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Paul Ryan Is Evil, Not Weak

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Ryan-invites-Trump-to-address-joint-session-of-Congress

The emerging meme that Paul Ryan is “spineless” gives him far too much credit. It implies that he would like to stand up to Trump but lacks courage. But I have no idea why anyone thinks standing up to Trump is his preference. He’s a full-on Trump supporter and collaborator because Trump can help him fulfill his longtime goals of passing massive upper-class tax cuts and brutalizing the poor:

It is true that Ryan does not care about the principles he claims to care about. But it’s inaccurate to imagine him as merely a soulless careerist. Ryan does have serious principles. He is deeply committed to the principle of liberating the affluent from the burdens of progressive taxation. That description may sound like an arch comment to those of us who don’t share Ryan’s bent. But to people like Ryan, it is a moral conviction of the highest order.

[…]

Obviously, the defense of the right of the one percent to keep its earnings is an unpopular basis for political messaging. And so Ryan has an ecumenical view of the political message needed to sell his policies. He is happy to posture as a fanatical debt hawk if debt-hawkery is a promising vehicle to advance the goal of cutting taxes for the rich, but he will also support and even demand massively higher deficits if that is what is needed. Ryan has promoted outreach to Latinos and other socially moderate constituencies as a practical step toward expanding his party’s base. Ryan continued to defend those policies before the election, when it looked probable that Trump would lose, and he would need to rebuild in the wake of the expected defeat. But he is also perfectly willing to abandon those policies if he happens to have a race-baiting Republican prepared to sign his cherished tax cuts into law.

Ryan might supplicate himself to limitless acts of corruption or misrule by Trump, but he would never stand silent if Trump attempted to implement even a tiny tax increase on the highest-earning one percent. I happen to find Ryan’s belief system to be rather deranged. But it is a belief system.

As long as Trump is willing to sign what Ryan and McConnell put on his desk, he’ll have their full support. Not because Ryan and McConnell are cowardly, but because Trump is useful to them and their substantively horrible and deeply unpopular agenda.

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  • Brett

    It really does kill me that anyone took Ryan seriously as some serious-minded Republican. He’s literally been saying the same shit for years with his budget plan, regardless of circumstances.

    Is it the hang-dog expression?

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      I note that, excluding the baby, the only people not smiling in the photo are Ryan, Trump and Melania.

    • bizarroMike

      Lying about a budget is what makes a Republican serious, juust like lying about one’s good will to the poor.

    • econoclast

      He’s gotta be charismatic when you meet him face-to-face, and he’s probably mastered the art of sounding like an expert when you’re just listening to him.

      • FlipYrWhig

        I don’t think it’s “charismatic” exactly — I think it’s “sincere.” He’s full of shit but seems even-tempered and Boy Scout-ish. It doesn’t take much to rocket to the top of the charts as a Republican politician, a class of people who are grossly unappealing as human beings.

        • sibusisodan

          There’s footage of Obama at the House Rep Caucus meeting in 09 (?), and Ryan is both incredibly polite and incredibly proud to be able to introduce his family to the President.

          I’ve never been able to understand the degree of dissonance that must exist to be that sincerely polite in person to someone you spend your professional life calumnying.

          This probably means I have some similar blind spots too, but still.

        • Derelict

          They’re grossly unappealing because of their policy preferences. When you meet and speak with (most) Republican politicians, they’re charming, polite, and genuinely nice. It’s just that they look at the world through a filter that prevents them from feeling any empathy.

    • Is it the hang-dog expression?

      It’s the white skin, the blue eyes, and the mania for work and working out. He ticks a lot of boxes for what people want to see in a sober minded policy geek. Next to reptilian creatures like Trump and McConnell, he’ll look honest no matter what he says.

      • FlipYrWhig

        Was it Matt Yglesias who said that media people in Washington seemed to think Eric Cantor was smart, despite any evidence of such, entirely on the basis of his glasses?

        • ΧΤΠΔ

          Just like Macias Nguema.

        • witlesschum

          George Will’s entire career was based on him looking like George Will.

          • Jordan

            When even Kramer recognizes it …

            • JustRuss

              Heh, my favorite Seinfeld moment!

              • jeer9

                Jerry Seinfeld is an obnoxious asshole whom all right-thinking people should abhor. His comedy show promoted oppression of fragile minorities and ridicule of politically correct speech. Anyone who enjoyed that series is an insensitive stupid jerkface as well.

                I will be releasing a list of acceptable comedies in the next few days. Stay tuned.

                • MyNameIsZweig

                  Jerry Seinfeld is an obnoxious asshole

                  Sure, but aren’t most comedians?

        • Phil Perspective

          I don’t know but it was Ezra Klein that was still fluffing Ryan even after Krghulu came out publicly and called Paul Ryan a charlatan, con-man and a phony.

        • SoRefined

          Rick Perry is still mad that didn’t work for him.

          • witlesschum

            But he can’t remember exactly why it didn’t.

  • Breadbaker

    The dismantling of every social welfare program is only secondary to them. Remaining in power is their first goal. In Ryan’s case, he has to avoid the possibility of a complete collapse of his majority, a la 1994, 2006 or 2010. With all the gerrymandering in the world, a President of zero popularity does not lead to Congressional majorities. The real lesson here is 1974.

    • MDrew

      Good point.

    • You’re assuming, of course, that those who would like to overthrow the current establishment will actually be allowed to vote in 2018 and 2020.

      • humanoid.panda

        He forgot about the secret clause in the liberal contract when we are all officially obligated to kick ourself in the nuts twice daily, in preparation to what the republicans are going to do poor old us.

        • Just sayin’. The Koch brothers alone are committing several hundred million to support voter suppression efforts out in the states. And this government will back them 100%.

          • Shalimar

            Voter suppression has to be done state by state, and it affects votes at the margins of society. What more can they even do in places like Florida that have been racially fucking with their voter rolls for decades?

            Keeping 5-10% of people in 30 states from voting is not going to keep Republicans in power if they continue to hate on so many different groups simultaneously.

            • humanoid.panda

              Yes. Michigan has an interesting system in place, in which people without voter ID can sign an affidavit testifying they are who they are. In 2016, 25,000 such affidavits were filed. Obama in 2012 won the state by over 300,000 voters. So while we must do whatever we can to protect the 25,000, there are 275,000 people who are eligible, weren’t suppressed and didn’t vote, voted 3rd party, or voted Trump.

              • MyNameIsZweig

                Of course, those 275,000 people might have all moved away between 2012 and 2016. It is Michigan we’re talking about, after all.

    • witlesschum

      But remaining in power isn’t just beating the Democrats. He has to keep his caucus in some kind of order and the fringe of the Teahadis will get unruly if he doesn’t do some demolishing. They’re going to be constantly antsy with Trump blundering around, too.

      • sigaba

        In theory yes but Indont think we’ve seen any indication of that. As long as Trump is enabled to do his crazy nonsense the Freedom Caucus seems to be mollified.

        With the news yesterday about Trump drafting the immigration order with congressional aides under NDA not to talk to congress, one has to wonder exactly what they think their job is. The questions is, do congressional Republicans actually take congress seriously, or for them is congress just a thing that can either let a President do whatever he wants or inhibit everything he wants, and the whole legislation thing is redundant? It’s clear a lot of them simply hate the concept of a federal legislature and see it as simply a means to an end.

        • witlesschum

          They’re the people Trump’s still in a honeymoon with, though. Yeah, I’m extrapolating, but the people who primaried Eric Cantor don’t seem like they’ll be satisfied with anything possible on this earth.

    • Scott Lemieux

      The dismantling of every social welfare program is only secondary to them. Remaining in power is their first goal.

      I think this is true of McConnell, but not Ryan.

      • njorl

        I think it’s complicated. Killing social programs in a way that sweeps Democrats into power to recreate them is pointless. I think even McConnell would go out in a blaze of “glory” if he thought it would last. McConnell probably has a more realistic view of how hard that is than Ryan.

      • Breadbaker

        Being in a House minority in 2018 would make him a former Speaker and probably not minority leader, even. And damaged goods for running for President. Perpetuation in power is always the number one goal of anyone in his position. Yes, he has things he’d love to dismantle, but the environment Dear Leader has created is not conducive to making it stick, as njorl points out.

  • MDrew

    I completely agree with this evaluation, but just to parse the alternative, I think the idea is that, based on something Ryan may have said during the campaign during the Billy Bush moment and maybe on the Judge Curiel matter, and just on the general idea that Ryan is somehow a classical liberal at heart not a heartless conservative, that he is betraying some of his true ideas out of an overcautious attempt to corral Trump into staying with the Randian Ryan agenda. The notion would be that Ryan could still get that from Trump even if he stood up to him on various parts of his fascism.

    If this were true and it were because of overcautious miscalculation by Ryan, I could see an argument that this would be spinelessness (for this you have to not think that Ryan was already evil just based on his pre-Trump agenda).

    But I agree with you: this is no miscalculation. I think he knows he could get what he wants from Trump if he spoke up for one or two American values along the way. He’s simply choosing the path of least resistance. It’s an affirmative choice, not a failure to put spine behind something he wants to do. He just doesn’t want to do it (even though at some level I think he does know that pushing back would be the right thing at least on some of Trump’s perfidy so far). So, yes. He’s evil.

    • DrDick

      Trump’s positions, to the extent that he has any coherent positions other than “I am the greatest”, are all completely in line with mainline Republicans for the past 20-30 years (at least). His only sin so far is saying the quiet parts out loud. In the longer term, gross incompetence may way against him, though it really does not seem a big hurdle for most Republicans.

      • SoRefined

        “Frankly, when I look at this, I think he was ill-served by his staff,” Kasich said. “If I were the president, I’d be very upset with the staff — that they didn’t say, ‘Hey, wait hold on a second.’ Because that’s what executives do. They have people around them that help them to understand, ‘Hey, your message is fine, but here is what’s going to come from it.’”

        John Kasich: I’ll give you the bigotry you want, but with plausible deniability. (So vote for me in 2020.)

      • ExpatJK

        Trump’s positions, to the extent that he has any coherent positions other than “I am the greatest”

        Let’s be fair and comprehensive here, he has a position of “let me enrich myself at other people’s expense” as well, and has consistently held that one for some time. Clearly this position is related to the one you stated, but nonetheless..

        • njorl

          As long as he doesn’t break the second Republican commandment – Thou shalt not steal from anyone wealthier than thyself.

          • Dennis Orphen

            The rich are allowed to steal from everyone but each other.

  • Hells Littlest Angel

    How dare anyone suggest Ryan is weak? He’s craven, but not weak.

    • Chetsky

      ehh, craven == “cowardly”. He ain’t that. He’s just evil.

      • Derelict

        If we judge a man by his actions, Paul Ryan is evil and the hand servant of Mammon. The bills he writes, the policies he pursues, the votes he casts–all of these things have one of two effects: To punish the poor for being poor, or to reward the rich for being rich.

        For all of Ryan’s supposed piety, I have yet to see any evidence that his religion serves as anything more than light clothing to cover his naked evil.

        • bizarroMike

          Like scrubbing clean pots for a photo op at a soup kitchen, religion is a useful prop that displays the seriosity of his commitment to the poor.

          • SoRefined

            He’s so committed to the poor he wants to greatly swell their ranks!

        • benjoya

          mammon, jesus, we quibble.

          • Shalimar

            Whether there was a real Jesus or not is open to further investigation, but the Gospel Jesus definitely was not real. He was the manifestation of every positive value and lesson that 1st century Jewish civilization could attach to his narrative. As such, he was the opposite of Mammon.

        • Domino

          Makes one wonder just how much of Ayn Rand he has taken to heart. I know years ago he tried to pretend he wasn’t a hard-core fanboy of hers, but he can’t erase giving his staff her books.

        • ironic irony

          He’s the proto-typical conservative Catholic- white, male, straight, and only concerned for the unborn and tax cuts. They view the suffering of the poor (including their darker skinned co-religionists) as good for the soul. He’s Mother Teresa with a Randian bent. They disgust me.

        • Aussie

          They believe that kicking a man when he is down only encourages him to get up

  • Marlowe

    I had read that piece earlier and I entirely agree with it. Chait can be so good, in both substance and clear-headed writing, on so many issues that it is infuriating that he is so bad on campus “political correctness” matters and education issues in general (on which his views are likely influenced by his wife). Indeed his pieces on these issues are so wrongheaded and hateful that I no longer even attempt to read them.

    • Cheerfull

      I think it would be fair next time the LGM commentariat, rightfully, pummel Chait for one of the stupid things he says and writes to acknowledge that a significant chunk of the posts made on this blog stem from, or state their agreement with columns Chait originally wrote.

      As for Ryan, it’s just a fact that Republican politicians of his generation really have no strong allegiances or moral principles except tax cuts and power. I’d be willing to bet few would even sacrifice much when it came to abortion issues, if doing so stood between them and the policies they actually care about. They can mouth words on MLK Jr. day, but none of the concepts of equality have any attachment to their hearts, and liberty is meaningful to the extent it means the rich and powerful get to do what they want.

      • FlipYrWhig

        it’s just a fact that Republican politicians of his generation really have no strong allegiances or moral principles except tax cuts and power

        See, I’d say almost the reverse — they grew up steeped in Reagan hagiography and consider “small government,” a/k/a slashing the welfare state, a moral principle. I think they genuinely believe it.

        • witlesschum

          Yeah, the Teahadis wouldn’t be primarying incumbents sometimes to their political detriment if they weren’t real, true believers.

          I think they’re real, true believers in authoritarianism on top of tax cuts and naming things for Reagan and that’s a moral principle. If we let people who aren’t fit for leadership lead and get out of their place, it’s bad on both a moral and practical level and isn’t good for anyone. Adjust for your individual Republican on how much the fitness if determined by just being white, male and conservative and how much by adherence to conservative principle and how much just straight by how much cash you have in the bank.

    • LeeEsq

      People are allowed to come to different conclusions on subjects. Not everybody on the same generic side is going to agree about everything.

      • Schadenboner

        I DISAGREE!

        E: Seriously though, Chait is good on what he’s good on, and not-good on what he’s not-good on. This is not fucking difficult. What about “support any friend, oppose any foe” is confusing?

        • LeeEsq

          There seems to be an expectation that everybody on the same generic political side will believe the same thing about every issue these days. It might be because of rising partisanship.

          • sigaba

            This isn’t about agreement as much as it is about political support. Many people don’t agree with Trump but voted for him and offer their obedience and acquiescence.

          • sigaba

            The signature phenomenon of the Trump presidency so far for me is the completely instrumental quality of his support. The man himself, his judgement and convictions, his basic sanity, his ability to do the job–large swathes of the people who voted for him and work with him seem to see all of these as redundant. All he is is a bridge to a tax cut, or white race consciousness, or banning abortion (you see A LOT of those).

            Hardly any of his supporters ever defend him in positive terms, nobody ever describes him as wise, or decent, and they try as hard as hell to get put on the spot on these issues. The best they can do is stammer that he won the election so he must be popular, or that he’s a “good businessman.” His support is angstroms deep.

            So what I don’t see is fulsome “agreement” between conservatives on everything he stands for, they put up with everything they don’t like about Trump as the price they have to pay.

            • Hardly any of his supporters ever defend him in positive terms

              Except for Boris Johnson (via Paul Krugman’s twittering):

              Robert Peston ‏@Peston 22 hours ago

              [email protected] says Queen has welcomed Mugabe & Ceausescu on state visits, in defence of invitation to @realDonaldTrump . Errrrrrrrrrrrrrr

              I mean, you can’t get much more positive than that!

              • sigaba

                In the present context this is little worse to a Trump supporter than claiming his Muslim ban was “Obama’s idea.”

            • DamnYankees

              The problem here is people don’t continue to live like this. Action causes belief. Whatever the reason you started, if you devote years of your life to defending and supporting trump, you will come to believe in him. It’s basic psychology. It’s the frog in the kettle.

              • sigaba

                On the one hand I don’t see a lot of action here, society is with us and as long as we remain vocal and mobilized we will continue to deal him reverses.

                On the other isn’t the damage already done? If it couldn’t be Trump they were still prepared to sell their birthright for the Cause. Once that’s clicked the mind they will always remain dangerous. The particular “vessel” is redundant.

            • JustRuss

              His support is angstroms deep.

              *golf clap*

        • Scott Lemieux

          Seriously though, Chait is good on what he’s good on, and not-good on what he’s not-good on. This is not fucking difficult.

          I’ve never really understood the widespread failure to grasp this obvious point.

  • aturner339

    The search for the “reasonable republican” had taken on an almost religious fervor as polarization has left us with no elected liberal republicans even at the state level. What we’ve really been looking for all this time is the ghost of Edward Brooke.

    The fact is that liberals and conservatives have fundamental disagreements on what is reasonable. Trump and Ryan share far more than Ryan and Pelosi. Conservatism is a relatively coherent belief system centered around anti-egalitarianism. It has no particular attachment to notions of liberty or equality and never has. When the liberals vanished from the GOP so did any hope that we would ever find a republican who we consider reasonable. The best we can hope for is Mitt Romney.

    • bizarroMike

      I think part of what makes it hard is the fundamental dishonesty in Republican messaging. I’m not just talking about the fake news, conspiracy theory, or paranoid style, I’m talking about the entire post-war need to lie about wanting to blow up the whole social welfare state. And by “lie”, I mean the goal is clearly discussed in some conservative circles, but the traditional Republican pol genuflects before SS and Medicare while campaigning. I think it has been going on long enough that hardly anyone ever remarks on it in the press.

      I’m curious if Ryan will finally load up the speedboat with explosives and drive it toward the New Deal. It is his chance, but it carries electoral risk.

      • aturner339

        Yes I think the American political ecosystem is distressingly vulnerable to abject cynicism. Trump is the living proof.

    • Warren Terra

      That fluke Republican congressman from New Orleans who got elected after the Democratic incumbent got caught with a hundred grand in his freezer seemed like an unusually decent Republican.

      But, yeah it’s amazing how utterly lacking in even the slightest hint of decency every Republican seems to be.

      • CP

        But, yeah it’s amazing how utterly lacking in even the slightest hint of decency every Republican seems to be.

        I think it’s basically this simple;

        Republicans can’t win by promising good things (be it welfare systems or even basic competence) to their constituents. Because that’s not something they want.

        Therefore, they’ve spent the last fifty years building a popular base by appealing to the dark side of humanity (racism being only the most blatant case of this) and by flat out lying.

        Over fifty cumulative years, the GOP is pretty much entirely made up of the people on whom this works: the most sadistic, and the most easily conned. The bad and the dumb. (And they pick their politicians accordingly).

        Hence, your last sentence.

        • aturner339

          I would add the crux of the matter is that liberals and conservatives have fundamentally different ideas of what constitutes decency.

          To them our defense of racial, religion, sexual, etc minorities is indecent.

          • Lurking Canadian

            Yeah, but Trump fails on even the standards they do claim to have. When the Family Values Voters pick the thrice-married adulterer over the once-married grandmother, you have to think they might not be Voting their Family Values after all.

            • Rob in CT

              They were of course dishonest when claiming to care about the personal conduct of politicians, and they’ve shown this repeatedly before Trump.

              They care about SCOTUS, and they’re smart enough as voters to keep their eyes on the damned ball. Unlike some others I could mention.

    • LeeEsq

      Americans haven’t had parties divided along strict ideological lines for a long time, so getting used to it is going to take time. The last time the parties were this seriously divided ideological was during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.

      • CP

        One way this era is really reminding me of the run-up-to-the-Civil-War era, in that then as now, the divide isn’t really ideological. Or rather it is, but only in a one-sided kind of way. It isn’t/wasn’t about the left/North and right/South polarizing themselves into extremes that drove out the reasonable middle – but rather about, on one side, the ultra-polarized right/South, and on the other side, everyone else (center left, extreme left, reasonable middle), many of whom would probably be on the other side if the fanatics hadn’t driven everyone else out.

        • It isn’t/wasn’t about the left/North and right/South polarizing themselves into extremes that drove out the reasonable middle – but rather about, on one side, the ultra-polarized right/South, and on the other side, everyone else (center left, extreme left, reasonable middle), many of whom would probably be on the other side if the fanatics hadn’t driven everyone else out.

          A very apt comparison. There were a lot of Whigs and Democrats who were perfectly comfortable with slavery who winced every time one of the fire eaters opened his damn mouth and shouted about Lincoln being a tyrant. The real question then becomes: are there any modern Republicans with as much self respect as the craven jackasses who eventually abandoned the slavery fanatics?

          So far the outlook on that one isn’t good.

    • efgoldman

      What we’ve really been looking for all this time is the ghost of Edward Brooke.

      Elliott Richardson, acting AG who’s firing became the opening salvo in Tricksie Dicksie Nixie’s “Saturday Massacre” (previous post) was one, as well. Very old line (family traced back to the Mayflower, I believe) socially very liberal, moderate on fiscal issues, he was a good AG in MA.
      No more like him anywhere with (R) after their names. Today, if he even got into politics, he’d be a centrist Democrat, as would Ed Brooke.

      • ExpatJK

        Javits comes to mind as well.

        • Breadbaker

          Milliken in Michigan (who was bounced out of the Michigan GOP for denouncing Trump last year). He ran against a pro-life Dem, the first time (of two) I voted for a Republican against a Democrat for anything but Secretary of State in my life (Frank Hatch against Ed King in Mass. was the second).

    • CP

      The search for the “reasonable republican” had taken on an almost religious fervor as polarization has left us with no elected liberal republicans even at the state level.

      Arnie Vinick Syndrome, as I call it. And good catch on “no elected liberal Republicans” being the problem. I keep having to remind people that when you say you miss the old days with reasonable Republicans, you’re not remembering an era when conservatives were more sensible, you’re just remembering an era when Republicans were less conservative.

    • tsam

      This is what happens when they mine mountain cabins and churches for votes. For their base, Paul Ryan IS cowardly because I saw a black guy with sagging pants at the store. MY STORE.

  • Crusty

    I feel like Ryan crafted his image of serious man of great integritude because he thought it would be popular and because he thought being a Trumpian monster would be unacceptable. But now that he’s found out he’s wrong about that, he’s happy to change to what he really wanted to be in the first place.

    • I feel like Ryan crafted his image of serious man of great integritude because he thought it would be popular and because he thought being a Trumpian monster would be unacceptable.

      I’ve always gotten a True Believer vibe from Ryan. I think he really does believe he’s an honest man of great integritude. When he says shit about welfare robbing the poor of the dignity of work and talks up private charity, he believes those things are true. When he uses magic asterisks in his budget proposals, he believes he’s doing so because the CBO won’t recognize the truth that tax cuts for the wealthy will unleash the economy and pay for themselves.

      That he is considered a hypocrite strikes him as just one more attack on his humble, dignified honesty. Consider that goofball workout photoshoot he did when he was the VP nominee. He’s a fitness geek because he honestly believes that if everyone were as gaga for exercise as he is, nobody would need to go to the doctor. He sees his workout routines as part of what makes him awesome, not something that could ever make him look dorky.

      My suspicion is that he finds Trump personally distasteful (lazy and undisciplined), but cares a lot less about that than he does about finally fixing the American government so that it stops holding back the immense prosperity that will flow from Randian supermen like him. He’s not spineless, he’s an ideologue.

      • FlipYrWhig

        I totally agree with this appraisal of Ryan.

        • LeeEsq

          Seconded. Ryan strikes me as a person who really believes that making things better for the wealthy will help everybody else simply by increasing the size of the economic pie.

          • aturner339

            Or at the very least it will increase the welfare of those worthy of increased welfare. The rest are simply too lazy/dumb.

            Conservatives believe that the market is a natural and/or divine order.

        • Domino

          Just to add to this – as Steve M. pointed out, Ryan isn’t spineless, he’s amoral.

          • Breadbaker

            To quote Coleman in Trading Places, why not both?

      • bizarroMike

        I don’t agree. His ridiculous marathon time brag and his support for Medicare Part D point to someone who is habituated to lying and carrying water if it gives him access to power.

        Also, I think that my notion of believing the effect of a policy will be X isn’t the same as Ryan’s belief in the Great Tax Cut. The stated motivation for the tax cut changes whenerver it has to, and it doesn’t bother him at all. The outcome of the policy, ostensibly the thing we’re all supposed to be worried about, is just the sizzle he’s using to sell the steak. Not only does he not care about the outcome, but he is capable of “believing” in it for as long as it takes without breaking a sweat.

        • Rob in CT

          Many (most? all?) Conservatives believe progressive taxation is immoral. That’s the bedrock. The rest, as you say, is how they dress it up.

      • mds

        I think he really does believe he’s an honest man of great integritude.

        When he accepted the Vice Presidential nomination in 2012, his speech was almost entirely wall-to-wall blatant bullshit. I mean, straight-out lying about trivially debunkable stuff. Now, maybe you want to assert that he’s a goddamned illiterate idiot, maybe you want to assert that he has a massive brain tumor that makes him hallucinate about everything, but otherwise you don’t get to look at that smarmy fuck smirking up there on the stage as he lies and lies and lies, and claim that he “really believes it.”

        New York Magazine ran a non-slobbery profile of Ryan the Wonderwonk back in 2012. Apologies for the wall of text, but:

        The banks lobbied fiercely to protect their [student loan] gravy train. Among the staunchest advocates of those government-subsidized banks was … Paul Ryan, who fought to protect bank subsidies that many of his fellow Republicans deemed too outrageous to defend. In 2009, Obama finally eliminated the guaranteed-lending racket. It could save the government an estimated $62 billion, according to the CBO.

        Not everything in Ryan’s career, and possibly nothing at all, is quite so undeniably venal. You could pluck any other single example out of Ryan’s long history of strident conservatism and he would be able to defend it, at the very least, on ideological grounds. A tax cut for the rich, a hike in military spending—all those could be explained as a blow for the cause of Reaganism. This was an almost astonishingly unlucky break, an instance where he lacked even ideological cover—standing up for higher spending at the behest of a powerful lobby lacking any plausible rationale for its subsidy.

        At the moment the page opened to that unfortunate item, Ryan’s heart must have stopped. Here was a reporter trying to cast him as a movie-hero outsider, and he was performing on cue. Yet the book opened to a page that, cruelly, just happened to expose the gap between Ryan’s image and the reality more clearly than anything else possibly could have.

        Ryan probably knew, even in that split second, that he stood little chance of exposure. (The overlap between television news reporters and people with a detailed understanding of the federal budget is quite small.) Yet a lesser politician might have panicked, or hesitated, or possibly tried to flip to a different page. In that moment, Ryan revealed the qualities that have propelled him to his current position. As cool as can be, and as winsome as ever, he said, “This is perfect.”

        That’s who he is.

        • Origami Isopod

          +1

          The “true ideologue” act is just that. He performs it well, I do have to say.

          • You may be right that’s it’s all an act. But I find it less likely that he’s an Oscar worthy actor than that he’s a half smart True Believer whose commitment to his overall ideological goal allows him to be flexible sometimes. It’s not that he’s above lying or double dealing, it’s that he sees doing so in the pursuit of a higher goal as acceptable.

        • JKTH

          Yep. Like any Republican, he wants to give as much money to the rich as possible and maintain power. Anything else is secondary.

  • pillsy

    Yup. Trump’s fucked-up fascist agenda isn’t very popular, but it’s a lot more popular than Ryan’s fucked-up Randian agenda.

    • busker type

      This is true

    • Breadbaker

      The difference is that people haven’t taken to the streets as readily over what Ryan supports.

  • Rob in CT

    I agree with this.

    However, I don’t have a problem of the “he’s weak” framing either. Americans do not look favorably on someone they view as a spineless weakling. Thus, painting Ryan as one may be helpful.

    • Yes.

      Plus the fact is, he is weak when it comes to defending principles he claimed to be of great importance (fiscal conservativism, religious freedom, etc.). Whether it’s due to him being craven or being a fraud (it’s the latter), he has made himself look weak by refusing, when the chips are down, to stand up for those alleged principles. I see no harm in pressing that issue. For the issue is not whether is weak or evil. He is both.

    • JKTH

      Right. And if it becomes a strong enough narrative, it might induce him to split with Trump on some issues.

    • JustRuss

      Point. We’ve seen that “lying asshole” is a winner with a good chunk our electorate, “he’s weak” seems like a good way to go here.

  • CDT

    Say what you will about the tenets of national socialism, at least it’s an ethos, Dude.

  • sum goy

    the Spineless meme has popped up on my FB feed, so there is a utilitarian value in that, but long-tern characterizing him as an evil Zombie Eyed Granny Starver will be both more thruthful and more effective.

    • N__B

      It depends open whether the “swing voters” hate weakness more or less than their grandmothers. I’m guessing more.

  • Gregor Sansa

    Chris Coons is weak, not evil. Follow the link and show him our side has teeth too.

    • Origami Isopod

      Will it do any good for non-Delawarians to call him? My impressive from the Indivisible guide is that if you can’t vote them out, they don’t care what you think.

      • Gregor Sansa

        My feeling is that he doesn’t care what you think, but he does care what Lisa Rochester thinks, and she might care what you think (because you could donate to her primary campaign against him in 2020).

        So calling him is putting him on notice that he should be listening to her.

        I know she’s getting calls on this. If it’s a couple dozen rather than just 5 or 6, she’ll take notice. She’s a good guy. So I realize this is a bit of a bank shot but I think it’s worth it.

    • ExpatJK

      “But I’m not going to do to President Trump’s nominee what the Republicans in the Senate did to President Obama’s,” Coons said. “I will push for a hearing and I will push for a vote.”
      Other Democrats privately agreed with that sentiment.

      He had better start changing his tune quickly. WTF is all I have to say to that.

  • Cheap Wino

    I feel a lot of Republicans are just deluded true believers that aren’t particularly smart. They’ve been told that tax cuts grow the economy and that liberals lie since they were 8 years old and they’ve internalized that alternative fact. That doesn’t mean that Ryan himself isn’t evil, he may be smart enough to understand that he’s okay with policies that end up with people dying killing people. But I think a large percentage Rs are just a bad combination of ignorant and stupid.

    We have a local state rep who is as dumb as a box of rocks and damn if she isn’t a true believer. I doubt she has the capacity to critically evaluate her claims, much less have the impetus to do so since she has been elected twice now. I suspect this is typical.

    • FlipYrWhig

      We had a county-level politician who knows only conservative dogma and literally can’t add numbers on a piece of paper, and was finally tossed out of that spot for aggravating a particular neighborhood… and proceeded to run for the statehouse in November and nearly win. Upward failure expected.

  • Hayden Arse

    OT, but is today the day we get an executive order changing February from Black History Month to “All History Month” or just “History Month”?

    • tsam

      Why would they bother with any pretense? They often rhetorically ask why there isn’t a white history month

    • Rob in CT

      Not sure you’re thinking big Bannon enough. White History month. Book it, libtards.

  • Origami Isopod

    O/T and I don’t know if anyone has posted it to another thread, but ARE THEY FUCKING KIDDING.

    • Rob in CT

      Time to burn up the phones again, I guess.

    • yet_another_lawyer

      That would mean Democrats could lose leverage in the next Supreme Court fight if Trump were to replace a more liberal justice, since the GOP now has 52 seats in the Senate.
      Preserving the filibuster now could give Democrats more leverage in the future, proponents of this strategy say. But it would enrage the Democratic base that wants a furious Democratic response to Trump’s court pick.

      This is, and always has been, insane troll logic. “We can never use the filibuster because if we do they’ll eliminate it,” is and always has been functionally the same as not having a filibuster.

      • Rob in CT

        The moment they use it to stop something Republicans really want, the filibuster is toast. They need to understand this.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Have we learned nothing from the Gang of 8?

        • liberalrob

          Gotta keep that powder dry…for when we really need it.

    • ExpatJK

      At least some of them seem to have sense. Jeff Merkley deserves support for having the right idea here.

      In an early salvo on the issue, Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, told Politico Monday he would filibuster virtually anyone Trump’s selects for the court.
      “This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”

  • DamnYankees

    This point as made for me in the scariest article I’ve read, maybe in my life:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/how-to-build-an-autocracy/513872/

    “How Donald Trump Could Build an Autocracy in the United States”

    The scenario Frum lays our is terrifyingly not farfetched. And reading it really hammers home that the biggest protection we have is the integrity of the Republican Party. All then Frum lays all the many, many quotes of Paul Ryan being completely indifferent and willfully blind to anything which might prevent that from happening.

    It’s utterly frightening.

    • humanoid.panda

      I’m not sayinf this is an otherwordly scenario, but notice how many hidden assumptions Frum makes to create his “Trump as victorious autocrat” scenario:
      1. Trump’s policies are an economic success.
      2. The GOP refrains from real assaults on the social welfare system.
      3. Trump’s opponents don’t learn from his successes in deploying social media.
      4. No major foreign policy disasters happen.
      5. Trump administration is orderly, consistent and well-coordinated.
      6. Different industries with disparate interests all come to live with whatever Trump offers.
      7. There is no Katrina style event that bring competency+climate to the center of political universe.
      8. The mass popular movement we are seeing the beginnings of totally dissolves.

      If all this happens, then yeah, we might be screwed.

      • humanoid.panda

        Shorte me: Orban in Hungary or Erdogan in Turkey are a good examples of the worst case scenario Trumpism- but neither is saddled with the ideological defects of the GOP, or the personality disorders of Trump, or govern a society with as many moving parts as the US, AND they happen to enjoy the support of rising parts of the electorate.

      • DamnYankees

        I agree there are a lot of assumptions, and of course this scenario is not guaranteed, or even likely, but I think its extremely plausible.

        I think the biggest assumptions you list here all really boil down into one thing, which is the assumption that nothing really awful happens which would cause the GOP leaders or base to turn on Trump – that bucket sort of sweeps in your bullet points 1 2, 4 and 7. I think you’re being a little broad in your listing though – I don’t think any of those occurring are necessarily harmful to Trump, as long as they happen in a way that lets him mobilize his base, as oppose to in a way which has his base turn on him or become dispirited. It’s not so easy as “recession = this can’t happen”.

        I’d also point out that I sadly have no faith in #3 and #8, because they boil down to the same point, which is I fear that liberals are overestimating how much this can stop him. Trump’s “success” with social media is, in a lot of ways, simply that he can directly communicate with his base without an intermediary. That renders both the media and the vocal opposition less useful. The argument isn’t that the rising popular opposition dissolves, it’s that it won’t matter. For example, I don’t see how this movement sustains itself unless Democrats take back at least 1 house of Congress in 2018. If Democrats fail to do that, I can easily see it being broken and dispirited. Secondly, I think we overestimate how many people are in opposition. One of the most depressing things I saw over the weekend was a tweet from that right wing radio dude Bill Mitchell – who everyone mocked before the election as an almost parody of a Trump fan. His tweet was something like “Tens of thousands liberals are marching in the streets against our President. Meanwhile, tens of millions of us are sitting in our living rooms cheering him on.” And the sad thing is, he’s not wrong.

        Maybe I’m too far down my rabbit hole of pessimism. But it’s what I see.

        • humanoid.panda

          I think the biggest assumptions you list here all really boil down into one thing, which is the assumption that nothing really awful happens which would cause the GOP leaders or base to turn on Trump – that bucket sort of sweeps in your bullet points 1 2, 4 and 7

          I think these two sentences are the sources of our disagreement: while a serious split within the GOP is required for Trump presidency to fall apart, liberal mobilization+ loss of support from marginal voters is more than enough to lose him the next 2 sets of elections. Remember: W never lost support of either Congressional GOP or the hard-core republican electorate.

          • humanoid.panda

            One of the most depressing things I saw over the weekend was a tweet from that right wing radio dude Bill Mitchell – who everyone mocked before the election as an almost parody of a Trump fan. His tweet was something like “Tens of thousands liberals are marching in the streets against our President. Meanwhile, tens of millions of us are sitting in our living rooms cheering him on.” And the sad thing is, he’s not wrong.

            First off, only a week ago, there were 4 million people on the streets. Second, given that Hillary got 66 million votes, there are tens of millions people cheering the protester too. Third, the Tea Party is a very good example of how a relatively small group of marchers can activate tens of millions- and Obama was a much more popular president then Trump. Fourth, just because Mithcell (and Scott Adams) “won”, that doesn’t make them any less of a clown. For instance, they both predicted that Trump would win in a historic landslide. That’s…not what happened.

            • Breadbaker

              I have the freaking President of the United States here to say you’re wrong.

              • guthrie

                You must have missed the tiny little words “historic landslide”.

          • DamnYankees

            The disconnect we may be having is my deep seated worry that Trump – in geuine contradistinction to other Republicans and other Presidents – has no respect for democracy or the rule of law. I think he will not only make a serious effort to prevent people from voting, but he also won’t recognize election results he doesn’t like. Maybe this fear is overblown, and the resilience of our system to someone in power refusing to concede is stronger than I think, but I’m not confident.

            I don’t think Trump concedes if he loses an elected by less than, I don’t know, 6 points? And we have a genuine crisis when that happens. Combine that with the fact that voter suppression efforts make it really unlikely he’d ever get blown out, and there’s a problem.

            • humanoid.panda

              To my mind, this is the classical “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” problem. Our task is to defeat Trump in elections, even by 0.1%. There is simply no purpose served in speculating on what follows (but the person running for president ought to have a staffer draw up a plan).

              [My perspective might be influenced by my life experience here: in my youth, I worked in DRP (disaster recovery planning) for computer systems in the Israeli military. Trying to design a system that was fool-proof to everything was impossible and we were stuck, until we realized that in a tiny country of 7 million people, there was simply no point to preparing 100% data survival plan for multiple nuclear bomb scenario. Because at that point, the survivors would have bigger problems…

              • humanoid.panda

                And anyway, any scenario where Trump loses and refuses to vacate is very,very,very different from the scenarios Frum outlines. Neither Erdogan, Orban, or Bibi ever did anything like that either..

              • DamnYankees

                To my mind, this is the classical “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” problem. Our task is to defeat Trump in elections, even by 0.1%. There is simply no purpose served in speculating on what follows (but the person running for president ought to have a staffer draw up a plan).

                Fair enough. You are of course correct. But until that time comes I’m living with a pit in my stomach. Doesn’t go away easily.

        • Rob in CT

          “Tens of thousands liberals are marching in the streets against our President. Meanwhile, tens of millions of us are sitting in our living rooms cheering him on.” And the sad thing is, he’s not wrong.

          And tens of millions of us are in our living rooms cheering the protestors on.

          • humanoid.panda

            One of the reasons I am so harsh on the pessimistic caucus here is because, sub-consciously, they are accepting the Republican “REAL AMERICANS support Trump and only degenerate cosmpopolitans reject him” logic.

            • ExpatJK

              Republican “REAL AMERICANS support Trump and only degenerate cosmpopolitans reject him” logic.

              Don’t you mean only (((degenerate cosmopolitans)))? Are we replacing rootless with degenerate now?

            • DamnYankees

              This is not fair. I don’t think this. What I do worry is that the people with the guns support. My worry is not about legitimacy. It’s about Hobbesian reality.

              • humanoid.panda

                I’m sorry, but you just cited Mitchell saying the exact same thing, half-approvingly.

                • DamnYankees

                  I cited Mitchell because I worry that people forget there are tens and tens of millions of Americans who like this stuff. I said nothing about them being “real” Americans and us not.

                  I worry that liberals fall into a trap of thinking that really, most people agree with us, they just need to see the truth! I hate this thinking when conservatives do it, I hated it when Bernie fans said it, and I hate it now. Has nothing to do with who is “real” or not.

                • humanoid.panda

                  And as for Hobbesianism, here’s the thing. If your most pessimistic scenario comes to pass, and trump refuses to leave, for the people with guns (i.e the army, FBI, etc) to back him would mean probably secession of west coast, massive unrest in cities which are the engine of the global economy, and the army having to shoot at law-abiding, upper middle class people in said cities. This is not as easy choice as you imagine.

                • DamnYankees

                  If your most pessimistic scenario comes to pass, and trump refuses to leave, for the people with guns (i.e the army, FBI, etc) to back him would mean probably secession of west coast, massive unrest in cities which are the engine of the global economy, and the army having to shoot at law-abiding, upper middle class people in said cities. This is not as easy choice as you imagine.

                  I don’t think its easy at all. It’ll be utter chaos. That’s what scares me.

                • humanoid.panda

                  I worry that liberals fall into a trap of thinking that really, most people agree with us, they just need to see the truth! I hate this thinking when conservatives do it, I hated it when Bernie fans said it, and I hate it now. Has nothing to do with who is “real” or not.

                  Ok, I might have treated what you said a bit unfairly. Still, its important its not tens of thousands of protesters vs. tens of millions of pro-Trump Americans. Like Rob said, its protesters+tens of millions of other Americans. And if anything, I think liberals are more prone to exaggerating their opponents might than misunderestmiating it.

    • ExpatJK

      It was an interesting article, but it reminds me of why I hate Frum. Even now he cannot fucking resist bothsidesdoitism.

      To wit:

      Over the past generation, we have seen ominous indicators of a breakdown of the American political system: the willingness of congressional Republicans to push the United States to the brink of a default on its national obligations in 2013 in order to score a point in budget negotiations; Barack Obama’s assertion of a unilateral executive power to confer legal status upon millions of people illegally present in the United States—despite his own prior acknowledgment that no such power existed.

      Fuck you, David Frum.

      • Rob in CT

        David “Axis of Evil” Frum, you mean.

        • DamnYankees

          Aren’t you the guy who’s been saying you’ll take your allies where you can find them against this particular foe?

          • Rob in CT

            Yes.

            It’s very much a work in progress for me, and for many of us.

            I’m glad Frum wrote the article. I’m glad he’s anti-Trump, just as I was glad back in 2009 he was arguing that Conservatives should deal on healthcare reform (and was ritually cast out of Conservatism for it).

            I also remember AoE, and won’t forget it. Temporary ally of convenience yes. More, no. Which I’m sure works for Frum, who couldn’t resist a shot at Obama in his article.

            • DamnYankees

              I think what this election has shown is that there are actually lots of people we agree with in very deep and profound ways, but we never really thought about the areas we agree since those areas were sort of assumed as a given.

              So people like Frum, you and I intensely disliked for various policy positions he had and various attitudes he took towards foreign policy. But what the last 8 years have shown is that actually – sadly – Frum and us agree on some extraordinarily foundation things. It took a genuinely scary movement of people who don’t believe those things to make us realize that and care about it.

      • DamnYankees

        I’m not saying I’d vote for Frum. Just that this is a good article.

  • Crusty

    Granny Starver is on the tv now speaking basically in support of Trump’s immigration order. He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth. But mostly one side. He regrets the confusion, generally supports refugees, blah, blah, blah, but thinks the EO is a good idea and necessary for our safety.

    He’s alluded to the Paris shootings. How come repubs look at the Paris shooting and say oh shit, we’d better do something here. Why not look at it and say America is #1, the terrorists know not to mess, that’s why they shoot up Paris, not the U.S., we made them afraid to attack us and/or made them love us. Mission accomplished.

    In conclusion, Lisa, I’d like to buy that rock.

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