Paul Ryan thinks he won


The formal announcement of Paul Ryan’s retirement from the House speakership is as good a time as any to take stock of his achievements, such as they are.

Context matters here. It is fair to say that pitted against his two immediate Republican predecessors in the lower chamber, Ryan comes off slightly better than the pedophile wrestling coach and slightly worse than the weepy chain smoker now serving on the advisory board of a marijuana corporation. Unlike Denny Hastert, Ryan never torpedoed the House Ethics Committee after they found one of his allies guilty of a wide array of ludicrously over-the-top crimes; unlike Boehner, who seemed to regard the passing of meaningful legislation as a boring task beneath the dignity of an aesthete, Ryan really loves doing things.

The life and career of Paul Davis Ryan, Jr., are a painful synecdoche of everything millions of ordinary working-class Americans loathe about the GOP. From earliest age he seems to have been one of those insufferable try-hards who is never satisfied unless he is being elected class president and prom king while playing at least four sports — skiing, track, basketball, and, naturally, soccer — and doing Model U.N. and working a summer job and volunteering and hiking and representing the student body on the school board. In college he haunted the offices of his professors to ask clever and thoughtful questions about the reading. He joined a fraternity and the College Republicans and worked for political campaigns. Everything he has done in public life has been premised on the assumption that this frenetic omnidirectional obsession with activity is normal human behavior and that its absence is a moral failing that can and should carry economic penalties.

After graduating, this vocal opponent of political careerism went immediately to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a legislative aide and speechwriter to the late Sen. Jack Kemp and other right-wing luminaries. Later he had a spell in Kansas as legislative director to then-Rep. Sam Brownback before returning to Wisconsin to do consulting work for a marketing firm owned by relations. Finally in 1999 he was elected in his home state’s first district as the nation’s second youngest member of Congress.

No one should be surprised to learn that Ryan is obsessed with health and physical fitness. He is particularly enthusiastic about a training program called “P90X,” which sounds like the name of a Khrushchev-era Soviet mind-control experiment. He loathes tobacco and has been known to whine to any journalist willing to listen to him about this very boring subject. When he inherited the office of his predecessor, he rented a bizarre “ozone” machine at considerable offense to exorcise the hideous spirit of that demon weed. Everything about Ryan screams that he is the guy who would rat you out for smoking behind the gas station or tell Mrs. Stefinitch that you hid your can of chew in the library behind the encyclopedias.

Beneath the politely smarmy exterior — even his enemies will insist that he is very nice …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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