I curate my social media enough that I miss some things, but if anybody is mourning the retirement of Paul Ryan, it hasn’t come across my feed. The most sympathetic take I’m seeing is along the lines of this simple Ann Telnaes commentary, which I don’t think is intended to be sympathetic.
But there he is, a modern Willie Loman, trudging off bereft of his shoeshine and his smile, trailing the shame of his having traded away all his promise and talents for the chance to play Enabler to a con man.
When his predecessor, John Boehner, gave up the job of House Majority Leader, he’d made some enemies and he’d let some people down, but he rode out with his head held high because he’d hit a point where he refused to cater to the hard-hearted hard-liners.
It’s not the same when you’re the person who was willing to take the job Boehner could no longer justify.
And now somebody will have to — will be eager to — step up to take the job Ryan could no longer stomach, albeit as Minority Leader, which says something as well.
We’re getting to the point where replacing retired GOP leaders is like Sgt Lejaune in “Beau Geste,” propping up dead Legionnaires in the embrasures to make the Tauregs think the fort is still fully defended.
Ryan made a farewell speech that, coming out of someone else’s mouth, might have been noble in its talk about our need for less corrosive politics.
It is just emotional pabulum fed from a trough of outrage. It’s exhausting. It saps meaning from politics, and it discourages good people from pursuing public service.
But, as Julie Hirschfield Davis noted in the NYTimes, “He might have been speaking about himself.”
It reminds me of when Gordon Strachan, Bob Haldeman’s aide, finished testifying before the Watergate Committee and was asked what advice he’d give young people considering a career in public service.
He said, “Well, it may not be the type of advice that you could look back and want to give, but my advice would be to stay away.”
That’s great, but how about “You’ll need stronger moral values than mine”?
Either man might have gone out on that more constructive note, but, yeah, if he could have, then he wouldn’t have needed to.
Pat Bagley is more specific in assessing his legacy: Ryan was proud of his tax cuts, but expressed regret that he had not succeeded in fully undermining Medicare and Social Security.
But he did what he could, along with his Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, fearlessly ignoring all the previous things their party had said about the deficit as they bravely doubled it, weeping all along like the Walrus and the Carpenter, deeply regretting the way they gobbled down the little oysters.
Until, as Matt Wuerker notes, his country had done all it could for him and his friends.
This cartoon reminds me of an old wisecrack someone was sure to say when things began to get salty: “If you all don’t quit using that vulgar language, I’m gonna pull up my pants and leave.”
Meanwhile, over in the Executive Branch
Lee Judge got a guilty giggle, guilty because this cartoon is more of a wisecrack than insightful commentary, but, then again, there are times when the insights are so obvious that a wisecrack can perfectly sum it all up.
Jim Morin provides the same level of insight-into-the-obvious without the laffs, and I also like this, because, in both cases, there is a salutary message of “How can you not be seeing what I’m seeing?”
Some moments do not require that you provide deep, heretofore unthought thoughts and unseen insights. They simply call for you to confirm what seems impossible.
And, while slinging insults at Dear Leader is unlikely to change the hearts of his loyal followers, there is value in buoying up the hearts of the doubtful with the knowledge that, yes, we see what you’re seeing, we feel what you’re feeling.
You’re right and we’re with you, so keep on keepin’ on.
On the other hand …
Meanwhile, Signe Wilkinson reminds us, there are things to be happy about as we work our way through this holiday season.
I had to chuckle, in a grim, cynical way, last night, listening to NPR’s report on the prison reform bill, when they talked about how Jared Kushner had taken this under his wing because of his father’s own experience as a convict.
Excuse me, but it reminded me of how the GOP dropped their opposition to stem cell research when Reagan got Alzheimers, and how they suddenly shifted their position on LGBTQ issues when Dick Cheney’s daughter came out and how they have never shown the slightest bit of empathy or compassion for anything they weren’t personally involved in.
Though with Reagan dead and Cheney retired, they appear to have somewhat recovered on those issues.
One ought not to mistake a change in course for a change in heart.
Still, as she says, we’ve got something to celebrate in that legislation, as well as in the apparent loosening of the NRA’s iron grip, and in the willingness of the Southern District of New York to stand up to corruption.
And perhaps they are bellwethers indicating a better time ahead.
Which prompts me to jump the gun and post my annual message a day early, because tomorrow will be the darkest day of the year and it only gets brighter from there.
If you don’t need to hear this, be grateful. But give it a read anyway, and then feel free to share it with someone you know who might need it right now.
Merry Christmas To Those Not Having One
(aka “Blue is not a permanent color”)