Former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has ducked out from the tall weeds, where he’s been laying rather low since leaving Congress in January. A new book by Politico Magazine’s chief political correspondent Tim Alberta quotes Ryan making several disparaging comments about President Trump. It was never a well-kept secret that the two Republicans were far from natural allies; Trump represents an outsider challenge to the Swamp’s decades-long stranglehold on American politics whereas Ryan dutifully served that establishment paradigm for well over 20 years, first as a congressional aide and then later as a long-serving congressman.
To many grassroots Republican voters, Paul Ryan was a huge part of the problem. But in his mind, he is still the highly efficient technocrat who “knows how to get things done.”
“I told myself I gotta have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right,” Alberta quotes Ryan as saying of Trump. “Because, I’m telling you, he didn’t know anything about government … I wanted to scold him all the time.”
But finding that he was not able to stand dealing with Trump, Ryan saw retirement as an “escape hatch,” Alberta states. With these remarks, Ryan once again shows how GOP establishment figures continue to remain hopelessly in denial over the American people’s resounding rejection of them in 2016. Ryan had a stunningly low 12% favorability rating when he left Congress; this certainly had more to do with him launching his escape pod than any issues with Trump’s demeanor.
Trump responded to Ryan’s comments in his typically brusque manner, unleashing several tweets mocking the former speaker as a “lame duck failure” with an “atrocious” record of achievement. But one thing, in particular, stands out in Trump’s reply. “He promised me the Wall, & failed,” the president said of Ryan. Here Trump is alluding to his claim that there was a formal deal made between the America First president and the establishment Republican speaker over Wall funding. Think back to Trump signing a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill shepherded through Congress by Ryan in March 2018. Trump was appalled by the bloated legislation, and vowed that he would “never sign another bill like this again.”
Trump signed the colossal bill despite it doing practically nothing to help build his Wall. The president wanted $25 billion in funding, and Ryan crafted a bill that only offered a token $1.6 billion for “physical barriers and technology.”
RINOS Welched on Wall Deal
The question then, and now, is why didn’t Trump veto a bill of which he clearly did not approve? According to Trump, he made a business deal with the Republican establishment. It should be clear by now that one side did not fulfill its part of the bargain.
“Well, I was going to veto the omnibus bill and Paul told me in the strongest of language, ‘Please don’t do that, we’ll get you the wall,'” Trump told The Daily Caller in January shortly after Ryan left office. “And I said, ‘I hope you mean that, because I don’t like this bill.'”
Further evidence that Ryan had indeed promised the president something in return for signing his gigantic bill came with remarks he made as 2018 wound down. “We intend on having a full-fledged discussion on how to complete our mission to secure the border and yes, we will have a fight about this,” Ryan vowed in October about funding Trump’s Wall.
These comments came after an exasperated Trump tweeted in September over yet another congressional budget battle:
I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms? Dems are obstructing Law Enforcement and Border Security. REPUBLICANS MUST FINALLY GET TOUGH!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2018
“We will figure out how to do it in December,” Ryan promised in October. “I can’t speak to what the outcome will be, only that the effort is there.” Of course, December came, and congressional Republicans, led by a one-foot-out-the-door Ryan, barely put up the pretense of a battle on the issue. Trump shut down the government, and congressional Republicans played along for a while before tottering as they so often do. Ryan showed no leadership at all throughout the episode.
“And then he went lame duck,” Trump told The Daily Caller, referring to Ryan. “And once he went lame duck it was just really an exercise in waving to people and the power was gone so I was very disappointed. I was very disappointed in Paul because the wall was so desperately needed.”
It’s interesting that Trump apparently still sees Ryan not living up to his end of the deal as a failure rather than the intentional act of a politician strongly opposed to his policies. For better or worse, Trump seems to believe that he must work with globalist Republicans who have made no secret in the past of their disdain for his agenda. In June, he endorsed Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) for re-election despite Tillis’s history of open hostility to Trump’s border security plans.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce-aligned Tillis has hastened to identify with Trump of late in a transparent bid to keep his seat, reversing himself on global trade issues, declaring support for the president’s threatened tariffs on Mexico, and announcing his allegiance to Trump’s border security agenda.
Tillis has “really stepped up to the plate,” Trump said while endorsing him. Yet this is the same Tillis who wrote in an op-ed for The Hill in 2017 that “[w]e need to recognize that a continuous wall from one end of our Southern border to the other is neither feasible nor effective.”
Trump trusted Paul Ryan once and was left holding the bag. If he persists in making deals with congressional RINOs going forward, as he seems determined to do, it would be in his best interest to insist that his quid comes before their quo.
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