The Beltway media villagers deem who the Very Serious People are in Washington, D.C., and somehow the media villagers have bestowed the title of “policy wonk” on the GOP’s alleged boy genius, Ayn Rand fanboy Rep. Paul Ryan, “the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin” as Charles Pierce refers to him.
The Beltway media villagers have always been wrong about the intellectual capacity of Rep. Ryan. The New York Times‘ columnist Paul Krugman has dismissively referred to Ryan as The Flimflam Man – Flimflam Forever – After the Flimflam – Flimflam, The Next Generation.
In short, Paul Ryan is an intellectual fraud in economics and tax policy. His base of supporters are the feckless Beltway media villagers who have deemed him a “policy wonk” and a “very serious person.”
So when the GOP House Caucus descended into chaos yesterday after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy withdrew his name from consideration for speaker and the TanMan, Weeper of the House John Boehner, delayed GOP leadership elections, the media villagers and a few GOPers tried to anoint Paul Ryan as their savior, the only man who could unify the warring factions of the GOP as House Speaker. “Waiting for Godot” turned into “Waiting for Ryan.” Wooing Chairman Ryan: Paul Ryan remains on sidelines as House GOP looks to regroup; House Republicans in disarray keep focus on Ryan.
Somebody forgot to tell the wild-eyed radical extremists in the GOP House Freedom Caucus. Conservatives cool to Ryan as Speaker:
Conservatives are not sold on the idea of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as Speaker.
While top House Republicans are trying to push a reluctant Ryan into the job, on the grounds that he alone can unify the conference, conservative lawmakers gave a decidedly cool response Friday when asked if they want him to be their new leader.
Several GOP lawmakers noted that Ryan has repeatedly said he is not interested in the job, while appearing less than convinced that he is the only viable candidate.
“The name came out,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) after Friday’s private GOP meeting. “Last I knew, [Ryan] definitely didn’t want to do it.”
Huelskamp also criticized one of Ryan’s major legislative achievements in Congress, the two-year budget agreement he hammered out with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in 2013.
The Kansas Republican noted that he opposed the pact, “as did a lot of other people,” and pointed out lawmakers in both parties are now pushing to further ease the spending caps it established.
“A lot of folks want to break that up already,” Huelskamp said.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) declined to weigh in on Ryan as Speaker, noting only that his group had earlier backed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) for the job.
And Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) dismissed the idea of a Ryan groundswell.
“I think that’s more media-driven. I think that’s you guys who keep talking about Paul Ryan,” he said. “Paul has made it clear he’s not interested.”
For his part, Ryan has repeatedly rebuffed calls for him to take over as the head House Republican. On Friday, a Ryan spokesman reiterated that the 2012 vice presidential candidate is “still not running for Speaker.” Ryan ‘still not running’ for Speaker.
And yet the media villagers continue to lobby for Paul Ryan.
Paul Krugman takes on the media villagers’ Flimflam Fever:
What the GOP means by smart.
Apparently desperate Republicans are pleading with Paul Ryan to become Speaker of the House, because he’s “super, super smart.” More than anyone else in his caucus, he has the reputation of being a brilliant policy wonk.
And that tells you even more about the dire state of the GOP. After all, Ryan is to policy wonkery what Carly Fiorina is to corporate management: brilliant at selling himself, hopeless at actually doing the job. Lest we forget, his much-vaunted budget plan proved, on even superficial examination, to be a ludicrous mess of Magic Asterisks. His big contribution to discussion of economic policy was his stern warning to Ben Bernanke that quantitative easing would “debase the dollar,” that rising commodity prices in early 2011 presaged a surge in inflation. This guy’s delusions of expertise should be considered funny.
Yet he may indeed be the best they have.
Nonetheless, it would be a huge mistake for him personally to take the job. Where he is, he can cultivate his wonk image, with nobody in the press willing to disturb the illusion. In a direct leadership role, he’d have no place to hide.
Paul Ryan would be a disaster as Speaker of the House. The media villagers need to cease this infatuation and stop lobbying for him.
UPDATE: The Beltway media villagers continue to lobby for Paul Ryan: the NY Times Desperate G.O.P. Appeals to Ryan on Speaker’s Job and Washington Post Chorus of voices pushing Paul Ryan toward speaker gavel grows louder. The Hill, however, reports Conservatives cool to Ryan as Speaker, and Conservatives cool to Ryan as Speaker. Think Progress adds, 3 Reasons Right-Wingers Are Rallying Against ‘Speaker Paul Ryan’.
The NY Times Paul Krugman warns Memories of Con Jobs Past:
As the Paul Ryan clamor gets louder, a public service reminder: he’s a con man.
I don’t mean that I disagree with his policy ideas, although I do. I mean that his reputation as a serious thinker is based on deception, both about what he has actually proposed and how it has or hasn’t been vetted.
Take, for example, the famous “fiscally responsible” budget plan. As I explained way back when, what Ryan did was to present a sort of vague fiscal outline to the Congressional Budget Office that envisioned implausibly large cuts in spending and mysterious increases in revenue, and stipulated for the purpose of the exercise that CBO take those numbers as given. The budget office hinted broadly in its report that it didn’t believe any of it, e.g.:
That combination of other mandatory and discretionary spending was specified to decline from 12 percent of GDP in 2010 to about 6 percent in 2021 and then move in line with the GDP price deflator beginning in 2022, which would generate a further decline relative to GDP. No proposals were specified that would generate that path. [My italics]
But CBO did the numbers as required — and then the Ryan plan was presented as something that the budget office had “vetted”, when it did no such thing.
And as I’ve said, Ryan is to budget analysis as Carly Fiorina is to corporate leadership: he’s brilliant at self-promotion, but there’s no hint that he’s actually able to do the job. There is, in particular, no example I know of where he’s actually been right about anything involving budgets or economics, and some remarkable examples — like his inflation screeds — of being completely wrong, and learning nothing from the experience.
So is this really the GOP can do? And the answer, sad to say, is that it probably is.
In a follow-up post, Krugman writes, Paul Ryan, Centrist Crush:
If Paul Ryan has any sense of self-preservation — and that is one thing he surely has — he will look for any way possible to avoid becoming Speaker. The hard right is already attacking him, essentially accusing him of not being sufficiently crazy, and they’re right. On policy substance he’s totally an Ayn Rand-loving, reward-the-rich and punish-the-poor guy, but so are lots of other Republicans; what they want is someone willing to go along with kamikaze tactics, and he isn’t. His fall from grace would be swift.
But if Ryan isn’t distinctive in his political positions, why does he loom so large within his party? The answer is that he’s more or less unique among extreme right-wingers in having the approbation of centrists, especially centrist pundits. That is, he’s a big man within the GOP because people outside seem to approve of him. And it’s important to ask why.
What you need to understand about political commentary these days — including the de facto commentary that poses as news analysis, or even reporting — is that most of the people doing it have both a professional and an emotional stake in portraying the two parties as symmetric, equally good or bad on policy issues and general behavior. To stray from this pose of even-handedness is to be labeled a partisan — and to admit that the parties aren’t the same, after all, would mean admitting that you’ve been wrong about the most basic features of the situation for years.
Unfortunately for professional centrists, the parties aren’t remotely symmetric . . . What’s a professional centrist to do?
The answer is that he or she desperately needs to find conservatives they can take seriously, people who produce policy ideas that, even if you don’t support their priorities, add up and generally make sense. And that’s Paul Ryan’s game: he has put himself forward as the serious, honest conservative of centrists’ dreams, someone they can cite approvingly as a way of showing their centrism and open-mindedness.
And it has been a stunningly successful act. In his heyday, Ryan was the object of an immense, indeed embarrassing, media crush — the word “love” came up a lot.
But Ryan didn’t step into that role by actually being a serious, honest conservative; he just played one on TV. If you knew anything at all about budgeting, you soon realized that his supposedly responsible fiscal proposals were stuffed full of mystery meat. He knew how to game the system, creating the impression that CBO had vetted his plans when it had done no such thing (and in fact hinted broadly that the whole thing was a crock). But there’s never been any indication that he actually knows how to produce a budget — and in any case, giant tax cuts for the rich and fiscal responsibility are fundamentally incompatible.
So Ryan’s current stature is really quite curious, and I’d argue quite fragile. He has been a highly successful con artist, pretending to be the reasonable conservative centrists desperately want to see; he has become a power within his party because of that external achievement. But he’s not a true hero of the crazy right; he’s valued mainly because of his successful con job on the center. So he doesn’t have a reserve of goodwill from the crazies that would let him be, well, not crazy. On the other hand, if he were to be the kind of speaker the crazies want, he would undermine that all-important centrist approbation . . . moving to the speaker’s chair would be a lose-lose proposition.
In other words, becoming Speaker would expose Ryan for the fraud that he is, and would expose the Beltway media villagers who have an infatuation for Ryan and lobby for him as frauds s well.