On his way out the door — tired of being “a weekend dad” but presumably not tired of President Donald Trump and his antics — House Speaker Paul Ryan is proud of his record.
But he shouldn’t be. His exit is as cowardly as his tenure.
After announcing that he’s retiring at the end of his term, Ryan, one of 24 House Republicans retiring, chose to give his first interview to CBS’ Gayle King, best known as Oprah’s best friend, but a deft interviewer in her own right.
Never shedding her friendly demeanor, King questioned Ryan about whether “Trump fatigue” had influenced his decision (no, he said) and why Ryan didn’t speak up more often about President Trump’s failings (he says he did it in private). Ryan pretty much sailed through those expected questions until King came to a topic in which she’s right at home — but he’s not.
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Showing Ryan a photo of the Republican congressional leadership team and the president at a White House dinner — all white males — King told Ryan that this made her feel “very excluded.”
“I don’t see anybody who looks like me in terms of color or gender,” King said.
Ryan acknowledged that “we need more women and minorities” and went on to say he was a mentor to U.S. Rep. Mia Love, a Haitian American from Utah (born to Haitian parents in Brooklyn) and the first black Republican woman elected to Congress in 2014.
Ryan said he believed in “inclusive aspiration politics,” the theory that political inclusion is vital to democracy, but his record tells a different story — and King didn’t press him on that further.
This is one of those moments that bring to the forefront how invisible Hispanics — living in U.S. territory for centuries and the largest ethnic minority in America — are in the national political conversation.
One of Paul Ryan’s great failures is his utter betrayal of the Latino community by failing to call for a vote on a clean Dream Act — and letting Trump use the Dreamers as a bargaining chip for his wall.
He let Trump assault immigrants, run the immigration agenda at every turn, and displayed no leadership whatsoever on the issue. He was all too happy to pass his dream tax reform and to pass a spending bill without an iota of thought of what it meant to not include in his “success” children who are American by every definition except immigration status.
Ryan had the power to change the fate of 800,000 youth who now remain in limbo and fearful of deportation, but he was more spineless than Marco Rubio, the Miami senator who also abandoned them.
A year ago at a CNN town hall, a young dreamer mother, who was frightened about what Trump’s election meant to her, asked Paul if people like her would be deported.
“No,” Ryan said, insisting that she shouldn’t worry about getting deported.
And: "I hope your future is here.”
“I’m sure you’re a great contributor to [your] community.”
“We have to find a way to make sure that you can get right with the law.”
Then, he pushed the line that President Trump agreed with him.
But what it has all boiled down to is that, under Ryan’s watch, Trump and other Republicans have pressed the narrative that, one, all that Democrats want to do is protect illegal immigrants, and two, it’s the Democrats’ fault that Dreamers don’t have status, when it was Trump who killed the only protection they had, DACA.
And how did Paul respond to the challenge of young Americans vulnerable to deportation — and a president leaving them out to dry? He refused to commit to even holding a vote.
On top of that betrayal, Ryan bills as success passing tax reform estimated by the congressional budget office to add $1.9 trillion to the national debt and fought to take away healthcare from millions of Americans without replacing it with anything better.
He rode the Trump train and he's only jumping off now that it’s derailing.
To Ryan, his promises to Dreamers are only debris on the road.
But while Ryan plays with his teenagers full-time in Wisconsin, thousands of parents are praying that they get to see their American kids grow up.