Saturday, April 14, 2018
Unlike E.J. Dionne (who writes about Rep. Ryan's views, retirement decision, and legacy in Commonweal, here), I do think there is something "tragic" about the possibility that "Paul Ryan started his political life hoping to be the champion of a sunny, forward-looking conservatism [but will instead] step down from the House speakership as the personification of conservatism’s decline."
I do not share Dionne's view that "entitlement reform" needs scare-quotes or is a Randian euphemism for coldhearted indifference to the vulnerable. But, I agree with him that the contrast between Ryan's personal and public decency and that of the current leader of his party is glaring and also that Ryan (like many others in government and public life) has been insufficiently candid and clear about that leader's erratic and unworthy actions and statements. I would also contrast what I think (though perhaps Dionne does not) is Ryan's obvious aptitude for and engagement with policy and his basic moral commitments (commitments that were, I would insist, shaped more by a conscientious, good-faith reflection on Catholic Social Teaching than by Rand's foolish writings or by what some of Ryan's Catholic critics imprecisely call "libertarianism"). I think American politics -- and the larger conversation about Catholicism, citizenship, politics, and the common good -- will be worse off for his absence.