The Post reports:
“House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., has told friends and several colleagues that he has decided not to seek reelection this year and will soon inform colleagues of his plans, according to several people familiar with his plans.
“The decision comes ahead of mid-term elections that were already looking treacherous for Republicans, who risk losing control of the House.
“The party has seen a large number of retirements, and Ryan’s exit is certain to sap morale as Republicans seek to contain a surge in enthusiasm from Democrats, whose fortunes have been buoyed by the unpopularity of President Trump.”
In a written statement, his longtime adviser Brendan Buck said, “After nearly twenty years in the House, the speaker is proud of all that has been accomplished and is ready to devote more of his time to being a husband and a father. While he did not seek the position, he told his colleagues that serving as speaker has been the professional honor of his life, and he thanked them for the trust they placed in him.”
The political reality is less noble. One can hardly imagine a more obvious signal that Ryan fears the prospect, if not of losing his own seat, than of losing the majority and hence his speakership.
In the past, speakers - understanding the demoralizing impact that premature white-flag-waving would have on their troops - had the good sense to wait until after the election to announce that they would exit the leadership of their party. Ryan’s move has several consequences.
First, Democrats (who were heavily spending to defeat Ryan) can declare victory in that race and save the money it would have taken to knock out a sitting speaker.
Get ready for Democrats’ taunts that Ryan lacked the courage to stand before the voters with a record like his.
Second, this is a flashing light to donors and candidates on both sides. For Republican money-men, the message is: Don’t throw away cash trying to save the House. (One wonders whether Ryan, previously a strong fundraiser, will still be able to get donors to open their wallets when he’s abandoning ship.) For Democrats, it will be further encouragement to add to the record number of candidates and to get on board for a Democratic sweep.
Third, this will be seen in some quarters as a sign that Ryan cannot bear defending the president from potential impeachment. It has been a chore to act as Trump’s lead apologist, ignoring Trump’s outbursts and justifying his zigzags. Trump is now going down a protectionist road that Ryan deeply opposes. As much as this is a sign of no confidence in his House majority, it is effectively an admission: “I can’t take it anymore!”
Fourth, as we have noted, it is highly unlikely that Trump is going to deliver any more items on the GOP domestic wish-list. With tax cuts under his belt, Trump shows little interest or ability to proceed with arduous negotiations on infrastructure, health-care fixes, entitlements or much of anything else.
Fifth, Ryan’s departure makes his refusal to remove from committees characters such as Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. - who colluded with the White House in smearing the FBI and wrecking the intelligence-oversight system - all the more inexplicable. Why not take the heat to do the right thing, especially if Ryan is not going to run anyway? The lack of political courage still stuns onlookers who regarded Ryan at one time as a genuine policy wonk and serious leader.
In sum, Ryan retreats from the scene after loading the country up with debt and leaving virtually every other agenda item save tax cuts undone. Instead of achieving the entire GOP agenda, Ryan will leave a besmirched legacy defined by his decision to back, enable and defend Trump.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post.