The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan (R-WI), said on April 11 that he will not run for re-election to his House seat this November, which of course means that, whichever party has the majority of House seats in January 2019, someone else will become Speaker, and somebody else will be leading the Republican Party contingent in the House.
Ryan was the Republican nominee for vice president in 2012, on Mitt Romney’s ticket. He took the Speaker’s job in 2015, when the previous Speaker, John Boehner, decided he no longer wanted it.
In a brief press conference Thursday on his decision not to run, Ryan said that when one becomes Speaker, “You realize you hold the office for just a small part of our history. So you better make the most of it.”
The office of Speaker of the House is itself a critical thread running through U.S. history. Prominent Speakers have included: Henry Clay; James G. Blaine; Sam Rayburn; Tip O’Neill; and Newt Gingrich.
Ryan said that his decision to abandon his role as their successor arose out of his desire to spend more time with his family. “I will be setting new priorities in my life,” he said. But that explanation immediately elicited skepticism. It is a “canned phrase” often used at an exit.
Left Wing View
Some on the left have sought to celebrate the victory by playing up some wild speculation about the disarray on the right the announcement is supposedly causing. In this category are rumors/speculations about how former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus supposedly wants Ryan’s Wisconsin seat (he doesn’t).
John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker, calls Ryan “a purveyor of snake oil and a front man for the conservative billionaires and other wealthy interests whose money has flooded the Republican Party in recent years.”
Paul Krugman, writing for The New York Times, says much the same: Ryan “has always been an obvious con man, to anyone willing to see.” He acted solely throughout his career on one maxim, to afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable. Further, despite his reputation in some quarters for budgetary wonkishness, his deficit reduction proposals, says Krugman, “were always frauds.”
Right Wing View
Meghan McCain, a co-host of “The View,” spoke of her admiration for Paul Ryan. She considers herself a true conservative, and Ryan likewise. President Trump she considers … something else.
Ryan “was a really classic conservative, and this party is the party of Trump now. People like me who are old-school conservatives, we’re really on our way out.”
In an interview with Fox after his announcement, the outgoing speaker was less pessimistic than Ms McCain. He said that he was proud of his record of accomplishment, which includes some items he expects this Congress to finish up on later this term. He said, “We’re going to be repealing and replacing Dodd-Frank. So we’re getting a great deal done for the country.”
Of course prominent Trump supporters don’t believe that they are displacing conservatism. They believe they are the true conservatives, and that Ms McCain and perhaps Ryan as well are creatures of what is nowadays called “the swamp.” So some Trump enthusiasts are for their reasons as happy to see Ryan departing as is the left for its different reasons.
Trump enthusiast Nick Short tweets simply, “Paul Ryan, you will not be missed.”
Likewise, John Binder, a commentator affiliated with Breitbart, tweets that Ryan is a “globalist,” a curse word in the alt-right lexicon.
At least Ryan has the comfort that he is being mocked by a wide range of different folks.