How Paul Ryan Will De-Cuck Himself
October 27, 2016

There's a lot of talk right now about Paul Ryan's future in the wake of a likely Donald Trump defeat and loses for House and Senate Republicans. In The New York Times, Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman report:

Some in the deeply factionalized Republican Party, including Mr. Trump and some of his senior aides, are already fanning the flames for a revolt against the House speaker, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, once Congress reconvenes after the election....

Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, the provocative chairman of Breitbart News, made Mr. Ryan a frequent target of its coverage while he ran the website and is said to be particularly intent on forcing Mr. Ryan out....

“There’s a huge chunk of people who want to see a fight taken to D.C.,” said Representative Dave Brat, Republican of Virginia and a member of the House Freedom Caucus, which has pressed Mr. Ryan on several issues since he became speaker last year. Mr. Brat said many conservatives remained perplexed as to why Mr. Ryan and Republican leaders would choose to criticize Mr. Trump rather than focus their energy on Mrs. Clinton.

“Leadership comes and smacks our guy?” Mr. Brat said. “That’s where you’re going to put down a marker? Really? And the American people are just scratching their head saying, ‘Really? That’s rich.’”

This is part of a general sense among some observers that the GOP is going to be one big circular firing squad. Here's The Washington Post's Greg Sargent:

... the battle lines will roughly divide between GOP leaders, party strategists, and establishment figures who are urging one set of lessons to be drawn from the defeat (that the party needs to make peace with cultural and demographic change), and Trump supporters who are urging that a very different set of lessons be drawn (that the party must embrace Trump’s species of ethno-nationalism and xenophobic, America First populism). As one congressional expert puts it: “I expect civil war within the GOP after November 8th, as party elites inside and outside of Congress jockey to assign blame and claim the GOP mantle going forward.”

Will Republicans tear one another apart? Will Trumpites vow never to vote for members of the hated GOP establishment?

Oh, I wish -- but Dave Weigel's story today in the Post suggests to me that Trumpites and Trump skeptics will probably kiss and make up soon, united around their new shared goal: destroying Hillary Clinton by any means necessary.

Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

If Republicans retain control of the House, something that GOP-friendly maps make possible even in the event of a Trump loss, Clinton will become the first president since George H.W. Bush to immediately face a House Oversight Committee controlled by the opposition party....

And the Oversight Committee may not be the only House panel ready for partisan battle. While the Select Committee on Benghazi appears to have finished its work, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a committee member who says Clinton might have perjured herself on questions about her email, said recently that he wants the committee to continue.

And guess who's fully on board:

“The rigorous oversight conducted by House Republicans has already brought to light troubling developments in the [Hillary] Clinton email scandal,” the office of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement to The Washington Post. “The speaker supports [Oversight’s] investigative efforts following where the evidence leads, especially where it shows the need for changes in the law.”

(The "changes to the law" but is just Ryan's way of pretending to be high-minded about this. The rest is what he really meant.)

Assuming he isn't quickly defenestrated, Ryan and the rest of the GOP establishment are just going to go all in on a campaign of multiple Clinton investigations and relentless obstructionism. (I know, I know: And this is different from the current Congress how exactly?) The long-term danger for the establishment is that Trump voters might consider Ryan et al. to be failures if the new president isn't literally in prison by the time of the 2018 midterms. In the short term, however, he and the rest of the Republicans in the House will seem, to the Trumpers, to be the only force holding off the Apocalypse.

So expect the worst from congressional Republicans. They're going to go along with scorched earth during the early days of the Clinton presidency the same way they went along with endorsing the scorched-earth candidacy of Donald Trump after he won the nomination. Call their value system "personal survival over country."

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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