While I was at the beach enjoying my last few days here in Nicaragua before heading back to the center of All That Is Wrong With America (Media Division), I guess — at least judging by all the liberal-sense-of-superiority fellating coverage — that Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan became president of the world or something? By the law of the blogosphere, then, that means I am duly bound to share some sort of anecdote about the man. So.
Back when I was trying to be a respectable reporter in Washington — up there with blacking out in Tijuana as one of my top five terrible life decisions — I used to cover Ryan’s doings on Capitol HIll as a freelance correspondent for Wisconsin public radio. One-on-one, he was unremarkable; just another white dude doing his damnedest to leave a world for his offspring more shitty than the one he was born into. But I’ll give him this: after the Democrats took over Congress in 2006 on the back of promises — oh, the promises — to end the war in Iraq, Ryan was a fuck-of-a-lot more honest about the political reality than any “anti-war” progressive in Congress, Dennis Kucinich excepted.
At a hearing I attended in October 2007, Ryan — who was arguing in favor of more war spending; that is, he’s an asshole — noted that despite all the lofty promises from the likes of Nancy Pelosi, a certain unjust, immoral war continued to be consistently funded to the tune of whatever the hell George W. Bush demanded that month. As Ryan put it:
“[Since Democrats took over Congress] we’ve heard comparisons about how much we are spending on the war as opposed to children’s health insurance or education programs or what have you. But nothing has really changed. The president continues to send his war funding requests to the Hill and, in the end, he continues to get what he asks for.”
This comment came around the time that my suspicion the Democratic Party was nothing more than a marketing scam designed to put a liberal veneer on the corporate state became an article of well-supported faith. While I never had any doubt that the party was terrible, its leaders cynically exploiting the hopes and fears of their base just as much as the GOP, I had thought that maybe — ya never know — that they would choose to withhold funding for the war in Iraq if only for cynical, political purposes, the only reason anything is ever done in Washington. I even voted for one of the bastards under that assumption.
And then reality happened and I saw firsthand how the Democrats passed bill after bill funding a war they claimed to oppose with but weak, base-placating provisions attached meekly requesting that the president maybe get around to outlining a plan for withdrawal, which Bush of course threatened to veto. And then I witnessed Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin go on television and say straight up that, well, if the president vetoes our weak-ass request for a plan for withdrawal, then why of course we’ll pass a no-strings-attached bill funding the war. We don’t want to play politics with the lives of our brave men and women in uniform, after all, so we’ll support them the only way we know how: by spending billions of dollars more to send them off to kill and be killed in an unjust war of aggressession.
At the time, I remember thinking: Wow — I mean, gosh — I’m only a half-decent poker player and even I know you’re not supposed to show your cards before the turn. These are professional politicians! They should be better at bullshitting; it’s what they do. And then it occurred me: The Democrats weren’t playing cards with the Bush administration, they were playing with the dupes who voted for them.
Sorry, got off message there. Where was I again? Oh yeah: Paul Ryan is arguably the worst man to have ever walked the Earth, a Randian racist who’d rather curb stomp your grandma than provide her affordable access to medical care. And the role of vice president is really important!