Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

Author:Michael Wolff [Wolff, Michael]
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi, azw3
ISBN: 9781408711385
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Published: 2018-01-08T23:00:00+00:00

12

REPEAL AND REPLACE

Afew days after the election, Steve Bannon told the president-elect—in what Katie Walsh would characterize with a raised eyebrow as more “Breitbart shenanigans”—that they had the votes to replace Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House with Mark Meadows, the head of the Tea Party-inspired Freedom Caucus and an early Trump supporter. (Meadows’s wife had a particular place of regard in the Trump camp for continuing a campaign swing across the Bible Belt over Billy Bush weekend.)

Nearly as much as winning the presidency itself, removing Ryan—indeed, humiliating him—was an ultimate expression of what Bannon sought to accomplish and of the mind-meld of Bannonism and Trumpism. From the beginning, the Breitbart campaign against Paul Ryan was a central part of its campaign for Donald Trump. Its embrace of Trump, and Bannon’s personal enlistment in the campaign fourteen months after it began, was in part because Trump, throwing political sense to the wind, was willing to lead the charge against Ryan and the GOP godfathers. Still, there was a difference between the way Breitbart viewed Ryan and the way Trump viewed him.

For Breitbart, the House rebellion and transformation that had driven the former Speaker, John Boehner, from office, and which, plausibly, was set to remake the House into the center of the new radical Republicanism had been halted by Ryan’s election as Speaker. Mitt Romney’s running mate, and a figure who had merged a conservative fiscal wonkishness—he had been the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and, as well, chairman of the House Budget Committee—with an old-fashioned idea of unassailable Republican rectitude, Ryan was the official last, best hope of the Republican Party. (Bannon, typically, had turned this trope into an official Trumpist talking point: “Ryan was created in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation.”) If the Republican Party had been moved further right by the Tea Party rebellion, Ryan was part of the ballast that would prevent it from moving further, or at least at a vastly slower pace. In this he represented an adult, older-brother steadiness in contrast to the Tea Party’s ADD-hyper immaturity—and a stoic, almost martyrlike resistance to the Trump movement.

Where the Republican establishment had promoted Ryan into this figure of not only maturity but sagaciousness, the Tea Party-Bannon-Breitbart wing mounted an ad hominem campaign pushing an image of Ryan as uncommitted to the cause, an inept strategist and incompetent leader. He was the Tea Party-Bannon-Breitbart punch line: the ultimate empty suit, a hee-haw sort of joke and an embarrassment.

Trump’s distaste for Ryan was significantly less structural. He had no views about Ryan’s political abilities, and had paid no real attention to Ryan’s actual positions. His view was personal. Ryan had insulted him—again and again. Ryan had kept betting against him. Ryan had become the effective symbol of the Republican establishment’s horror and disbelief about Trump. Adding insult to injury, Ryan had even achieved some moral stature by dissing Trump (and, as usual, he considered anybody’s gain at his expense a double insult). By the spring of 2016, Ryan was still, and by then the only, alternative to Trump as the nominee.



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