The Lamentable Legacy of Paul Ryan: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there  😉

Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the Constitution of the United States provides, in part, as follows:

“The House of Representatives shall chuse [sic] their Speaker ….”

The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 provides, in part, as follows:

“If … there is neither a President nor Vice President … then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall … act as President.”

John Stuart Mill, 1867:

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

Paul Ryan, April 2011:  “We need leadership, not a doubling down on the politics of the past…….We are looking for bipartisan solutions, not partisan rhetoric.”

Paul Ryan, April 2011:  “Exploiting people’s emotions of fear, envy and anxiety is not hope, it’s not change, it’s partisanship.  We don’t need partisanship. We don’t need demagoguery.”

Paul Ryan, May 2011:  “I don’t consult polls to tell me what my principles are …”

Paul Ryan, 2013:  “America is more than just a country …. It’s more than our borders.  America is an idea.  It’s a very precious idea.”

Paul Ryan, 2015:  “Some of our best and biggest allies in this struggle and fight against radical Islamic terror are Muslims, the vast, vast, vast majority of whom are people who believe in pluralism, freedom, democracy, individual rights.”

Paul Ryan, 2016:  “In America, aren’t we all supposed to see beyond class, see beyond ethnicity?”

Paul Ryan, 2016:  “I would sue any president that exceeds his or her powers.”

Paul Ryan, 2016:  Regarding then-Candidate Trump’s claim that Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel was biased in the Trump University case because of the Judge’s Mexican heritage:  “[A] textbook definition of a racist comment.”

No rational observer can dispute President Trump’s disregard for the sentiments Speaker of the House Paul Ryan claimed to espouse throughout his career.  While one can, as in Part I of this post, point to the discrepancy between Mr. Ryan’s dire warnings about our growing national debt and his actual performance in Congress, I would assert that the dichotomy between the sentiments he expressed during the last 20 years regarding fundamental American freedoms and the American idea and his actual conduct of the Speakership constituted an abject abandonment of his Constitutional responsibility.  His record is one of shame; he acted as a partisan political leader while ignoring his responsibility as Speaker of the “People’s House.”

I have written in these pages that that Mr. Trump “… takes endless liberties with the truth.”  Mr. Ryan knew it.  He stood aside.

Mr. Trump repeatedly attacks those outlets running accounts he doesn’t like as “Enemies of the People” and “Fake News.”  Mr. Ryan knew this was divisive calumny.  He stood aside.

Mr. Trump repeatedly panders to racial bias, perhaps most notably in his reference to Mexicans as “murderers and rapists,” in his comments following the events in Charlottesville, and in his harping about migrant “invasions” of “bad people.”  Mr. Ryan knew this was hateful bigotry.  He stood aside.

Mr. Trump’s repeated unwillingness to acknowledge that the Russians meddled in the 2016 election on his behalf, contrary to the unanimous view of the American intelligence community, both diminished the public standing of those whose duty it is to protect us and degraded our ability to safeguard our democratic systems.  Mr. Ryan knew it.  He stood aside.

Mr. Trump’s constant attacks on the Special Counsel investigation disregard his and his cohort’s now-admitted lies, ignore myriad now-established facts regarding his organization’s interactions with Russians, and conveniently overlook a truly impressive number of guilty pleas and indictments already obtained by Mr. Mueller’s team.  Mr. Ryan knew this.  Not only didn’t he act to protect our nation; he allowed Rep. Devin Nunes – who’s been exposed as a White House stooge so many times that one loses count – to continue to whitewash the White House and cast aspersions on the investigation.  Mr. Ryan’s actions exceeded acquiescence; they approached Constitutional malfeasance.

Mr. Trump has throughout his presidency been fixated on a Mexican border wall that virtually all security experts — and, indeed, most politicians of both parties — consider an ineffective waste of taxpayer dollars, and has currently forced a federal shutdown causing hardship on federal workers and depriving our citizens of government services to which they are entitled.  Mr. Ryan knew that Mr. Trump’s maneuver is purely a political stunt.  Not only did he do nothing to block the endeavor; in his last real act as Speaker, he enabled Mr. Trump’s partisan spasm by engineering House passage of a bill authorizing wall funding that he knew couldn’t pass the Senate … to try to shift blame for the shutdown to the Democrats.

I’ve been hard on Mr. Ryan in these two posts.  I’ve at times wondered about the source of the visceral disdain I have developed for him over the past two years – which, in some ways, exceeds even the distaste I have for President Trump.  I’ve come to realize that it’s because I believe that Mr. Ryan did know better, did have honorable instincts, had the power to act … and chose to capitulate to our nation’s darkest instincts for the sake of partisan politics and a few Pyrrhic legislative victories.  He was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives – two steps from the presidency.  He had the position, opportunity and duty to protect our nation by confronting the rants of a demagogue … and he stood aside.

In a 2012 New Yorker piece, a close aide of Mr. Ryan described his philosophy as follows:  “Only by taking responsibility for oneself … can one … make responsible choices between right and wrong ….”  While Mr. Ryan obviously learned a grade schooler’s lessons in his Janesville civics classes – “How a Bill Becomes a Law” – he failed to absorb the statesman’s guideposts:  Morality; Rule of Law; Responsibility; Honor; and Courage.  In blog parlance, his legacy is that of capitulation, abdication and cowardice.  In the language of the street … he let us down.  He didn’t have the guts.

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