Paul Ryan the pretender

Farewell and good riddance to the speaker of the House

Paul Ryan.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

If one of the sons of Shub-Niggurath ever walks the Earth, he will look something like soon-to-be ex-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan: handsome, but in a non-threatening, corn-pone Midwestern way; a painfully earnest affect; constant professions of deep concern about poverty and the downtrodden; and veins pumping boiling black goo that writhes and smokes if exposed to air.

His political objectives are morally abhorrent, as was the method he tried to achieve them — namely, lying as brazen as has ever been seen in any country's politics. Luckily for the tens of thousands who would have died, he failed to repeal ObamaCare — though he did succeed in dumping vast mountain ranges of cash on the top 1 percent. Now Ryan is giving up both his speaker's gavel and his seat in Congress.

Good riddance. May he never darken America's towels again.

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I remember Paul Ryan being interviewed after Trump had surprised almost everyone and won in 2016. Looking forward over two years of unified Republican control of the federal government for the first time since 2006, Ryan was palpably gleeful at the chance (finally!) to cut the meager American welfare state to the bone.

This would have been the culmination of Ryan's career. He came to prominence in 2005 on the strength of a plan to privatize Social Security — one even more extreme than George W. Bush's crack-brained scheme to provide retirement security by throwing Americans onto the Wall Street dog track. In addition to cratering the retirement of tens of millions of seniors (recall that the stock market imploded just over two years later), this would also have increased the deficit for the next 75 years straight.

Luckily, both of these apocalyptic ideas failed — thanks in large part to Nancy Pelosi, who is now replacing Ryan as speaker, and who responded to demands that Democrats come up with their own plan to obliterate American retirement with stony silence.

But Ryan never stopped plotting to eradicate as much of the material security of non-rich Americans as he possibly could. His next move was a signature act of duplicity: After voting for all of Bush's deficit-exploding tax cuts and deficit-exploding wars of aggression, and personally pushing a Social Security plan that would have been more expensive than both combined, he cynically rebranded as a deficit hawk. With the economy melting down, and both Bush and incoming President Obama rightly pushing stimulus measures to restore employment and production, the deficit skyrocketed — and Ryan spied an opportunity.

He started pretending to be a Very Serious policy guy, walking around with documents and presentations, with brows firmly furrowed over America's long-term debt situation. He did this with the active connivance of "nonpartisan" political reporters, who were astoundingly receptive to this brazenly duplicitous shtick. It was as if António de Oliveira Salazar had attempted to start a second career as a humanitarian philanthropist and vegan chef, and assembled food reporters had produced one glowing profile after the next without so much as asking about the whole dictator of Portugal thing.

Mainstream reporters are not supposed to be "biased" towards either left or right (an a priori impossible notion, but never mind), but the plain fact of American politics is that the Republican Party is wrong in virtually every circumstance. Instead of reckoning with this reality, many political reporters instead became deeply neurotic about appearing biased towards liberals and developed a compulsive need to boost up any conservative who wasn't obviously a drooling maniac. Paul Ryan saw that opportunity and exploited it to the hilt.

As Hunter S. Thompson once wrote about the press's coverage of Nixon:

It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful. [The Atlantic]

The problem for Ryan is that he never, ever actually tried to sell his ideas in a straightforward manner, and thus there was not much constituency for them. Early in 2017, plans to repeal and replace Medicare with an ObamaCare-style system (which he had pushed while Obama was president) were shelved. And he tried to sell his attempt to repeal ObamaCare with baldfaced lies: claiming it would only create better and cheaper insurance coverage, when in reality it would throw perhaps 24 million people off their plans.

The hope was that up-is-down lies — plus studiously ignoring Trump's gutter racism and categorically refusing to investigate any of his alleged crimes — would allow the ObamaCare repeal to squeak through. But it went down by one vote in the Senate. That is Ryan's way: use awful methods to pass evil legislation and faceplant millimeters from the finish line.

Ryan trying and failing to push hideously unpopular and immoral legislation while lashing his party to Trump no doubt had a lot to do with the GOP getting stomped in the 2018 midterms. And now, Ryan's running for the exits. He will probably be collecting a gigantic paycheck at Cthulhu Fhtagn Consulting on K Street for some no-show job by close of business on the first day of the 2019 congress, as payment for his only actual accomplishment as speaker: giving every member of the top 1 percent their own personal oil tanker stuffed with cash.

But if you're walking around that neighborhood of DC and your vision starts to swim and you hear eldrich shrieking inside your mind, it might be wise to flee.

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