From the moment he became the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee during the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump has been a thorn in the side of then-House Speaker Paul Ryan. Young, charismatic, former Vice Presidential nominee, and third in line to the presidency, one would think that Ryan would be in Washington for a very long time. Then, Trump won the White House in the most stunning political upset in modern history.
While Ryan, like all Republicans, saw the erratic New Yorker’s victory as a win for the GOP, Trump never would have been the choice of someone like Ryan. But, Ryan was stuck with Trump, and determined to help him grow into the job of President. However, that did not happen. The brash and inappropriate language, the constant controversies, the unconventional White House appointments, the chaos and erratic behavior — everything that had troubled Ryan about Trump during the campaign continued during the presidency. However, he plowed on, determined not to upset Trump, and determined to push through his conservative agenda.
Then, as the 2018 midterm elections followed, it seemed almost certain that the Democrats would retake the House, thus demoting Ryan from Speaker to Minority Leader. That is when Ryan made a stunning announcement: He was retiring and leaving Washington to go back home to his family in Wisconsin.
However, Tim Alberta, author of the book American Carnage, tells a different story. According to The Hill, he says that Ryan said of Trump:
“I told myself I gotta have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right. Because, I’m telling you, he didn’t know anything about government … I wanted to scold him all the time.”
Alberta goes on to describe Ryan’s reaction when Trump infamously accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping him and his campaign. Then-Chief of Staff and former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus allegedly phoned Ryan and said:
“Paul, what the hell is going on? What the hell is he talking about?”
Alberta says that Ryan reacted to that moment with “maniacal, punch-drunk laughter.” Ryan went on to say that the people in Trump’s corner when he was Speaker “helped to stop him from making bad decisions. All the time.” Ryan says that now some of those bad decisions are being made by Trump with no one to stop him. He also said:
“We helped him make much better decisions, which were contrary to kind of what his knee-jerk reaction was. Now I think he’s making some of these knee-jerk reactions.”
Alberta says that Ryan never would have survived two more years of a Trump presidency, and that the early retirement was an “escape hatch.”
A spokesperson for Ryan insists that Tim Alberta’s claims are true, and sticks with the public story that Ryan simply wants to be a better husband and dad. Perhaps that part is true, but Ryan’s behavior, from the campaign forward, shows that Alberta’s claims could be true as well.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr