Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Meaning of Ryan’s Departure

 

I’ve always felt a kinship with Paul Ryan. Maybe it’s the fact that we are both Jack Kemp acolytes. Maybe I have a soft spot for upright family men who are attracted to public policy by the desire to do good. Maybe I love conservative wonks. But Paul Ryan’s fate over the past several years is as good an indication as any of how far our politics has fallen.

Ryan’s departure will be not be mourned by Democrats or Trump loyalists. The Democrats caricatured Ryan as the goon throwing granny in her wheelchair off a cliff. They actually ran TV ads with a Ryan lookalike. Barack Obama singled him out for scorn at a White House meeting, claiming later that he was unaware Ryan was in the front row.

You might suppose that that would be enough to make Ryan a conservative hero, but life is often unjust, and when Trump came along, Ryan found himself a sudden symbol of the reviled “Republican establishment.” Though the anti-Ryan vitriol faded after Steve Bannon’s defenestration, he continued to be viewed with suspicion by the talk radio crowd and other arms of Trump Inc.

This was his reward for attempting to drag his party, and the country, toward a grown-up reckoning with our debt. Nearly single-handedly, Paul Ryan had managed to put tackling entitlements on the national agenda. As chairman of the budget committee, he convinced his colleagues to endorse modest entitlement reform. As he kept trying to explain, making incremental reforms now – with no changes for current beneficiaries or those in their 50s – can prevent drastic shortfalls and extreme benefit cuts that will be necessary in just 16 years when Social Security is depleted. The outlook is even worse for Medicare and Medicaid.

But Donald Trump arrived on scene with the supposedly blinding insight that changes to entitlements are unpopular. Well, no kidding. He promised never to touch Medicare and Social Security – not even to ensure their future solvency. And so, the responsible, future-oriented Paul Ryan found himself governing with a backward-looking, whistling past the graveyard president.

Even leaving aside the moral compromises that an alliance with Donald Trump necessitated, Ryan and the party he helped to lead also lost its compass on Ryan’s own signature issue – fiscal responsibility.

Tax reform may have been overdue, but it would have been nice if the party that fulminated about the dangers of deficits in the Obama years had found anything at all to cut – particularly when the economy is growing and unemployment is low. Instead, the budget and the tax bill combined will leave us with a federal budget deficit in excess of $1 trillion in 2020 and beyond. CBO budget director Keith Hall said that “Federal debt is projected to be on a steadily rising trajectory throughout the decade.” Under Republican guidance, the federal deficit will be roughly double what is was in the final year of the Obama administration. That is the reality of Speaker Ryan’s tenure in the age of Trump.

It is often suggested that Trump has much to teach the Republican Party about the importance of the white, working class and about the centrality of nationalism to Republican success.

But just as with entitlement reform, it’s one thing to say a thing is popular and quite another to say that it’s right.

What has Trump taught? That trade wars are the way to improve the lives of the working class? They are popular, at least with Republicans. A Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 65 percent of Republicans favored Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs. But if Republicans believe, as the overwhelming majority do, that tariffs are stupid and dangerous, then it would seem obvious that they have something to teach the president rather than the other way around.

I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that Paul Ryan’s diagnosis of what ails America is pretty similar to my own. We are not behaving as responsible adults. Our greatest political challenge is out of control debt. Our greatest social challenges are declining families, increasing dependency, and eroding social cohesion. The debt could have been addressed by government. The other trends continue to degrade our culture, our economy, and our personal lives. And the ascension of Trumpian politics – slashing, mendacious, corrupt, and polarizing – aggravates everything that was already going wrong.

Paul Ryan didn’t belong in Trump world. So much for worse for us.

There are 62 comments.

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  1. Rachel Lu Contributor

    All I can say, Mona, is that I hope very much he gets back into politics at some point. And that the Republicans will one day be in a better position to use and appreciate his talents.

    • #1
    • April 12, 2018, at 12:07 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  2. CliffTOP Inactive

    When people of Paul Ryan’s caliber feel they can achieve nothing more and need to leave Washington, while those of Roy Moore’s are fighting to get there, we should be worried… very worried.

    • #2
    • April 12, 2018, at 12:08 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  3. Jack Dunphy Contributor

    Amen.

    • #3
    • April 12, 2018, at 12:18 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Rachel Lu (View Comment):

    All I can say, Mona, is that I hope very much he gets back into politics at some point. And that the Republicans will one day be in a better position to use and appreciate his talents.

    Scott Walker won’t be Governor of Wisconsin forever and Tammy Baldwin hasn’t been elected Senator-for-life yet either. Once Paul’s kids are grown, we may yet see a Ryan-surgence.

    • #4
    • April 12, 2018, at 12:22 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mona Charen: I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that Paul Ryan’s diagnosis of what ails America is pretty similar to my own. We are not behaving as responsible adults. Our greatest political challenge is out of control debt.

    Mona,

    Your analysis (and Ryan’s for that matter) of what is wrong with America is just fine. The problem isn’t policy it is politics. “We are not behaving as responsible adults.” Wow! No kidding. The left expects millennials to remain in their parent’s basement until 30. Julia needs cradle to grave attention from big Gov. Blacks don’t commit crimes at a higher rate than whites they are just victims of systemic racism. The narrative doesn’t need to have anything to do with the facts. What do you think the whole left wing deal is about but infantilization of the public. Individual liberty requires individual responsibility. Snowflakes must be protected from points of view they don’t agree with.

    Jordan Peterson is expressing views that would have elicited a mild yawn 25 years ago. However, now he is some sort of prophet of personal responsibility because he dares to contest the politically correct point of view. You can’t just keep taking the beating and expect the other side to stop manipulating you. They are gaining by their political crazy BS. Trump hits back. Paul Ryan half the time agrees with the lefty hysterics and castigates our side. However sound his policy analysis, his sense of the political moment is non-existent. He couldn’t bring himself to take down loony Joe Biden in the VP debate. The 2012 election was very close. If Paul had the fire in his belly politically he would have finished wacky uncle Joe off. He didn’t and Romney let up on BHO in the last debate. To quote Trump, sad, not good.

    This is what we are up against.

    Cut Trump some slack or it only gets worse.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #5
    • April 12, 2018, at 12:26 PM PDT
    • 17 likes
  6. Stad Thatcher

    I love Paul Ryan. When the Mittster picked him for Veep, I thought 2012 was a shoe-in. But it was not meant to be.

    Ryan is leaving because he cannot get the job done. Yes, he got tax relief passed, and thank-you, Paul! But a drunk on sterno could have led the Republicans to a full repeal of Obamacare. After that, Ryan could have led the charge for health care reforms that mattered (sales across state lines, like auto insurance) . . . but he didn’t. Instead, we got a tepid, one-vote margin Obamacare repeal & replace bill passed through the House, only to flame out in the Senate.

    I’ll tell you what the meaning of Ryan’s departure means. The Eric Cantor loss was a shot across the bow lots of Republicans ignored. Ryan’s loss means we conservative Republican voters are fed up with elected conservatives who don’t deliver. Having principles is one thing, but advancing them is another.

    Donald Trump, in spite of his many flaws (as you love to point out), has given us on the right much to cheer about. Mona, I love you, but . . . enough!

    • #6
    • April 12, 2018, at 12:45 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  7. Hypatia Inactive

    [Redacted]

    It is sick-making. I’m glad he’s going, too bad he’s waiting so long–and I hope to God ( yes, I mean that) we get someone as Speaker who will support the policies of our duly-elected president, y’know, the ones the people voted for.

    He should leave the Speaker post right now; let’s see what would happen if someone in Trump’s party had his back.

    • #7
    • April 12, 2018, at 12:47 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  8. Hypatia Inactive

    Let’s see Ryan replaced–right now!–with Steve Scalise.

    And let Scalise remind the nation,

    every single day,

    that he was critically wounded when a Leftist tried to decapitate our duly elected government.

    • #8
    • April 12, 2018, at 12:59 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Mike H Coolidge

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    [Redacted]

    It is sick-making. I’m glad he’s going, too bad he’s waiting so long–and I hope to God ( yes, I mean that) we get someone as Speaker who will support the policies of our duly-elected president, y’know, the ones the people voted for.

    He should leave the Speaker post right now; let’s see what would happen if someone in Trump’s party had his back.

    You really know how to put together a horribly unpleasant and divisive screed. 

    • #9
    • April 12, 2018, at 1:01 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  10. Ekosj Inactive

    Please Ms Charen, stop already. Is there anything that happens anywhere in your world that is not Trump’s fault? I’m not really a Trump guy and you have lost me with the single-mindedness and the vitriol. 

    Stop pretending Ryan is Jack Kemp. Ryan has been in Congress 20 years. He may have started out as a Jack Kempish conservative fire pisser. And he can still run the numbers and talk the talk. But look at the voting record and the things he has supported; over time he has been slip sliding to the Mitch McConnell go-along-to-get-along side. TARP, bailouts, Stimulus, budget deals, omnibus spending bills, Medicaid expansion, immigration amnesty… all Ryan. So after 20 years its time to go home. More should do the same. Like the forest, some of the big trees have to come down to make room for the new growth.

    • #10
    • April 12, 2018, at 1:06 PM PDT
    • 17 likes
  11. Hypatia Inactive

    Mike H (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    [Redacted]

    It is sick-making. I’m glad he’s going, too bad he’s waiting so long–and I hope to God ( yes, I mean that) we get someone as Speaker who will support the policies of our duly-elected president, y’know, the ones the people voted for.

    He should leave the Speaker post right now; let’s see what would happen if someone in Trump’s party had his back.

    You really know how to put together a horribly unpleasant and divisive screed.

    Thanks!

    And all I did in the redacted text was point out that Ryan hasn’t really succeeded at anything.

    Gee, I thought we were allowed to voice our opinions about public figures, my mistake. I guess we’re not, where the Sac–nah, I won’t take the chance. See, this is how you silence people.

    • #11
    • April 12, 2018, at 1:12 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  12. PHenry Member

    Paul Ryan was right when he said he didn’t want to be speaker. I applaud his dedication and sense of duty, but he was mostly a failure at what he claimed to stand for, and that is in no way Trumps fault…

    At his announcement, he listed two accomplishments. Tax reform, and the military budget increase. Both Trump assisted accomplishments. 

    He did nothing I can see on entitlements, his personal #1 issue, and they made complete fools of themselves over Obamacare. The deficit is out of control,we haven’t had an actual budget in his entire speakership, and as speaker of the House that lands directly at his feet.

    Mr. Ryan is a fine man, and I hope he doesn’t disappear from public life. But sadly, his tenure as speaker was not a success, and that started before Trump imagined running. 

    If you want to blame someone, look to the Republicans in congress. 

    Sadly, they will also be the ones to choose his successor. 

    • #12
    • April 12, 2018, at 1:22 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  13. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    I think Ryan shoulders the blame for the failings of the Republicans in the Senate. He has consistently brought these issues to the fore in the house and managed to get the votes needed it address them. They go on to die in the Senate because the Republican caucus there is held hostage by a few liberal senators.

    • #13
    • April 12, 2018, at 1:25 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. danok1 Member

    Ryan was terrific when he was in his element. As Chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committees he did fine work.

    As Speaker, not so much. He promised a return to “regular order.” Didn’t happen. He (along with pretty much every Republican congress-critter) promised to repeal Obamacare. Didn’t happen. And so on, and so on.

    I think Ryan is a good, decen,t honorable man. He never should have taken the Speaker’s job.

    And FWIW, the “ascension of Trumpian politics – slashing, mendacious, corrupt, and polarizing” was going on long before Trump rode that golden escalator. See Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, etc.

    This from “Heartbreak Ridge” sums up my thought on Ryan (sorry…couldn’t find a video):

    Colonel Meyers: Are you new to the infantry, Major?

    Maj. Malcolm A. Powers: Yes, sir. Just came over from supply.

    Colonel Meyers: Were you good at that?

    Maj. Malcolm A. Powers: Yes, sir!

    Colonel Meyers: Well then, stick to it because you’re a walking [CoC] as an infantry officer.

    • #14
    • April 12, 2018, at 1:31 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  15. DrewInWisconsin Doesn't C… Coolidge

    Majestyk (View Comment):

    Rachel Lu (View Comment):

    All I can say, Mona, is that I hope very much he gets back into politics at some point. And that the Republicans will one day be in a better position to use and appreciate his talents.

    Scott Walker won’t be Governor of Wisconsin forever and Tammy Baldwin hasn’t been elected Senator-for-life yet either. Once Paul’s kids are grown, we may yet see a Ryan-surgence.

    Baldwin’s up for re-election this year. Paul Ryan has until June 1st to declare his candidacy for Senate.

     

    • #15
    • April 12, 2018, at 1:53 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. ShawnB Inactive

    I will miss Paul Ryan. I don’t think he advanced the conservative ball very far, even if you only count what the House accomplished. The good things the house did were most often DOA in McConnell’s senate, and he cannot be faulted for those failures. As speaker though he had to herd cats, and I think he surrendered too often to big-spenders in his own caucus. Maybe he just got tired of compromising his own fiscal conscience. Or, maybe, just as he said, he wants to be a dad.

    Now, McConnell, I won’t miss him.

    • #16
    • April 12, 2018, at 2:00 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I applauded Ryan’s promotion to Speaker for well representing the middle ground between proponents of limited government and classic Republican statists content to tread water with the usual tax cuts, a little defense spending, and a few kickbacks. As Stad noted, we got only the latter… with an usually large cut to the corporate income tax, more thanks to the bull in the china shop than to the mild accountant. We also got the usual backroom deals — representation of representatives — without even a return to the regular budgets required by law. And we got a lawless investigation of no crime in particular perpetually hunting the President’s allies.

    Both the President and Congress are to blame. Trump hasn’t hacked away at bureaucracies as campaigned, though perhaps he has made more headway than most Chief Executives. Ryan’s loyalties lie more with leviathan-as-usual wonks than with politicians with the sense to aim higher, but I doubt anyone could have mediated disparate Republican factions better than he did. I always disagreed with Ryan strategically, but I always respected him.

    Ryan showed great leadership in some ways and not in others. There is too much daylight between “fellow” Republicans. The bully pulpit could force them together more than polite persuasion.

    • #17
    • April 12, 2018, at 2:06 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. RufusRJones Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    full repeal of Obamacare.

    How could they not know what Collins and Murkowski were going to do? They should’ve done a one year roadshow and then figured it out politically after that. They had plenty of time to plan for this. It’s outrageous. Is single-payer and inevitable, now?

    • #18
    • April 12, 2018, at 2:32 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. RufusRJones Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    classic Republican statists

    That’s the problem. This has never been dealt with creatively. 

    • #19
    • April 12, 2018, at 2:36 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    full repeal of Obamacare.

    How could they not know what Collins and Murkowski were going to do? They should’ve done a one year roadshow and then figured it out politically after that. They had plenty of time to plan for this. It’s outrageous. Is single-payer and inevitable, now?

    What is your proposal to get around the fact that Collins and Murkowski wouldn’t vote for it? Without them they don’t have a majority. 

    • #20
    • April 12, 2018, at 2:49 PM PDT
    • Like
  21. RufusRJones Member

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    full repeal of Obamacare.

    How could they not know what Collins and Murkowski were going to do? They should’ve done a one year roadshow and then figured it out politically after that. They had plenty of time to plan for this. It’s outrageous. Is single-payer and inevitable, now?

    What is your proposal to get around the fact that Collins and Murkowski wouldn’t vote for it? Without them they don’t have a majority.

    They are RINOs with special problems in their state. I don’t blame them for their vote so much, it’s the fact no one, including them, factored this in. How is that possible? The GOP should’ve taken their time to actually improve this horrible situation. (I’m not some big political expert, but that is the way I see it.)

     

    • #21
    • April 12, 2018, at 2:54 PM PDT
    • Like
  22. RufusRJones Member

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):
    full repeal of Obamacare.

    How could they not know what Collins and Murkowski were going to do? They should’ve done a one year roadshow and then figured it out politically after that. They had plenty of time to plan for this. It’s outrageous. Is single-payer and inevitable, now?

    What is your proposal to get around the fact that Collins and Murkowski wouldn’t vote for it? Without them they don’t have a majority.

    They are RINOs with special problems in their state. I don’t blame them for their vote so much, it’s the fact no one, including them, factored this in. How is that possible? The GOP should’ve taken their time to actually improve this horrible situation. (I’m not some big political expert, but that is the way I see it.)

    Kevin Williamson wrote a Great article sort of addressing this around December 8, 2017. 

    • #22
    • April 12, 2018, at 2:58 PM PDT
    • Like
  23. Herbert defender of the Realm,… Inactive

    Mona Charen: Paul Ryan didn’t belong in Trump world. So much for worse for us.

    Yet when the choice came, he chose Trump. He will thus be remembered….

    • #23
    • April 12, 2018, at 4:49 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Umbra Fractus Coolidge
    Umbra Fractus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Herbert defender of the Realm,… (View Comment):

    Mona Charen: Paul Ryan didn’t belong in Trump world. So much for worse for us.

    Yet when the choice came, he chose Trump. He will thus be remembered….

    By “Chose Trump” I presume you mean he chose not to mindlessly oppose his own party’s President simply because the man was unlikeable?

    • #24
    • April 12, 2018, at 7:15 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  25. Mike H Coolidge

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Mike H (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    [Redacted]

    It is sick-making. I’m glad he’s going, too bad he’s waiting so long–and I hope to God ( yes, I mean that) we get someone as Speaker who will support the policies of our duly-elected president, y’know, the ones the people voted for.

    He should leave the Speaker post right now; let’s see what would happen if someone in Trump’s party had his back.

    You really know how to put together a horribly unpleasant and divisive screed.

    Thanks!

    And all I did in the redacted text was point out that Ryan hasn’t really succeeded at anything.

    Gee, I thought we were allowed to voice our opinions about public figures, my mistake. I guess we’re not, where the Sac–nah, I won’t take the chance. See, this is how you silence people.

    You might be the most prolific “silenced” person I’ve ever seen. You’re so oppressed with a post on the main feed almost everyday, miss victim complex.

    • #25
    • April 12, 2018, at 7:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Paul Ryan is Frodo Baggins. He had essentially one job — to keep government from 1) forcing us to pay for crap government shouldn’t be funding in the first place (Planned Parenthood, for starters) and 2) forcing us to purchase (insurance) products we don’t want buy. He carried the message into Mordor, but he failed in the end, and if it weren’t for Gollum (Trump) biting off his ring finger, we may not have even gotten tax reform. 

    I’m sure, as everyone says, he’s a good and decent man (as a coreligionist, I certainly hope so). But, many good, decent people are failures. I’m sure Jimmy Carter never slept with a porn star, but he was a lousy president.

    I knew when Ryan let Joe Biden abuse him in the vice-presidential debate he was not a fighter. He became a servant of the establishment cartel. Sad.

    • #26
    • April 12, 2018, at 8:24 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  27. Hoyacon Member

    Sserious question. Is the author capable of writing a column on any topic that does not involve several “insights” of the “it’s all Trump’s fault” nature? Somewhere, there is a very good column to be written about Paul Ryan, his successes and failures, by a knowledgeable journalist. That column might include actual insights as to whether the era of Trump was a result of Paul Ryan or a cause of his departure. Or both. Not here. Bashing is just too easy.

    • #27
    • April 12, 2018, at 8:24 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  28. I Walton Member

    Obama Democrats must have hated Ryan with deep passion for stripping him down in public. Even the lap dog media covered it. What happened in the last year is less clear. Ryan appeared genuinely enthusiastic about working with President Trump once it had become clear that Trump was serious about doing the right things. But a Speaker can’t govern and can’t get a lot done in today’s Washington without strong White House leadership. Leadership isn’t just wanting stuff and speaking in general terms. It’s putting forth proposals coherent enough, simple enough to be sold to the public and having weapons to impose costs on individual members. Without that there is only logrolling. Cutting the corporate rate was specific and understandable, Everything else needs the very careful crafting and packaging that can’t be done on the hill.

    • #28
    • April 12, 2018, at 8:57 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. A-Squared Inactive

    I’m sure Pelosi will be a much better speaker and I’m sure everyone here will be so much happier with her as speaker than this evil Ryan person. 

    • #29
    • April 12, 2018, at 9:12 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. RufusRJones Member

    I Walton (View Comment):
    But a Speaker can’t govern and can’t get a lot done in today’s Washington without strong White House leadership. Leadership isn’t just wanting stuff and speaking in general terms. It’s putting forth proposals coherent enough, simple enough to be sold to the public and having weapons to impose costs on individual members.

    No one was realistic about this,

    The Republic is falling apart because there is too much in the purview of excess centralized government controlled by K Street and politics. i.e. Obamacare and the whole decades long process that created this piece of garbage. Until the right gets creatively attentive to this, not what’s fixated in Mona’s et. al. head, we are more and more screwed everyday.

    The GOP needs to get realistic about this in other words. They won’t. We think we need more bad centralized government because we have so much bad centralized government already.

    Viva la socialism!

    • #30
    • April 12, 2018, at 11:57 PM PDT
    • 1 like

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