A Hill Talk Editorial: Ryan critics may find successor even more objectionable

For those metaphorically dancing on the grave of House Speaker Paul Ryan at the announcement of his retirement this past week, a cautionary “not so fast” might be in order.

Ryan, a 10-term member of Congress from Wisconsin, has oft been criticized for not standing up to the president and not being vocal enough in his opposition to Trump’s oafish behavior. As a Jack Kemp Republican, Ryan has shied away from identity politics his entire career. While originally opposing Trump’s candidacy, the speaker has settled for an uncomfortable detente since inauguration day.

The 48-year-old father of three has adopted a quiet resignation (pardon the pun) to Trump’s behavior and often bemoans the “unfortunate” and “unhelpful” nature of the president’s ill-advised outbursts. Perhaps his most vocal opposition was to the proposed trade tariffs, where he warned Trump of the possible deleterious effects. Still, critics on both the left and right have longed for a more firm stance.

In comparison, the heir-apparent to Ryan’s office, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), has rarely demonstrated so much as a disapproving look. Short of a tape transcript released by the Washington Post, where McCarthy is heard speculating Russian President Vladimir Putin is paying Trump, this author could find no other disparaging remark from the California congressman.

The 52-year-old conservative Republican has instead fashioned himself as the Trump-whisperer — one of the president’s closest allies in Congress. McCarthy has provided full-throated support of the New York businessman’s agenda and has remained silent in the face of some of the most cringe-worthy moments of the Trump presidency.

McCarthy has further ingratiated himself by taking on the role of educator, reportedly going to great lengths to teach the President about the inner-workings of the government using charts, graphs and photographs in order to keep Trump’s attention. The majority leader also makes himself available at a moment’s notice to answer the president’s questions or attend meetings at Trump’s behest.

It has even been reported that McCarthy had a staffer sort through bags of Starburst candies to pick out the president’s favorite flavors, sending them to him in a jar and making clear who had sent them.

Indeed, for those who felt that Speaker Ryan didn’t do enough to reign in or stand up to the impulsive Trump, a McCarthy speakership may just leave them wishing for his return. On the other hand, for those who felt Ryan didn’t fully embrace the “MAGA” theme, McCarthy may just be their man.


[Photo courtesy AP]