Shortly before Election Day 2016, when then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to put some distance between his conference and his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump lashed out at the congressman, calling him, among other things, “very weak and ineffective.”
Two years later, as Ryan left Capitol Hill, the president was more gracious, lauding the Wisconsin Republican’s “legacy of achievement that nobody can question.”
Last night, Trump switched back, publishing a series of furious tweets attacking Ryan as a “poor leader” and a “failure.”
There’s no great mystery as to why. The former House Speaker shared some candid comments with Politico’s Tim Alberta for his new book, “American Carnage,” and according to excerpts and reviews, Ryan’s take on Trump isn’t at all flattering.
And at a certain level, I don’t much care. Their feud, for lack of a better word, is dramatic grist for the mill, but it doesn’t amount to much. Ryan spent years enabling a president he knew was unfit for office, so it’s of limited interest to see Trump and the former congressman trading rhetorical shots now.
That said, I am interested in one of the things the former House Speaker told Alberta about Trump.
Ryan depicts Trump as uneducated about the government.
“I told myself I gotta have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right,” Ryan recalls. “Because, I’m telling you, he didn’t know anything about government…. I wanted to scold him all the time.”
This is very easy to believe. It’s also worth appreciating how striking the observation is.
In June 2015, Donald Trump launched a presidential campaign. In the months that followed, he participated in 11 primary debates and competed in dozens of primaries and caucuses. He was a major-party presidential nominee for several months, and he participated in three general-election debates.
Trump did all of this despite not knowing anything about government.
He then won a presidential election and had a three-month transition period, during which time he still didn’t learn anything about government.
Trump just didn’t care. He wanted the presidency without knowing what the job entailed and without bothering to learn about his own country’s political structures. He arrived in the Oval Office with a child-like understanding of civic affairs, which has hardly improved in time.
Think about the level of privilege required for such audacity.