Home / republicans / If Serious Speakerperson Paul Ryan rolls out a policy in the forest, does it make a sound?

If Serious Speakerperson Paul Ryan rolls out a policy in the forest, does it make a sound?


Yes, but it is drowned out by Trump being a big gross loudmouth. And possibly the silly press that won’t shut up about the GOP’s presumptive nominee for White House resident.

Except that, thus far, Ryan’s beloved agenda—the one his wonkish heart has been dreaming of and laboring over and counting on to define his speakership—has been something of a PR bust, yet another sad casualty of this election cycle’s Trumpsanity.

What makes that paragraph particularly hilarious is that in the three grafs before it, Cottle makes it clear that Ryan’s “Better Way” roll out has ranged from yawntastic to boring AF.

To be fair, it was a crushingly dull affair. Congressional powers as delineated in Article One of the U.S. Constitution is not the most scintillating of topics. Compounding the challenge, many rank-and-file House members are not the most enthralling orators. This was particularly true Thursday, with way too many lawmakers on hand to sing the same basic notes: The Constitution rocks, unelected bureaucrats are bad, and executive overreach is ruining America. Only the examples of regulatory outrage varied, based on each speaker’s home district: Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania’s 12th denounced the burdens on coal plants; Doug Collins of Georgia’s 9th talked about poultry-farming regulations; Bradley Byrne of Alabama’s 1st bemoaned the tightening of red-snapper season; French Hill of Arkansas’s 2nd shredded the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Rule; and so on, for 15, 16, 17 speeches. As the logic goes in Congress: Why have just three or four lawmakers explain a proposal when a dozen or more will happily hold forth for the cameras? Which guarantees redundancy and tedium, but makes perfect sense when you consider that Ryan’s entire “A Better Way” project is a grand exercise in messaging that, in addition to positioning his conference as the party of ideas, is also meant to give individual members a chance to impress the voters back home with all the deep policy thinking they’ve done.

So, this grand exercise in messaging and policy thinking involves Republicans whining about the same damn things they’ve been whining about forever, only with a different sign stuck on the podium.

Which is what the GOP has been doing for almost as long as I can remember. How disruptive to be sure. Truly it is a shock that the press won’t pay attention to Ryan’s brilliant ideas and instead keeps nattering about Trump.

Just look at what happened at the rollout of the agenda’s first plank: Ryan’s pet anti-poverty plan. The speaker and seven colleagues crossed the Anacostia River to commune with the impoverished, overwhelmingly minority residents from the “bad” side of Washington. But after all the speechifying, the only thing reporters wanted to talk about was Donald Trump’s latest outrage, regarding the Mexican heritage of Judge Gonzalo Curiel. And so the big news to come rolling out of the event was Ryan’s “textbook” racism comment.

“The first six questions were about Trump,” AshLee Strong, Ryan’s spokesman recalled to me. The leader’s office has come to expect that sort of thing, she admitted. “Still, it seemed like an odd time to be hammering at Trump.”

Yes. How odd. I mean why would anyone ask the Republican SotH about the racist statements of Trump, the Republican’s pick for next president, while he – the SotH – was on a photo-op/sound-bite collection expedition in darkest SE, D.C.? Truly it is a mystery.

How the heck is Ryan supposed to get anyone focused on reform when there is a trash-talking, thin-skinned, bomb-throwing carnival barker busy turning the presidential race into the political equivalent of The Jersey Shore? It just ain’t gonna happen.

What a tragedy it is that the GOP was absolutely unable to do any policy reform before this presidential election cycle started. But what with the vital business of finding out how Clinton was able to murder everyone in Benghazi with her army of Vince Foster clones and holding the 12 zillionth vote to defeat Obamacare, they just couldn’t get to it. Thanks Obama!

But is there a silver lining for SotH Ryan? Of course there is.

Which, in the long run, may work out just fine for the speaker. Ryan’s labors as a wonkish Sisyphus—shoving his policy boulder up the hill only to have it crash back down every time the Donald opens his yap—will only fuel his image as the sober, determined, thoughtful foil to Trump’s garish, empty demagoguery. And once Trumpsanity is finally over, well, who’s to say how Ryan will choose to use his new juice?

[Shudders at the thought of Ryan juice of any vintage.] Right. The sober, determined, thoughtful foil who said he wouldn’t support Trump unless Trump cleaned up his act, counted to 10 and changed his mind. I know foils are supposed to be flexible, but one that bends into a circle when it brushes up against a shouty sack of wind is friggin’ useless.

After its scorching affair with Trump, Republican voters may well find themselves ready for a more boring suitor—one whose idea of sexy talk involves an in-depth critique of Article One authority.

Oh I see. This is a humor column.

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