Republicans Are Caught in a Trump Bind as the Midterms Approach

Confining Trump to a Trappist monastery for three months might help a bit. But it might not: much of the damage has already been done.

.. Balderson probably owes his win to a late endorsement ad cut by GOP Gov. John Kasich, not a late rally by President Trump,

.. Trump’s support among white voters without a college degree fell from fifty-seven per cent in June to forty-nine per cent in July.

And his disapproval rating went from thirty-six per cent to forty-seven per cent.

.. But there is no such doubt about how Trump turns off many affluent, college-educated Republicans.

.. “This is all of a piece with the intuition nationally that college-educated whites are turning away from the Republican Party in reaction to Donald Trump’s presidency,”

.. White House aides are now “mapping out plans for the fall that would offer a variety of options to Republican candidates, including visits by the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump to blue states and presidential tweets to bolster red-state allies.”

.. the thinking is to use Trump to boost turnout in areas where he is popular, but to keep him away from latte-sipping Republicans in the ’burbs

.. It’s fanciful to imagine that he could spend September and October whipping up his diehard supporters at rallies in places such as Charleston, West Virginia, and Bismarck, North Dakota, without entering the consciousness of Republican voters in the areas surrounding Chicago, Columbus, and Philadelphia.

.. it’s looking like House Speaker Paul Ryan and roughly three dozen other House Republicans knew what they were doing when they announced that they would retire instead of seek reëlection this year.

 

A sorry end to Paul Ryan’s speakership

Among his most egregious failures has been his refusal to rein in House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who, in concert with the White House, created a phony “unmasking” scandal and released a misleading memo casting aspersions on the FBI and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in connection with the warrant to conduct surveillance on suspected spy Carter Page. As Nunes’s crowd, together with the president, now threatens to reveal a secret FBI and CIA source, in an unprecedented breach of the House’s intelligence oversight responsibilities, the extent of Ryan’s reckless disregard for his oath becomes clear.

.. Indeed, had the FBI failed to follow up on evidence that a presidential campaign was engaged in secret communications with a foreign government, it would have been excoriated for dereliction of duty. Moreover, none of this was revealed during the campaign — in stark contrast to the airing of the allegations against Hillary Clinton for misuse of email

.. At any stage in this outrageous attack on American intelligence operations and the Justice Department, Ryan could have stepped in to replace members of the Intelligence Committee, to reprimand them and/or to rebuff the president’s attempt to interfere with and smear investigators seeking to uncover an attack on our democracy. Should the source be revealed, endangering lives and/or national intelligence-gathering, the blame should fall at least in part on Ryan.

.. The bureau took steps to protect other live investigations that he has worked on and sought to lessen any danger to associates if his identity became known

.. Ryan’s legacy will be not only of someone who politically enabled an unfit president, but also of someone who presided over the erosion of trust required for a proper intelligence oversight process.

.. Ryan has done his party no favors in permitting it to become irrational conspiratorialists and antagonists of our intelligence community. His passivity has only encouraged Trump to abuse his powers

.. Perhaps he should retire now. Any temporary replacement could hardly do a worse job for the remaining months of the GOP majority.

We’re Going to Miss Paul Ryan

Now Paul Ryan is announcing that he’s retiring — after saying “I ain’t going anywhere” in December — and the outlook for Republicans is grim, both in the 2018 midterms and beyond.

.. “Ryan has never loved the job; he oozes aggravation when discussing intraparty debates over ‘micro-tactics,’ and friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center.”

.. By July, the House of Representatives had passed a slew of big bills, only to watch them slowly die in the Senate. He’s also trying to work with a president who flips from priority to priority (

  • DACA!
  • Guns!
  • North Korea!
  • Syria!
  • Opioids!
  • Infrastructure!
  • ) and a constantly-changing White House staff. It’s hard to generate any sustained momentum for key legislation.

.. At least some of this year’s mass GOP retirements stem from a sense that little can really get done in Trump’s Washington, so you might as well do something else more lucrative.

.. Those scoffing “good riddance” to Ryan now probably ought to look back at John Boehner and Dennis Hastert. Ryan’s younger, a better communicator, more telegenic and even more of a policy wonk than his predecessors and most of his potential successors.
.. The guy who liberals depicted throwing granny off the cliff . . . was also the kind of man goes into drug treatment centers, touches the scars from the “track marks” of heroin addicts, and prays with and for them. He was portrayed as some sort of heartless Ayn Rand acolyte when he emphasized how conservatives needed to find solutions for poverty. He was civil, well-informed, polite, and firm, the opposite of a table-pounding, demagogic extremist, and that probably just aggravated his critics on the left even more

Ryan, Republicans and the Republic

The ships are leaving the sinking rat.

That’s the moral of Paul Ryan’s unexpected but not surprising announcement this week that he will give up the speakership

.. Many of these Republicans once believed that Donald Trump alone possessed the kind of political virility needed to vanquish Hillary Clinton and make America great again. Only belatedly have they figured out that the virility comes with a case of syphilis.

.. “The litmus test for being a Republican these days is not about any given set of ideals or principles; it’s about loyalty to the man, and I think that’s challenging.”

.. The world will little note nor long remember that in 2017 Republicans cut the top marginal rate to 37 percent from 39.6 percent and otherwise tried but failed to kill Obamacare

.. A conservative rejoinder to this critique is that the speaker had no choice; that Trump was the lemon with which he had to make lemonade. Nonsense. Congress and the White House are coequals, and Ryan and other Republicans who saw Trump for what he is never owed him obeisance. They owed the country an alternative political vision, untainted by Trumpism, which could emerge from the debacle of this presidency with clean hands. Ryan’s failure to deliver one will be remembered as the central fact of his once-bright career.

.. Is there an alternative?

Among Republicans, Ohio’s John Kasich, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake and John McCain have sought in different ways to offer one, without immediate success but with integrity, honor and a sense of the long view.

.. “The center-right and center-left are still joined by a broad set of common values, including respect for free speech and dissent, a belief in the benefits of international trade and immigration, respect for law and procedural legitimacy, a suspicion of cults of personality, and an understanding that free societies require protection from authoritarians promising easy fixes to complex problems.”

Paul Ryan’s Retirement in 7 points

It would be difficult to overestimate the meaning of Paul Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress even as he occupies the office of Speaker of the House. So let’s estimate.

Twice in the past three years, the sitting Speaker has walked away from the office. Ryan only became Speaker because John Boehner, his predecessor, quit rather than suffer through a challenge from the bomb throwers in the Republican House conference. There’s no precedent for this in American history. The Speakership has been one of the most powerful offices in the world. Now it’s apparently more agony than ecstasy for a Republican.

.. A Republican likely won’t be elected speaker after the 2018 midterms. Ryan’s decision suggests he and others have seen enough internal data to know their capacity to hold their 23-seat majority is slipping away.

.. That makes 42 GOP retirements among the 237 Republican members of the 115th Congress—a number vastly higher than any recent Congress’s.

.. the Ryan retirement isn’t just a sign. It’s like a fireball from the sky. And it will occasion more retreats and embolden more Democrats.

.. the GOP is Trump’s party now, not Ryan’s.

.. His mercurial nature and habit of punching down have combined with general GOP support for Trump personally to prevent any such rump from emerging in the Congress. He’s already claimed the scalps of two Republican senators—Bob Corker and Jeff Flake—who attempted to do just that. How did their standing athwart Trump help them or anyone?

.. some of the GOP’s wonkier agenda items are being implemented by the Trump administration–notably, in the sphere of deregulation. So, yes, it’s Trump’s party, but there’s an extent to which it’s also Ryan’s party, the conservative policy wonk’s party. Except, of course, for two big things.

The first big thing is entitlement reform, which is the issue nearest to Ryan’s heart.

.. No matter what happens, no matter the growth of the economy or the glories of #MAGA, the remorseless logic of the actuarial charts showing the government going bankrupt from the cost of Medicare and Medicaid sometime around 2030 is unyielding

.. The second big thing is the massive federal deficit, which is projected to stay above the $1 trillion mark for God knows how long. The bitter irony here is that the Tea Party–whose ab nihilo existence began the Republican resurgence in the House and Senate, and whose anti-Establishment ethos was the precursor to Trump–was obsessed with the idea that Barack Obama was breaking the bank, and rightly so. Now, the Tea Party forms the hard schist of the Republican base, and it’s clearly decided not to hold Trump accountable

Paul Ryan’s Missed Opportunities on Spending

while he was part of the leadership team that negotiated the mostly successful sequester in 2011 (really the only instance of a successful negotiation with President Obama), he disdained fights on smaller spending priorities.

.. Ryan never had the party’s broader support for tackling entitlements. Not only was he saddled with a president, in Donald Trump, who had campaigned against entitlement reform, but — forgotten now — his 2012 running mate, Mitt Romney, had savaged Rick Perry in 2012 for having written favorably about such reforms. Ryan himself had also voted for Medicare Part D back in 2003.

.. So, while Ryan was right on the merits about the biggest fiscal problem, he was never able to mount an effective campaign either legislatively or in the public arena to solve the problem.

.. As a more junior congressman he went along with a lot of bad spending ideas during the Bush years, and as a leader he never picked fights that could be translated into a tangible result to report home .. as opposed to more nebulous arguments about bending the overall rate of spending

.. The failure to zero out federal support for Planned Parenthood when the GOP controlled the House, then the House and Senate, and then even the House, Senate, and White House, was the most indefensible example of this.

Cincinnatus Lays Down the PowerPoint

In a normal time, the announcement that the Republican speaker of the House is retiring to spend more time with his family — after just a few years on the job — at a moment when Republicans control the federal government and have more officeholders nationwide than at any time in almost a century and the economy is roaring would be almost unimaginable.

Most politicians are actually pretty boring

Many are conniving and needy

Very few of them are intellectually interesting

.. I’ve long argued, friendship can be far more corrupting than money

.. if you personally hate Paul Ryan, that’s an indicator to me that you’re an unreasonable person.

.. But if you buy the claptrap from the Krugmanite Left or the Bannonite Right about Ryan, if you think he’s evil or a fraud, I’m going to assume you’re part of the problem in our politics.

.. boils down to simply two things: The idea that character matters and the idea that ideas matter.

.. The fact that Paul Ryan was a man out of place in his own party says far more about the state of the GOP than it does about the man.

Consider this week alone:

  • A president who cheated on his first wife with his second and “allegedly” cheated on his third with a porn star is tweeting that Jim Comey is a “slimeball.”
  • The president’s personal PR team over at Hannity HQ is calling Robert Mueller the head of a crime family.
  • The CBO just announced that we’re in store for trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see.
  • The president is tweeting taunts about how his missiles are shinier toys than Putin’s.
  • The president’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, a once passionate and thoughtful defender of Congress’s sole right to authorize war, is now invoking law-review articles as justification for a president’s right to wage war on a whim.
  • The president’s lawyer’s office was raided by the FBI (not Bob Mueller’s team, by the way) after getting a warrant from a judge and following all of the onerous protocols of the Justice Department, and the former speaker of the House — and avowed historian — is insisting that the Cohen and Manafort raids are morally equivalent to the tactics of Stalin and Hitler. I’m pretty sure the Gestapo didn’t have “clean teams” to protect attorney-client privilege (particularly of dudes named “Cohen”), and last I checked the KGB wasn’t big on warrants.
  • On Monday evening, the president convened a televised war council and spent the first ten minutes sputtering about how outraged he was by an inquiry into a pay-off of his porn-star paramour.