Paul Ryan – Is There a French Parallel?

By David T. Jones on April 29, 2018

Washington, DC ~ The three traditional lies—so time worn that they have become caricatures—are

Of course I’ll respect you in the morning;

 I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you; and

I need to spend more time with my family.

The final lie—the one to which Paul Ryan resorted when announcing that he would not run for reelection this November—is always hard to disprove definitively.  The individual may have “jumped” before being defenestrated.  (S)he may be totally burned out from effort (either successful or not) that health may be an imperative for departing.  Or, indeed, examining personal realities regarding what is really important in life, spending “more time with my family” is reasonably honest.  After all, it would be a unique individual who on deathbed offered last words, “If only I’d spent more time at the office.”

But in the entrails examination game, parsing over Ryan has some interesting facets.

At the moment, pundits are saying that they saw it coming.  Ryan never wanted the speaker’s job, he got his dream tax bill passed, the Republicans might move to the minority, and dealing with President Trump’s vagaries provide compelling reasons to leave.

 And, perhaps with an eye roll, it can also be a Ryan family decision.  His family is young; years before college departure are fleeting.  These are crucial times, and he wants to be more than a “Sunday father.”

 Another factor may be money.  He was a scholarship student who went into government at a young age.  He has future college bills to pay.  Stepping out now gives him six good years of earning potential.  Ohio’s Governor Kasich went into finance and the media after leaving Congress and before he ran for governor.  Richard Nixon lost the California governor’s race in 1962.  He moved to New York to become a well-paid Park Avenue lawyer before being elected president in 1968.

From now into 2019 there will be rubbishing of Ryan’s reputation, some factual and much speculative.  In point of fact, it is brutal at the moment and is likely to continue.

For Ryan, it is sins of omission not sins of commission.  He is not accused of allegedly having an affair with an adult film star and/or a Playboy bunny.  He did not utter the words about women in the Access Hollywood tape.  But he was not “all that he could be” (or what anti-Trumpites wanted—an effective foil and constraint to Trump.)

His sin is not condemning current chaos sufficiently.  But, in theory, he can recover.  Time will heal.  America offers endless “second chances” and loves a repentance and redemption story.  So Ryan retreats to the Wisconsin wilderness forests to hunt, think, and reorient.  Ultimately, he admits the obvious:  that he could and should have done more to resist the trashing of “normal” politics.  He is sorry.  The public will understand.

After that mea culpa exercise, however, particularly if the political scene remains as it is, there may be interest in Ryan as the answer.

Could we bet on him as the Republican Party Presidential nominee in 2024?  It is hardly a good wager, but if the odds are right it might be worth a flutter?  The odds against, however, are high.  He didn’t light up the political spectrum as Romney’s running mate in 2012 (not even able to carry his home state, Wisconsin).  Characterized as a dull policy wonk, he was a nonfactor in the 2016 Republican primaries.

Of course there are other potential future candidates – we know some names, including Vice President Pence – but Ryan could remain a factor.

There is a possible parallel in French politics.  Georges Pompidou served as De Gaulle’s prime minister, winning elections and managing the “les evenements” of 1968.  There was, however, a falling out.  De Gaulle nudged Pompidou aside, putting him “in reserve for the Republic.”  

 After De Gaulle’s death, Pompidou was the obvious successor to De Gaulle.  He reemerged from implicit exile for a successful presidency unfortunately shortened by death from cancer. 

Currently, Ryan is “in reserve” for the Republic.  Obviously, Janesville, Wisconsin is not a French village nor a major metropolis.  However, if the current disarray in politics writ large (and particularly in the Republican Party) continues, stay aware of roads to Janesville.  There will be party pilgrims coming to Paul Ryan to ask him to take another job that he may not now want."


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