Even when the objective was to slam another Republican politician, the Washington Post made its piece on Wednesday about departing House Speaker Paul Ryan into an attack on President Trump.
Ryan is “using his final weeks in Congress to leave a lasting image of a brainy conservative warrior for lower taxes, free markets and a more muscular America abroad,” wrote Robert Costa and Mike DeBonis of the Post.
But his legacy already is a “matter of fierce debate inside his own party.”
He got the Republican tax bill and sharp increases in military spending through Congress last year, Costa and DeBonis noted, but “his repeated promises to sweepingly address the solvency and growing costs of two mandatory government programs – Social Security and Medicare – never happened, even though Republicans controlled all levers of government over the past two years.”
Moreover, he railed against deficit spending when President Obama was in office, but the “nation’s red ink” has soared from $438 billion in 2015 to $779 billion last year. “And many economists blame the tax cut as a culprit as next year’s deficit is projected to hit early $1 trillion,” a shot at the tax bill the president pushed harder than anyone in Congress.
On top of that, what we supposedly liked about Ryan has been corrupted by Trump, the Post wrote.
“Politically, the picture is just as bleak, according to a bloc of [unnamed] Ryan’s former fellow-travelers in the conservative intellectual sphere. His brand of aspirational conservatism has shown little currency in the face of President Trump’s brash populism, and November’s midterms put an exclamation point on Ryan’s efforts to insulate the GOP from Trump: Republicans lost 40 seats, their worst showing in 44 years, and relinquished the House majority.”
Passage of the bipartisan criminal justice bill this week offers small consolation, Costa and DeBonis wrote, particularly when the lame duck session in which it passed also must deal with “another spending showdown – and potential government shutdown – emblematic of Congress’ rolling dysfunction.”
It then quotes Bill Kristol, who just shuttered his magazine, Weekly Standard, after conservative readers turned away from his constant Trump bashing, saying Ryan “was the future of the party, but it’s been a disappointing couple of years. He was in a tough situation and didn’t make the best of it.”
Ryan’s defenders, the Post wrote, say “the pointed critiques ignore the political reality of the Trump era, in which traditional conservatives like Ryan have been forced to seek wins where they can and otherwise play defense against Trump’s bad impulses.”
The rest of the story is a compendium of Trump opponents absolving Ryan of his shortcomings and blaming all lack of progress on Trump. By doing Trump’s bidding and passing a health care overhaul that restructured Medicaid and also passing legislation that placed work requirements on food stamps and other welfare programs, Ryan actually hurt the party, the Post wrote.
“Those bills went nowhere in the Senate and fueled campaign attacks that Democratic leaders credited with helping to flip the House majority,” DeBonis and Costa wrote.
Later, they wrote the “journey from beacon of the GOP’s future to emblem of its tumultuous present has Republicans – who, nearly to a person, say they like Ryan personally – grappling with whether he is responsible, alongside Trump, for the party’s drift.”
“’Paul doesn’t want to believe it’s all as bad as it is,’” one anonymous source is quoted as saying.
The sources, who wanted to remain anonymous because “Ryan would be personally hurt if they shared their blunt assessments,” say they understand, to an extent, what he faced, Costa and DeBonis wrote.
“Ryan’s House colleagues … [see] in him their own struggles with Trump’s takeover of Republican politics,” the Post wrote. “And scores of rank-and-file GOP lawmakers have quietly appreciated Ryan’s willingness to step up and serve in a thankless job after predecessor John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, retired under pressure in 2015 – and stay in it after Trump’s victory.”