The only thing mildly surprising about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s surprise announcement that he won’t run for election again was that he trotted out the old reason: he wants to spend more time with his family. As if staring down the barrel of a possible landslide of Democrats taking the House and possibly even the Senate in the midterms only earned a “oh yeah, that too” ranking in his reasoning. Wanting to spend more time with the family is what a man caught in a dalliance with another woman — or a rent boy — tells the press as he ducks and covers on his way outta town. I expected something a bit more original.
Or at least more honest. I think he’d do the world a favor, and perhaps even the GOP, if he said, “Look, we’re up the creek with Trump in the White House and we know it. Even if I won re-election, if we lose the House, I’m gonna have to live in a party that is run by Trump and I don’t have the balls to do that. So I’m outta here.”
The one good thing Mr. Ryan’s departure does is give lesser and more vulnerable House members the green light to decide to spend more time with their families, even if they don’t have one. The number of Republican vacancies, either by retirement or running for another office (or looking for an attorney) is approaching 40. Now that the Speaker of the House and one-time vice presidential nominee has seen the glare of the oncoming train in the tunnel, there’s no shame in polishing up the old LinkedIn account, lining up some lobbying gig with an oil or coal company, or getting a commentary job on a local Sinclair Broadcasting station. There has to be a market somewhere for a used Republican.
Paul Ryan’s personal history — that he came from a low-income background in rural Wisconsin, that he lost his father at a young age, and that he went on to achieve some Capra-esque vision of the American dream — is tarnished by the fact that he’s never held a job in the private sector and he’s spent his entire political career trying to undercut and eventually tear down the support system that got him to where he became Speaker of the House. And now he’s retiring before he’s hit 50 and will, more than likely, never have to work a day in his life thanks to his generous pension from the government. How very Republican.
I will give him credit for making a clean getaway. Rather than face the ignominy of defeat next fall, either in his own election or that of the majority, he won’t have to face the press and the microphones as he tries to polish the turds. He’s going out with applause from his caucus and turning the office over to someone else to clean up the piles that he’s leaving. And that’s very Republican, too.