As I watched Paul Ryan roll up his sleeves and try to explain the GOP healthcare bill in a style reminiscent of an adjunct professor, and then his follow up performance on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, I was reminded as to why I was against electing this man as Speaker of the House. In the Sunday interviews there was a stark contrast between Ryan and Sen. Rand Paul who is opposing the bill. Ryan regularly spoke of “the process”. In contrast, Paul, was on the same Sunday circuit speaking on both the substance and process of the bill. The difference between the two men’s appearances was quite revealing if one were to remove their Paul Ryan blinders.
Personally, I never understood the hype in regards to Ryan. His resume is Congressional Intern, Congressional Staffer, and Congressman. In other words, he is a creature of Washington. He was literally raised on the hill. He views everything through a D.C. prism. Toughness and negotiation skills are a perquisite for any speaker to be successful. Additionally, a little charisma doesn’t hurt. Amazingly, these are all traits we have yet to see exhibited by the man who has choked on the big stage multiple times.
People often refer to Paul Ryan as “one of the smartest people on the Hill”. While I’m sure Ryan appreciates the compliment, I’m not exactly sure it’s something to be proud of. “The Hill” is populated with people whose skillsets are so weak, they couldn’t last five minutes in the private sector. Congress is filled with liars, whiners, and conventional thinkers. The reason Donald Trump is able to get networks from CNBC to Fox News to bow to his demands is because he understands negotiations. In contrast, Ryan botched the healthcare rollout showing that he didn’t learn from the controversial Ryan plan rollout prior to a very tight election. By unveiling this plan, he not only forced his Republicans colleagues to have to defend this plan, but he also gave the President and his fellow Democrats ammunition even though they did not have a plan themselves.
In fairness to Ryan, in person, he is a very likable man. At the same time, there are plenty of nice men and women in Congress. The problem is how far being “nice” will get you with extremists like Nancy Pelosi or even an aggressive president in your own party who might need to be kept in check. For example, do people believe once Democrats begin calling Ryan, “anti-immigrant” he will respond by standing his ground on immigration reform? Do we believe he will fight side by side with President Trump on hot button legislation? Being nice guys is why the Romney/Ryan ticket lost a disaster of presidential administration in 2012.
Although Ryan has exhibited a deficiency in toughness and negotiation skills, he also lacks the charisma to inspire. On top of these weaknesses, Ryan has horrible political instincts and has consistently choked on the big stage. Moreover, no one can claim he was an asset to the Romney presidential ticket. Let’s be real here. Sarah Palin was basically thrown into her vice-presidential debate unprepared and she kept then Senator Biden off guard. If you count his lies and exaggerations, she clearly won. In comparison, we are told Ryan is the boy wonder; a genius; a policy wonk. Yet, he had his clock cleaned by a Vice President who had to defend a disastrous four-year record. Ryan looked nervous, scared, and quite frankly out of his league against Biden, who at times appeared to be mentally unstable.
Perhaps I’ve always had low expectations when it came to Ryan’s ability to be an effective speaker. At the time, I believed Rep. Dan Webster would have made a much more effective speaker and I still believe that. I must confess I was never sold on the “Young Guns” crew of Kevin McCarthy, Eric Cantor, and Paul Ryan. Nevertheless, Ryan was clearly the brightest out of that bunch. Still, Ryan’s consistency is respectable, but Republicans have to ask themselves: Will continuing to believe in his abilities just mean more underwhelming results?