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Election reveals Paul Ryan to be worst speaker in U.S. history


“Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.” –Abraham Lincoln

During his time in office, President Obama has the unenviable distinction of having to work with, arguably, two of the worst Speakers of the House in American History via John Boehner and Paul Ryan. Their similarities are striking. For example, both acquiesced to governing under the Hastert Rule, where the Speaker attempts to pass legislation by getting the majority within of the party in power. This anti-democratic approach to governance continues to generate historic low levels of legislation passed in Congress. Both Speakers refused to address comprehensive immigration reform and neither were willing to weaken the power of the uncompromising far-right within their Republican caucus.

{mosads}I’ve argued in the past that John Boehner’s porous leadership damaged U.S. democracy. The obstruction, dysfunction and appeasement that defined Boehner’s tenure were the result of a man incapable of handling the perch of power bestowed upon him. The stain of Boehner’s legacy remains in our politics today. But Paul Ryan is proving himself to be much worse than his predecessor because of who he is and what he claims to be.

Paul Ryan has cultivated an image of himself as a politician of principle, compassion and a firm believer in America’s exceptionalism. He wants the Republican Party to be viewed as implacably conservative with a firm commitment to an exchange of ideas, free market orthodoxy and limited government. His handsome looks, quiet demeanor and careful cadence in the utterance of his words projects confidence to people around him. Ryan appears to pride himself on being viewed as a politician of substance and seriousness in addressing the complexities of American society through governance. However, his tenure as Speaker of the House should permanently tarnish his image and completely shatter the myth of his intellectual and moral gravitas.

Paul Ryan promised to “fix” a broken House of Representatives but that didn’t happen. The House of Representatives remains dysfunctional and unproductive as before. Under Ryan’s leadership, his reputed influence over the far-right caucus is illusory as evidenced by his inability to pass appropriation bills and restore regular order. Professed compassion did not extend to providing necessary Zika funding to stem the tide of infection in various parts of the country. Sadly, the United States had to declare a health emergency in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico due to Zika outbreak. Ryan states he wants to address poverty in America but remains adamantly opposed to significantly raising the minimum wage. All of this points to ineffective leadership. 

However, Paul Ryan’s handling of the 2016 presidential election reveals the emptiness of his character and cynical view of America. Ryan has watched the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump appear to advocate for the assassination of Hillary Clinton, encouraged espionage by the Russians and accused President Obama of founding ISIS. Donald Trump believes in torture as an indispensable part of his hypothetical military strategy and has run an insult-laden, racist campaign. Paul Ryan has seen 50 GOP military experts call Trump dangerous, a threat to national security and unfit to be commander and chief. But Ryan remains unmoved by such alarm. Donald Trump’s campaign is a direct assault on Ryan’s professed love of the American idea and fear of isolationism. Yet Ryan continues to support Trump.

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan have put their self-interest above the country’s best interest. Donald Trump is a narcissist and Ryan is an ideologue and political extremist. Trump is an egomaniac and Ryan is an insincere public servant. Both are infatuated with power and lack of detail on significant policy prescriptions, which are hallmarks of their approach in speaking with the American people. Both men are wealthy and in their own way, have expressed distrust in American citizens as the anchor in realizing their own dreams. Trump visualizes himself as America’s savior and Ryan seeing the corporate class and ultra-rich dutifully serving in that capacity.   

Philosopher David Hume once said, “The rules of morality are not the conclusion of our reason.” The position as Speaker of the House of Representatives is second in line behind the vice president in becoming President of the United States. Paul Ryan’s alignment with the despicable Donald Trump was as much personal, as it is political. His decision cannot be rationed off as a politician navigating competing demands. Poor character allows a person in his position to put power before country. Ryan’s flawed character is supporting a man who embarrasses the United States. Our political discourse is better served by understanding Ryan as unreliable, incompetent and in politics for all of the wrong reasons. As this unprecedented election season continues, finally, Paul Ryan is revealed.

Robert Covington Jr. is a freelance writer. You can follow him on twitter: @robcovingtonjr

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Boehner Donald Trump Hillary Clinton John Boehner Paul Ryan

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