To my surprise, he took the job. But at least I was one-for-two -- because in only two months (!), he's already infuriated the Far Right. That's pretty impressive to do such a thing in such a short time. But it's not even remotely surprising.
One of the agreements that Ryan required for taking the job was that he wouldn't be challenged by the conservative caucus in the House, the whimsically and oxymoronically-named "Freedom Caucus." The problem is that no conservative outside of Congress was under any obligation to go along with that. And so, while Ryan has been rational enough to pass regulations and budget funding that would keep the United States government actually running -- something you'd think a significant part of the job of Speaker of the House -- the grassroots Far Right has been outraged.
I mean seriously outraged.
The deeply-conservative Breitbart.com website had a banner headline across their homepage, "Paul Ryan Betrays America." An angry Rush Limbaugh has told his Far Right listeners that thanks to Paul Ryan, the Republican Party has sold American "down the river." The very conservative Laura Ingraham has not only called the so-called Omnibus Budget which Ryan agreed to an "omni-bust," but more to the point has insisted Paul Ryan personally should be "regarded as a declared enemy of the Base."
Remember, this is not Barack Obama these conservatives are talking about. It's Paul Ryan. Their party's most-recent vice-presidential candidate. Their party's leader in Congress, the Speaker of the House. And they're using words like "Betray" and "Enemy of the Base." And remember, as well, it's only been just two months on the job. And -- it doesn't stop there.
The hyperbolic Ann Coulter is so livid with Paul Ryan that within just 40 days as Speaker, she's already calling for him to have a primary challenge in his home district and be thrown out of office. The reactionary radio host Mark Levin has declared Mr. Ryan "already a disaster."
And the thing is that "disaster," "betray" and "enemy" -- and throw out of office -- are just the starting point of the GOP fury at Paul Ryan. After only two months. Because the funniest criticism of the Republican base at Paul Ryan is their hysteria at him having (are you ready?) -- a beard! Because in the angst-ridden world of the Far Right, that can only mean one thing, and perhaps the Worst Thing of All -- Muslim. The Twitter World is now overflowing with unthinking and conspiratorial-minded right-wingers insisting that the "Muslim beard" means that Paul Ryan has grown it to show his sympathy with Muslims, or worse, that he's become a Muslim.
Seriously, if you had read an article about a party leader who the extreme Far Right was describing with words like "Muslim," "betray," "enemy" and "disaster, is there any way you wouldn't immediate assume they were referring solely to President Barack Obama. If someone gave you good odds to bet on Paul Ryan, would you have ever taken that sucker bet?
And again, this is only after two months as Speaker of the House!! Paul Ryan now has two options -- shore up that GOP base, and cave in on everything he's agreed to, showing a palpable weakness, infuriating the rest of the country. Or keep acting like Speaker, keep the government running, continue supporting his own agreements and behaving semi-rationally -- and destroying his support from the Republican base.
The new year after the House reconvenes will provide new options for Paul Ryan. He's said he'll hold a vote to repeal "Obamacare" using the reconciliation tool that had been employed to pass the bill in the first place. But this is not likely to accomplish much, even if it passes, needing to be able to override a presidential veto. And trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act didn't help former-Speaker John Boehner. That leaves Mr. Ryan with limited options. And as a member of that Freedom Caucus told The Hill, “Everyone gave Ryan a mulligan [with the Omnibus Budget bill] … but he will not get any more mulligans."
And that mulligan he's referring to is not a do-over from the grassroots Republican base, but rather ratcheted up for House lawmakers themselves. The GOP base appears already to have moved on and decided Paul Ryan is a Muslim enemy to be defeated.
I suspect that he's in the same position as his predecessor John Boehner, who finally was so twisted in every untenable direction that he resigned the job and quit Congress. I don't think Ryan will do either of those -- Boehner, after all, was nearing the end of his career and had no higher aspirations. But the problems remain the same. And for Paul Ryan, the problems may even be worse, because he's younger and does have presidential dreams. And as we know, an elephant never forgets.
That sucking sound you're hearing is Paul Ryan's presidential hopes going down the drain. After only two months.