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House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., did not have his thoughts collected when he faced the cameras after telling Republican colleagues he would not seek re-election to Congress in November.

“I intend to full my serve term,” he announced.

Right. And I luck him good wish.

Dana Milbank mug

Dana Milbank | The Washington Post

I can see why Ryan is scrambled. The party he leads is on course for a drubbing, and possibly a historic drubbing. Though much could change, Republican incumbents are voting with their feet — House Republicans who aren’t seeking re-election now number in the mid-40s — and the speaker’s announcement, after just 2½ years in the position, sends the unmistakable if unintended message that the bottom has dropped out.

The speaker’s retirement launched a thousand sinking-ship metaphors. But Capt. Ryan’s abandon-ship announcement adds a unique twist to the metaphor: The thing he’s clinging to as a life raft is actually the iceberg.

Shortly after assuming the speakership, Ryan, a promising young leader, made the mother of all miscalculations: He supported Donald Trump for president, reasoning that he could not remain speaker if he opposed Trump. And so Ryan, the highest GOP officeholder in the land and the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, delivered the Republican establishment to Trump.

Now, 15 months into Trump’s disastrous presidency, Ryan’s speakership is ending anyway. The free-market, limited-government conservatism he championed has been destroyed. And yet he still binds himself to the man who destroyed it all.

Fox News’s Mike Emanuel asked whether Ryan was “sending a signal that the House is lost for Republicans.”

Ryan, incredibly, answered by praising Trump. “I’m grateful for the president to give us this chance to actually get this stuff done,” he said.

Was his retirement influenced by the way Trump changed the party?

“Not at all,” Ryan maintained. “... I’m grateful to the president for giving us this opportunity to do big things to get this country on the right track.”

The right track.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump announced via Twitter that he would be firing “nice and new and ‘smart’” missiles into Syria and dared Russia to shoot them down. In recent days, Trump’s third national security adviser started and his homeland security adviser quit; Trump has made noises about firing the special counsel and the deputy attorney general; federal prosecutors probed payments made in 2016 to two women who alleged affairs with Trump; the Congressional Budget Office forecast years of trillion-dollar deficits because of Trump’s tax cuts and spending hikes; there are fears of a trade war; the Environmental Protection Agency administrator is embroiled in an ethics scandal; and after a fire in Trump Tower killed a man, Trump said nothing about the death while boasting about the “well built” building.

Oh, and Trump says things are “very calm” in the White House.

Thank you for all this, Paul Ryan.

Now Republicans are dashing for the exits. Soon after Ryan’s announcement came word that Rep. Dennis A. Ross, R-Fla., a deputy whip, would be retiring. And House Republicans, after listening to Ryan’s announcement at a caucus meeting in the Capitol basement, emerged with grim forecasts.

“There’s a lot of weariness and a lot of exhaustion, frankly,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., who is retiring. “You’re really in a no-win position if you’re running in this cycle,” he said, calling it a “pretty damn toxic political environment. ... It’s going to be a referendum on the president of the United States and his conduct in office.”

Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., said chances of keeping the House majority are “probably 50-50.”

Maybe they’ll lose 50 seats and maybe they’ll lose another 50?

Ryan gave a too-jovial “Good morning, everybody!” as he approached the cameras in the House TV studio to explain his rationale. He said he wanted to be more than a “weekend dad.” He said he was leaving on his “own terms,” like Tip O’Neill. (O’Neill was speaker for a decade and left with his party’s majority assured.) He said he achieved a “heck of a lot” with the tax cut and military spending hike. (But that sacrificed the fiscal responsibility Ryan preached for years.) He said he had “no regrets whatsoever” about taking the job — nor apparently about his decision to bind his and his party’s fate to Trump.

The Washington Post’s Paul Kane asked about Trump’s talk of firing special counsel Robert Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“I have no reason to believe that’s going to happen,” Ryan said, citing “assurances” from “people in the White House.”

These same people brought his speakership to ruin. Yet Ryan still trusts.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post.


(18) comments


Actually the Obama presidency, thank the almighty is history, the only thing left of his failed presidency is his picture in the capital.


Oh? I would think it would be a fairly safe bet that by the 2024 presidential Obamacare in some form will still be law of the land -- preferably a much strengthened form of it. And the 2017 Trump tax re-write, having wrought disaster, will have already been consigned to history for a few years. Trump, if he is lucky, will not be behind bars.


"...thank the almighty..." Seriously? You are now crediting divine intervention for the end of his term in office, despite the Constitutional requirement that ANY president is limited to two terms? And somehow your deity is cool with erasing thousands of years of Biblical admonitions to throw its support behind Trump? Really? REALLY?
You know, Mocha, I really do find it amusing to watch you "conservatives" twist your logic, morals and panties into pretzels in support of your messiah. Too bad the stakes are so high and the damage he's doing is such a threat to a once fine republic.


Ryan didn’t need any help from Goldilocks tontarnish himself.


Paul Ryan built his own legacy in the same manner as Jacob Marley. He needed no help from Trump to prove what an avaricious and venial toady he is.


Well said, Cassie.


'Lyin Ryan tarnished America with his spineless policy of not standing up against tRump long ago. He has been an enabling pacifist with his status quo of dirty politics, just to get tax reform for his ultra-wealthy masters. The tax cuts have shorted our US Treasury to extreme deficits that he and other conservatives ironically opined about only their ability to "fix". What a preposterous legacy. Ryan was tarnished long before tRump, he's beyond polishing.


Ryan tarnished his own position. He chose to be spineless and will continue to be the same until next year it appears. If anything, he could take Nunes to task for his unethical actions right now. He continues to carefully word all of his comments as to not rev up the the wrath of Trump, especially when Trump is bullying and lying. His Ayan Rand vision the country & in particular seniors is reprehensible.


Ryan tarnished his reputation with his own lack of principled action trying to be one of the Washington elitists, did not need any help from Trump.


Ryan"s running for pres. 2020.
His kids got nothing to do with anything.
"Lyin" Ryan... living up to his name.


Lyin Ryan, I like that!


Wow! Please, Democratic Party, please do not bollix up this opportunity to put Trumpism into its political grave. Buried with it will be the tea partyism, too, and the country can try to start clearing out the wreckage all this has left behind and we can get back to some semblance of actually being a great nation, again.


All you need to know is why democrats are where they are. There is a reason but I notice you neglected to mention that. They can not lead, look at the numbers. It's always about failure to produce that gets real leadership in, Democrats failed and here we are. Trumpism will reign forever, Americans will see to that. Once you see what can be done, it's over.


Hmm. The Democrats can't lead. The Trump administration has had one notable legislative action, the corrupt tax law that will have to be repaired in the next Congress. Other than that, despite owning the White House, the Senate and the House, they have not been able to do anything, won't do anything more before the 2018 November election, and seem at least now to be doomed to losing it all in 2018 and 2020. The best Trump has been able to display in leadership as president is to lead his weekly entourage down to Florida at taxpayer expense for his golf foursomes. Remember how you used to flay Obama for taking about one fourth of the golf weekends that Trump takes? And none of them involved paying hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a resort that Obama owned? How about Mar a Lago, new2? I hate to bring up Obama, as he is not committed to history, not to today's politics, but you are the one who loves to resurrect his name, though you almost always have any information concerning him totally wrong and off-base. But then you are new2, and that is what we expect from you.


Excuse me, I meant to say Obama's presidency is "now" committed to history.


well put homey,"Obama's presidency is committed to history", and just to add, New2 should just be committed.


Well I agree with you, new2, once we have seen what Trump's "leadership" has done, it's over for him.


"Newt, even the "Thousand Year Reich" wasn't supposed to last forever.

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