Released on His Own Recognizance


Washington is literally atwitter with speculation as to why Speaker Paul Ryan has chosen to end his congressional career by not running again for the U.S. House of Representatives. Is he fearful that Republicans will lose the House in 2018? Will he run instead in the Republican primary against President Trump in 2020? Or, does he simply want to spend more time with his family?

While all of these factors may be in play to varying degrees, I believe the main reason is more in line with the words of the great philosophers Evelle and Gale from the classic 1987 film “Raising Arizona.” Asked if they had escaped from prison, Evelle and Gale calmly stated: “We didn’t escape, we released ourselves on our own recognizance. We felt we’d reached the limits of what the institution had to offer us.”

Props to and to Vasari.

“A Triumph of His Own Propaganda”

And, as per usual, Jonathan Chait, in a post titled Fanatic, Fraud, Factotum: The Rise and Fall of Paul Ryan, has lots of insightful things to say, including these observations:

The kind of nightmare Ryan imagined was a very peculiar dystopian fantasy. Ryan believed the Obama administration was undermining the moral foundations of American society by redistributing too much income from the makers to the takers. …

What finally killed off the myth of Paul Ryan was Donald Trump. Here was a figure who absolutely revolted the same elites Ryan had cultivated. In the face of something as large and obvious and grotesque as Trump, Ryan could no longer straddle the gap between his base and the national media. He tried, for a while, by publicly standing behind his party’s nominee while signaling his discomfort sub rosa.

Once Trump assumed the presidency, the contradiction became impossible to ignore or manage. Ryan submitted himself fully to the president. As House Speaker, Ryan has played an indispensable role in insulating Trump from public and legal accountability. Ryan has buried votes that would compel the release of Trump’s tax returns, and unleashed Devin Nunes to run a counter-investigation designed to discredit the Department of Justice and ultimately clear the way for Trump to halt the probe of Russian interference on his behalf. …

The critics who flay Ryan as a coward have never understood that his actions are a form of idealism. To Ryan, the greatest danger to liberty lies not in a president who defies the rule of law but in high tax rates and a functioning social safety net. When Ryan speaks with pride about the policy accomplishments he helped carry out with Trump, he is not spinning. In Ryan’s worldview, he has struck a powerful blow for liberty against the socialist hordes. Ryan leaves his endangered majority convinced he has done his job well. It is a triumph of his own propaganda that so few people believe he is actually sincere about this.

Aardvark’s Addendum

It isn’t just that Ryan is gone.

It’s that Ryanism is dead, too.