Medicare as the first legislative priority. Rather than work with McConnell to come up with a solution that might pass the Senate, Ryan allowed the Freedom Caucus to stake out the maximalist position, one that he also supported, resulting in an initial defeat of the bill by moderate Republicans in the first vote, before finally passing it in May. Nothing like the House bill was even considered in the Senate which eventually could not pass any version of ACA repeal before the September 30th deadline when the 2017 budge resolution expired.

In return for getting Trump to agree to Ryan’s legislative agenda, Ryan agreed to overlook any of Trump’s numerous transgressions in the House. Although Ryan did not initially appoint Devin Nunes to head the Intelligence Committee, he did not replace him in 2016 and he did give his silent blessing as Nunes destroyed the integrity and bipartisan nature of that important body. Ryan apparently managed to never read Trump’s tweets and has been consistently and remarkably restrained as Trump attacked the justice system. Like McConnell, he has done nothing to protect Mueller. In essence, Ryan has given Trump a free pass.

If Ryan had succeeded in transforming the American tax system and gutting the core New Deal programs, he would have been seen by the GOP base and, more importantly, the donor class as a visionary who could actually get things done. And, if the Trump presidency had ended in scandal and failure, he still might have had a chance to run in 2020.

But he failed. Miserably. The tax cut was just another in a long string of unfunded policies that Republicans have engaged in for the last 40 years. The social safety net is still intact and support for those programs, especially Medicaid and Obamacare, have increased markedly. And the myth of Ryan as a deficit-cutter has been blown to smithereens.

Ryan led Trump and the GOP down a dead end, wasting the entire first year of Trump’s presidency and GOP total control on a failed effort to gut the social safety net in order to pass an even more enormous tax cut for the wealthy in 2018 than they actually ended up doing. In doing so, he has made an already damaged and unpopular President even more unpopular and has turned his brand of Republicanism toxic. Now, facing an overwhelming blue wave that will relegate him to, at best, the powerless position of minority leader assuming he is not dethroned by his own caucus, Ryan has decided to turn tail and run. His dream of becoming President has died.

David Frum made an interesting point on the Last Word last night. He said to imagine a world where the 2015 version of Donald Trump had existed in 2017, passing a bipartisan infrastructure plan and a cut of the corporate tax rate to 25% while closing corporate loopholes, fighting to renegotiate our trading relationship with China through the WTO and tweaking the NAFTA agreement to address the most egregious problems, and standing up to defend and enhance the social safety net, instead of wasting an entire year on a failed attempt to repeal the ACA, gut Medicaid, and cut Medicare. Trump would be a far more popular President. And Paul Ryan would be totally irrelevant.

In fact, that fateful legislative decision by Ryan may help sink the Trump Presidency. And it has surely sunk Ryan’s hopes for his own. It is ironic that both men, consummate con artists in their own right, managed to con each other into failure. Trump’s electoral con killed Ryan’s plans for 2020 and Ryan’s legislative con may help kill Trump’s presidency.

But the dream dies hard. If, (God willing), a Democrat wins in 2020, expect to see a vanity run by Ryan in 2024. It will be interesting to see if he is still selling the some old snake oil or, like his predecessor John Boehner on marijuana, his views will have “evolved”.

Lastly, the timing of Ryan’s announcement is especially peculiar as well as damaging to Republican electoral hopes in the fall. He has barely given the party enough time to field a candidate in his district, leaving the field open to a white nationalist who was recently suspended from twitter for racism. And his departure sends an overwhelming signal to his colleagues and the base that the House is lost.

I have always believed that Ryan and McConnell knew much more about foreign interference in our electoral system than they let on, which explains their continued reluctance to actively support any robust investigation. There are now a few threads of evidence that indicate that possibility. There is the fact that Guccifer 2.0 shared hacked DNC data with Republican operatives. There is the rumored recording of Ryan and McCarthy admitting that Russia was funneling money to at least one Republican House member. There are reports that Mueller is investigating whether Russian money was funneled through the NRA to help Trump and GOP candidates as well as whether the Republican National Committee (RNC) voter data somehow overlapped with Russian social media propaganda. (Interestingly, the RNC has joined in the full throated attack on Comey today.) The Mercer-run Cambridge Analytica sent dozens of foreign nationals to help GOP candidates during the 2014 campaign. It also appears that John Bolton’s PAC illegally coordinated its messages with Cambridge Analytica and at least one Senate candidate in that election as well.

It’s hard to believe that, if all of the above turns out to be true, Paul Ryan was not aware of, if not complicit, in what was going on. And with Mueller closing in every day on Trump and the corruption of the system that elected him, it is very likely that violations of election law will be exposed. Those violations may very well expose the leadership of the GOP. Admittedly, there is, as of now, very little direct evidence to support that conclusion. But if it is correct, then the timing of Paul Ryan’s departure makes more sense. With his presidential hopes dashed and the possibility of being caught up in the subversion of our electoral system, heading home to Wisconsin and collectively boatloads of corporate dollars probably seemed like a pretty good option.

Originally published at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com on April 12, 2018.



Thoughtful discussions on politics and economics with sidelights in photography and astronomy. thesoundings.com; post.news/esquaredm2c4; esquaredm2c4@mas.to

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