Not Looking Good

wheels on the bus

Sean Hannity

An unimpeachable source reports that, “This morning, Sean Hannity told friends the whistle-blower’s allegations are ‘really bad,’ a person briefed on Hannity’s conversations told me. (Hannity did not respond to a request for comment).”

Paul Ryan

The same unimpeachable source also reports,

Among the powerful voices advising Lachlan [Murdoch] that Fox should decisively break with the president is former House speaker Paul Ryan, who joined the Fox board in March. “Paul is embarrassed about Trump and now he has the power to do something about it,” an executive who’s spoken with Ryan told me. (Ryan did not return a call seeking comment.) But a person more sympathetic to Trump has told Lachlan that Fox should remain loyal to Trump’s supporters, even if the network has to break from the man. “We need to represent our viewers,” the source said. “Fox is about defending our viewers from the people who hate them. That’s where our power comes from. It’s not about Trump.”

John Bolton

Mr. Bolton and his mustache are also likely to make an appearance on Fox soon. Mr. Bolton and his moustache know a lot about Ukrainegate. And they do not like Trump.


A Hero Behind the Scenes

Well, this is nice:

Ryan prefers to tell Trump how he feels in private. He joins a large group of Trump’s putative allies, many of whom have worked in the administration, who insist that they have shaped Trump’s thinking and behavior in private: the “Trust me, I’ve stopped this from being much worse” approach. “I can look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and say I avoided that tragedy, I avoided that tragedy, I avoided that tragedy,” Ryan tells me. “I advanced this goal, I advanced this goal, I advanced this goal.”

I locked in on the word “tragedy.” It sets the mind reeling to whatever thwarted “tragedies” Ryan might be talking about. I asked for an example. “No, I don’t want to do that,” Ryan replied. “That’s more than I usually say.”


The Sins of Father Conroy


Ruth Marcus gives additional context to the defenestration of the House Chaplain:

Ryan admonished the priest after the Nov. 6 prayer, saying, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics,” Conroy told the New York Times.

He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted.

Over the five months since Ryan’s warning, Conroy dared to continue to preach the teachings of Jesus on the House floor:

He prayed to God that lawmakers would help “the least among us.”

He prayed for them to follow the example of St. Nicholas, “who fed the hungry, brought hope to the imprisoned, gave comfort to the lost.”

He admonished lawmakers “to serve other people in their need” and “to pray for the unemployed and those who work but still struggle to make ends meet.”

After an immigration deal collapsed, he urged “those who possess power here in Washington be mindful of those whom they represent who possess little or no power.”

He prayed for lawmakers to be “free of all prejudice” and, after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, to “fulfill the hopes of those who long for peace and security for their children.”

One of my favorite liberal pundits has argued,

The House chaplain is not like a tenured faculty post at a university, which has some implicit protection for the right to give controversial political remarks. If you have a House chaplain — which I don’t even favor in the first place — you have no obligation to let them use the perch to push their own political values.

It’s important to separate substance from process. When you lose sight of that distinction, you wind up like Trump’s Republican allies, supporting anything their party does to advance their agenda. Ryan’s beliefs about taxes may be horrid, but he has no obligation to let the House chaplain deliver subtle rebukes to his ideology.

Makes perfect sense—from a secular point of view. And I’m sure that Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan’s patron said, would thoroughly approve of keeping religion out of Congress.

But from Father Ryan’s point of view, it wasn’t a matter of “ideology,” it was a matter of fundamental religious conviction.

The Lesson

The Lesson? If you don’t want Christianity to influence the prayers you hear, then for God’s sake don’t appoint a chaplain who is an actual Christian.

I’m sure it’s a mistake Paul Ryan will not make again.

Without a Prayer


This prayer led to the House chaplain’s dismissal by Paul Ryan:

The Chaplain, the Reverend Patrick J. Conroy, offered the following prayer:

God of the universe, we give You thanks for giving us another day. Bless the Members of this assembly as they set upon the work of these hours, of these days. Help them to make wise decisions in a good manner and to carry their responsibilities steadily, with high hopes for a better future for our great Nation.

As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all Members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.

May Your blessing, O God, be with them and with us all this day and every day to come, and may all we do be done for Your greater honor and glory.


Good job Jesus isn’t the Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives.

Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.

God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. …

“What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. …

What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets.

No, my friends, Jesus would never work out as the House Chaplain.

The Smile on the Face of the Tiger


In 2008, Saint John McCain, desperate to win by any means necessary, put Sarah Palin on the ticket. But her audience was unsatisfied by a token crazy person. In the fullness of time, they demanded an insane person at the top of the ticket.

After the Tea Party revolution of 2010, Paul Ryan made the best of a bad deal and welcomed them in, pretending that his agenda was their agenda.

When you decide to ride a tiger, you should not be surprised at the unfortunate result. When you see a crazy mob, and your reaction is to get in front of the mob and try to lead it, you should know that the mob will probably run over you and stomp you to death.

Exit Paul Ryan. And, Paul, don’t let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you.

Many talking heads have sunned their livers on the topic of Ryan’s exit. Yesterday, one of the more astute taking heads observed that the most immediate effect of Ryan’s retreat will be on donations from the Ritchie Riches who have been supporting Republican branded politicians. Paul Ryan, the talking head allowed, has been a prodigious fundraiser for Republican candidates for the House of Representatives. Ryan’s retreat sends a strong signal that a blue wave is coming, and that more donations to Republican House candidates are useless.

The talking head went on to predict that, now, the Ritchie Riches will probably switch the monetary support to Republican candidates for the Senate.

Good luck with that. As of right now, the Republican brand is doomed. See, for example, Five Americans explain the burst of enthusiasm for Democratic candidates and causes. Like the rest of us, including your humble scrivener, the thinking of these five representative voters is imperfect and their analysis is incomplete and imprecise. But, like the Oxford student who did not love Doctor Fell, this they know, and know full well: Donald Trump is bad news, and if they voted for him, they wholeheartedly regret it.

Others, of course, remain Trump supporters. Republican branded empty suits will find it pretty much impossible to win with them, because their craziness alienates the types of voters described in the preceding paragraph. On the other hand, Republican branded empty suits cannot win without them. Accordingly, they will not win. This is a corollary of a more general rule: if a thing cannot happen, then that thing will not happen.

Meanwhile, the choices for the Ritchie Riches come down to two: either try to buy enough Democratic branded politicians to advance your agenda, or start a new business-oriented party and call in the “Center Party” or the “Moderate Party”–or maybe, inspired by the Monty Python skit, they’ll call it the “Sensible Party.”

I have predicted a coming three-party system. I stand by that prognostication.

And, by the way, remember how I said it would be Dershowitz stepping up as Trump’s legal counsel? Lookin’ good. See Trump turns to Dershowitz as Mueller probe escalates.

My reasoning was Sherlockian: if Dershowiz is willing and even eager to represent Trump, and if no other marginally qualified lawyer is willing to represent Trump, then it’s going to be Dershowitz.

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.

Wheels within Wheels, or, An Intention to Fail?


This morning—continuing his valiant struggle to find a method in the madness—Jonathan Chait asks: Why Is McConnell Rushing Through a Trumpcare Bill Everybody Hates?

The House bill—which McConnell apparently intends to photocopy and them ram through the Senate—is too liberal for the Republican right and too conservative to pass the Senate.

While McConnell’s plan might be necessary in order to keep the party’s legislative strategy on track, it is highly and even delusionally optimistic, given the state of his vote count. It also runs counter to the Senate’s institutional culture. Senators cherish their power to shape and control legislation. A strategy of photocopying the House bill and ramming it through seems almost designed to violate the Senatorial ego.

This raises a question: Is it designed to violate the Senatorial ego? And thus to fail? Neither the conservative revolt nor McConnell’s plan make a lot of sense if you view them as strategies designed to yield the most right-wing health-care policy that is attainable. They do make sense as a strategy designed to insulate Republicans from failure.

Republicans have made two promises that can’t be reconciled. They promised to repeal Obamacare, and to replace it with a terrific law that would take care of everybody. As the House Republican ad put it, they promised, “more choices and better care, at lower costs. … peace of mind to people with preexisting conditions … without disrupting existing coverage.” Those things cannot be reconciled. If Republicans repeal Obamacare, they will put in place something that not only fails to provide the better, cheaper care they have promised the country, but does not meet even the minimal threshold of access to basic care for people who currently receive it.

From that standpoint, the winning play for the GOP might be to try to repeal and replace Obamacare but fail. If they are seen trying and failing to repeal the law, it might upset the base, but most Republican lawmakers will have their opposition to Obamacare on the record. And if it is to fail, it should fail quickly, so they can move on to cutting taxes.


Paul Ryan is in on the conspiracy to make the bill fail.