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If you seek Paul Ryan's monument, all you need do is look around. There is the booming economy that continues to create jobs and increase take-home pay, a testament to the many years he spent advocating fundamental tax reform. Yet it's all been accomplished without sacrificing the great safety nets this country depends on, like Social Security and Medicare. Both of those have been saved from going bankrupt by his tireless efforts.

Plus there's his practical negotiating skills as speaker of the House. And if he'd had his way, the current unpleasantness with Communist China known as a trade war would have been avoided altogether.

Many a politician has been known to use the attractiveness of spending more time with wife and family at home as a cover when they're obliged to leave office. But there is no reason to doubt Paul Ryan's sincerity when he says he's retiring to do just that. At the same time, he points with deserved pride to his long political record: "I have given this job everything I have," he says. "We're going to have a great record to run on."

But whether the country or even his own party appreciates all Paul Ryan knows and has done won't be clear till the midterm election returns begin pouring in come November. He told the press that if he stayed on in Washington for still another term, his kids would grow up knowing him as only a "weekend dad."

"I can't let that happen," he says. For he knows what it's like to grow up missing a father--his own died when he was 16.

As frenetic as a big-time politician's life can be, he has always managed to appear cool, calm and collected--an example of grace under sustained pressure. To quote U.S. Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Speaker Ryan has been "a steady force in contrast to the president's more mercurial tone. That's needed." And how.

There is no understating how much his party has lost with Paul Ryan's all too sudden departure as speaker. To quote former Rep. Thomas Davis of Virginia, "This is the nightmare scenario. Everybody figured he'd just hang in there till after the election." But he didn't, and who can blame him for heading out now? He's already done more than enough for his party, not to mention his country. The peace of Janesville, Wis., must look awfully good after all the sound and fury of Washington, D.C.

Together with Mitt Romney, he made a kind of kangaroo ticket in the 2012 presidential election--one stronger in its hind legs. It was far from easy to succeed John Boehner as speaker when that worthy felt he had to step down after failing to work out a sound fiscal policy with the GOP's right-wingers. Somebody was needed to fill the gap between the party's ideologues and its moderates. And it was Paul Ryan who stepped forward to bring the GOP's right and left together.

"That's probably his greatest gift to us," noted Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. "His ability to bridge the vast divide." It was Paul Ryan who took on that seemingly impossible job, and succeeded to a degree no one might have imagined possible.

But for now the great scramble to find a successor to Paul Ryan is on, and it won't be pretty or quick. "I think everybody will start jockeying for position immediately," says Mark Meadows, the Republican representative from North Carolina who heads the conservative Freedom Caucus and must know what a wild scramble is about to break out in always restive Republican ranks. So let the games begin. The GOP has nothing to lose but its already frayed unity.


Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Editorial on 04/18/2018

Print Headline: He made a difference; Paul Ryan leaves a big hole to fill

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  • BoudinMan
    April 18, 2018 at 6:19 a.m.

    So, PG posits that we have Paul Ryan to thank for the economy. Who knew? I wonder if PG could cite actions taken by Ryan in 2009 that led directly to this "economic boom." Once again the conservative voice sings the praises of trickle down economics. Another conservative whitewash by Dear Editor.

  • condoleezza
    April 18, 2018 at 10:09 a.m.

    The economy is booming? I don't think so; certainly, it is no better than it was under Obama, when job growth was consistent month after month. Pulitzer Paul forgot to mention that the recent tax break added trillions to the debt, and doesn't really do anything for a middle class person like me. Also, don't forget that Ryan still wants to privatize (ie. destroy) Social Security. Meanwhile, when he turns 50 (in two years) he gets a full taxpayer-sponsored pension to the tune of $79K per year. For life.

  • WhododueDiligence
    April 18, 2018 at 10:31 a.m.

    Yes, BoudinMan, this economic growth period began when the Great Recession ended in mid-2009. Paul Ryan is hopelessly and forever stuck in irrational devotion to trickle-down ideology. He keeps saying that trickle-down tax cuts will somehow magically balance budgets despite the reality that they have consistently INCREASED budget deficits ever since trickle-down tax cutting was introduced 37 years ago.
    Ryan's budget proposals lack specifics. He claims to advocate closure of some tax loopholes but doesn't say which ones. What good are budget proposals without specifics? It's just playing a ludicrous game of pie-in-the-sky trickle-down politics. It's a popular game because trickle-down tax cuts always sound exciting, but it's getting old--37 years old to be specific.
    Ryan claims to be concerned about high budget deficits. But he voted AGAINST the specific recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission which would have reduced deficits. Now the OMB is projecting trillion-dollar deficits in our near future as a result of our recent trickle-down tax reduction, and Ryan is on today's front page promoting this latest trickle-down budget fiasco and advising we make the individual tax cuts permanent. Ryan no longer even pretends to be hawkish on deficits. And these trillion-dollar annual budget deficits are projected during economic growth. How high will the deficits skyrocket when we enter into our next war and/or economic recession?

  • WhododueDiligence
    April 18, 2018 at 10:44 a.m.

    If Paul Ryan was a kangaroo's hind end, all that means is he can jump even higher than Mitt Romney when super-wealthy donors yell "We need more trickle-down tax breaks right now, so hop to it."

  • WhododueDiligence
    April 18, 2018 at 11:15 a.m.

    Romney's "47 percent" statement to donors in 2012 was bad. It was a political unforced error because the 47 percent includes--among millions of other low-income workers--many elderly Americans who worked hard for decades and retired with little income other than Social Security into which they paid during their working years.
    It didn't get as much attention, but Paul Ryan's 2012 Georgetown University speech was much, MUCH worse than anything Romney said. In that speech, Ryan basically droned on and on explaining to Catholics how Ryan's budget cuttings of federal programs for impoverished Americans and Ryan's admiration of Ayn Rand's greed-is-good philosophy all dovetail nicely with Catholic teachings and with Ryan's Catholic beliefs. That speech was sharply condemned by Catholic bishops and also in a letter signed by several dozen Georgetown faculty members.
    That speech was so monumentally ludicrous and such a major unforced error that Ryan soon afterward publicly denounced his previously long-held faith in Ayn Rand. It would have received much more attention and closer scrutiny in 2012 if Ryan had been the front end of the kangaroo. More recent reports state that Ryan has admitted he was wrong in that Georgetown speech, which has prompted speculation that Ryan might try to be the front end in 2020.

  • 3WorldState1
    April 18, 2018 at 11:38 a.m.

    This article is hilarious.
    Really hard to pass tax cuts for rich people when they are giving you money to keep your job.

  • RobertBolt
    April 18, 2018 at 12:33 p.m.

    I've read of the theoretical multiplicity of alternate universes, but I never expected to see an actual editorial from one. It must be nice to live in that one.

  • WhododueDiligence
    April 18, 2018 at 12:53 p.m.

    Alternative universes might explain why trickle-down Republicans picked Ryan as the rear end of their kangaroo AFTER his otherworldly Georgetown speech.

  • RobertBolt
    April 18, 2018 at 1:40 p.m.

    It's all coming together now, WhoDo. A parade of random, unsavory things are bleeding over from Planet Trump in the Dark Matter Universe.

  • TimberTopper
    April 18, 2018 at 3:10 p.m.

    The title is correct only if he wants to talk about how he screwed all of the average Americans out of a future.