Maybe Ryan Sees Trump as John Galt

Donald Trump, Paul Ryan

Tuesday

As Donald Trump’s transgressions continue to mount—the latest is sharing intelligence secrets with visiting Russian diplomats—we look to the two men who have the ability to stop him: House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell. I’ve pretty much given up on Ryan, however, in part because he is an Ayn Rand enthusiast. I thought of the novelist after reading a Ryan-authored homage to Trump in Time.

First, some background. Ryan has long been a fan of Atlas Shrugged, which he used to give out to Congressional staffers. (I think he stopped after being informed that Rand was a virulent anti-Christian.) Ryan’s determination to cut the social safety net, which he once described as a disempowering hammock, is straight out of Rand.

There were times in last year’s election when Ryan mildly chastised Trump, but those days are over. Now he says things like this about the president:

He always finds a way to get it done. When so many, including me at times, didn’t see how he could pull it off, Donald Trump won a historic victory. And in becoming the 45th President of the United States, he completely rewrote the rules of politics and reset the course of this country. A businessman always willing to challenge convention, he has shaken up Washington and laid out an agenda of generational proportions. Never afraid of a battle, he has made it his mission to fight for those who feel forgotten. Where others would pivot, he stays true to who he is. Where others would turn back, he forges ahead. Up close, I have found a driven, hands-on leader, with the potential to become a truly transformational American figure. I have little doubt that he will, once again, find a way to defy the odds and get it done.

Notice how Ryan essentially sees Trump as John Galt, an Übermensch businessman who ignores the petty rules that bind the rest of us. Secretly ashamed for having lived off the public purse his entire life, Ryan makes up for it by worshiping an unscrupulous entrepreneur.

As Ryan sees it, the fact that Trump has frequently expressed contempt for him only confirms Trump’s greatness. After all, Ryan shares that contempt for himself. He sees himself as having had to play political games to get where he is, whereas Trump appears effortlessly to rise above it all. What would be death for any other politician simply boosts Trump. No wonder Ryan is enthralled.

This is what Ryan means by “challenge convention,” “shaken up Washington,” “stays true to who he is,” “forges ahead,” and “truly transformational American figure.” Trump somehow pays no political price for engaging in ethnic and racial slurs, sexually harassing women, putting the White House up for sale, hiring white nationalists, openly praising dictators, fraternizing with the enemy, and lying continuously. What are morals and principles in the face of such success?

As Ryan sees it, you don’t tug on John Galt’s cape.

Further thought: Here’s the New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz imagining Ryan’s response to Trump sharing sensitive information with the Russians–or what Borowitz describes as “three Russian spies in the White House”:

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul Ryan called the meeting of the three Russian spies at the White House “a tempest in a teapot” and “much ado about nothing,” before adding, off-microphone, “I am screwed. I am so screwed.”

More Borowitz: Oh, and then there was this last January:

Calling it a “medical mystery of the first order,” scientists are baffled by the ability of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to stand upright without the benefit of spines.

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