The GOP has a united Republican government — and they still can’t govern. That is the takeaway from yesterday’s stunning loss, where Republicans decided to withdraw their repeal bill rather than face the humiliation of public defeat on live television. Whose political career is going to the guillotine for this debacle? Who has Steve Bannon declared would be gone by Spring? If you said Paul Ryan, you’re right. The implosion of Paul Ryan’s career has been building for quite some time. The Speaker of the House is a con artist and his attempt to foist “ObamaCare 0.5” i.e. a half baked version of the original, off on the public as a new and improved product, failed spectacularly and a price will be paid. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has been following Paul Ryan for a number of years and Krugman just put another nail in Paul Ryan’s coffin.
Many people are horrified, and rightly so, by what passes for leadership in today’s Washington. And it’s important to keep the horror of our political situation up front, to keep highlighting the lies, the cruelty, the bad judgment. We must never normalize the state we’re in.
At the same time, however, we should be asking ourselves how the people running our government came to wield such power. How, in particular, did a man whose fraudulence, lack of concern for those he claims to care about and lack of policy coherence should have been obvious to everyone nonetheless manage to win over so many gullible souls?
No, this isn’t a column about whatshisname, the guy on Twitter, who’s getting plenty of attention. It’s about Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House. …
Some people seem startled both by the awfulness of Mr. Ryan’s plan and by the raw dishonesty of his sales pitch. But why? Everything we’ve seen from Mr. Ryan amid the health care debacle — everything, that is, except the press coverage — has been completely consistent with his previous career. That is, he’s still the same guy I wrote about back in 2010, in a column titled “The Flimflam Man.”
I wrote that column in response to what turned out to be the first of a series of high-profile Ryan budget proposals. While differing in detail, all of these proposals share a family resemblance: Like his health plan, each involved savage cuts in benefits for the poor and working class, with the money released by these cuts used to offset large tax cuts for the rich. All were, however, sold on false pretenses as plans for deficit reduction.
Worse, the alleged deficit reduction came entirely from “magic asterisks”: claims about huge savings to be achieved by cutting unspecified government spending, huge revenue increases to be achieved by closing unspecified tax loopholes. It was a con job all the way.
Krugman’s 2010 article said: “Republicans seem to have been undone by their reverse-Robin-Hood urges. You can’t make something like Obamacare work without giving lower-income families enough support that insurance becomes affordable. But the modern G.O.P. always wants to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted; so the bill ends up throwing away the taxes on the rich that help pay for subsidies, and redirects the subsidies themselves away from those who need them to those who don’t.” Krugman could have written that yesterday. If Ryan has changed since 2010, it’s only to have gotten worse.
What Steve Bannon and Paul Ryan have in common is the fact that they are both con men. Ryan was trying to sell his tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy under the guise of deficit reduction. Bannon set out to sell a trust fund baby who declared bankruptcy half a dozen times and didn’t pay his contractors, let alone his taxes, as “friend of the working man.” Bannon has never been able to stand Ryan. Ryan represents the GOP conservative core that is part of the system about which Bannon says, “I want to tear it all down.” Deconstruction and destruction are all that these two unlikely bedfellows have in common. That, and the fact that they both gambled too heavily on being able to get the repeal and replace scam over, before anybody started to look too closely or ask too many questions, or so they thought.
Ryan pulled out all the stops, declaiming on the “nightmare that is ObamaCare,” in the last few days before it all went south. Steve Bannon was also burning the midnight oil, meeting in secret with Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows at the White House last week, desperately trying to garner the necessary votes to pull the repeal bill through. Steve Bannon had a lot at stake with this vote.
Bannon keeps an oversized whiteboard in his office on the first floor of the West Wing. On it is every promise that Trump made during the campaign. Bannon’s goal has been to take the promises and translate them into a policy agenda, whose (so-called) populist precepts can be written up as bills that can pass congress or executive orders which can be implemented. Last week Bannon secretly met with Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows in his West Wing war room,The New Yorker said:
Ideologically, Bannon is trying to infuse Trumpism with a coherent nationalist “workers’ party” agenda. Trump’s health-care bill was written by the House Speaker, Paul Ryan, who is a more traditional conservative, and, as the Congressional Budget Office and other nonpartisan analysts have noted, older, rural, low-income white voters—the Trump base—would fare worse under the new legislation than under Obamacare. This makes the American Health Care Act a poor showpiece, to say the least, for Trump’s alleged transformation of the Republican Party into a vehicle for white-working-class assistance.
Nonetheless, Bannon knows that the Ryan bill’s failure would be catastrophic for the rest of Trump’s agenda, because it would break a core campaign promise and sap Trump’s already limited political capital. So, on Saturday night, Bannon secretly hosted Mark Meadows, the leader of the Freedom Caucus, for several of hours of negotiations in the war room. (At least one of Meadows’s own top staffers didn’t know he was there.) […]
The details of the deal that may emerge between Meadows and the White House are still murky, and might not be enough to overcome all the obstacles in the House. But a top White House official insisted that the meeting was the moment that “the real deal started getting done.” A G.O.P. aide familiar with the negotiations said to me, about the meeting, “there’s a bigger play in the works here.”
What could the “bigger play” be? Probably that Bannon is now ready to take down Paul Ryan, which is something that he said that he would do since last Fall, shortly after he came on board as Trump’s campaign CEO. Bannon was quoted in RedState in September as saying that he disapproved of Ryan, questioning Ryan’s loyalty to Trump (there is none). Bannon said that, “Ryan will be gone by Spring.” Bannon’s disapproval of Ryan is based upon profound ideological differences. Ryan is supposed to stand for conservative Republican values, although that’s debatable since the Freedom Caucus has been saying for some time that Ryan is not conservative enough for them. Bannon has made no bones about the fact that his roots are Leninist and he wants to see the Republican party transform into a nationalist workers’ party. In recent history the closest parallel to what Bannon is proposing was Hitler transforming the workers’ party of Dietrich Eckhart into the nationalist Nazi party. Eckhart had predicted a German “messiah” to lead the workers forward; perhaps Bannon sees himself in messianic terms as well.
In any event, pundits have discussed exactly what Bannon meant by the “gone by Spring,” remark and most probably it can be taken at face value. The Republicans sustained a major loss yesterday. Ryan is the logical fallguy, winner of the blame game, and now Bannon is going to move on Ryan. Alt-right media wasted no time calling for Ryan’s removal as Speaker of the House. Breitbart reported this morning, sounding Paul Ryan’s death knell:
“Republican officials in Congress and the White House are now openly discussing finding a GOP replacement to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Speaker of the House, after Ryan failed to pass the American Health Care Act out of the House and misled the public and President Donald Trump when he promised repeatedly the bill would pass.”
“A tale as old as time, our establishment leadership continue advocating for moderate pieces of legislation after ignoring conservative input,” the Senate aide said. “How can President Donald Trump trust Speaker Paul Ryan in the future after this failure? If he couldn’t deliver on something so simple as repealing Obamacare, will he be able to deliver on complex pieces of legislation?”
House Republicans are also questioning whether Ryan can remain as Speaker after this abysmal failure.
“If Speaker Ryan cannot pass his RyanCare plan and negotiations had to be taken to the Oval Office by non-leadership members of the conference, it is certainly time to evaluate his effectiveness as the Speaker of the House,” a senior House GOP aide told Breitbart News.
And don’t think for a moment that Paul Ryan’s is the only head on the block. Au contraire. In addition to his oversized whiteboard, Steve Bannon has a list of people, mounted on the wall of his war room in the White House, a “shit list” to be precise. Steve Bannon intends to clean house.The Daily Beast reported on that:
Upon hearing that White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and President Trump were compiling a “shit list” of those who opposed the bill, an aide working for the hardline conservative caucus responded, “Meh.”
When asked by The Daily Beast if he was at all concerned about potentially making the White House “hit list” for his staunch opposition from the beginning to the American Health Care Act, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Justin Amash just smiled, laughed, and replied, “What do you think?”
“That champagne that wasn’t popped [by Democrats] last November might be utilized [this week],” Republican congressman Mark Walker told reporters on Friday afternoon, roughly an hour before this week’s Trumpcare-Ryancare hard-sell finally imploded on itself.
Just before everything officially collapsed, The Daily Beast asked a House Republican aide about the current state of affairs on the AHCA. The aide messaged back, “I have a song to explain,” and then sent along a YouTube link to a song by hip-hop artist T.I. titled, “Dead and Gone.”
Two senior Trump administration officials with direct knowledge of the process told The Daily Beast that Bannon and Trump have taken a “you’re either with us or against us” approach at this point, and that Bannon wants the tally of “against” versus “with us” mounted in his so-called West Wing “war room.”
“Burn the boats,” Bannon (in his typical, pugnacious style) advised Trump, according to one official involved. Burning one’s boats is a reference to when military commanders in hostile territories order his or her troops to destroy their own ships, so that they have to win or die trying.
Definitely, burn the boats. And blow up the Enterprise while you’re at it, Jim. This is what the political landscape looks like in the year 2017. Columnist John Cassidy said that, “The larger issue here is that conservatism failed and social democracy won.” I would modify the thought to fascism failed and democracy is still alive and kicking back. Our nation is undergoing a trial by fire of its most strongly held precepts; we are now experiencing our greatest ordeal since the Civil War. We won an important victory yesterday. The health care smash-up created a crack in the veneer of legitimacy of the Republican party. It’s our task now to expand that crack until it’s as wide as the Grand Canyon and the GOP falls in.