Ryan Begins His Speakership with Another Whopper

Paul Ryan sets the tone for his speakership and its relationship with the remainder of the Obama presidency with a dodge and a lie:

Newly elected Speaker Paul Ryan said Sunday he’s willing to work across the aisle with Democrats but won’t do immigration reform with President Obama in his final 14 months in office.

“The president has proven himself untrustworthy on this issue, because he tried to unilaterally rewrite the law himself. Presidents don’t write laws. Congress does,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to Obama’s executive actions this year to ease immigration policies. “The president’s proven himself to be untrustworthy on this issue.”

While this is merely a continuation of the Republican talking point status quo, it’s a particularly brazen lie in light of Donald Trump’s upending of the GOP presidential race. President Obama has been daring Republicans for months to put an immigration reform plan on his desk to negotiate or sign. Republicans have refused to do so, using the cowardly excuse that they don’t trust the president to enforce whatever deal got signed. That’s nonsensical, of course, because the president has prosecutorial discretion on the status quo as it is: any plan the Republican House might put on Obama’s desk would in theory be better for conservatives than what we have now, regardless of how President Obama chose to enforce it.

It’s perfectly obvious that of all the battles in the GOP civil war between the establishment and the base, immigration is by far the most toxic. Immigration is the main reason Donald Trump is where he is in the polls, Jeb Bush seems to have one foot in the campaign grave, and media/establishment darling “winner of every debate” Marco Rubio can’t seem to climb higher than 10% in the national numbers.

Any attempt to even consider bring a legislative proposal on immigration in the House would destroy what little is left of Republican Party unity, and make the presidential race an even bigger clown show than it is now. That downside risk is far scarier to most Republicans than whatever upside gains might be made with Hispanics come November as a result of actually trying to be responsible legislators.

Paul Ryan knows this. Every journalist worth the title knows it. He knows they know, and they know he knows they know. But he gets away with the lie, anyway, because a pretense at objectivity forbids them to call him out on it.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.