DonkeyHotey / Flickr mcconnell ryan trump caricature...
DonkeyHotey / Flickr

The axiom is as old as time, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s ancient for two reasons, it’s simple, and it’s true. It doesn’t matter what your skills, looks, resume, or personality are, if you walk into an interview for a job you desperately want, and, as you sit down you rip off a fart, when you get home you can change back into your McDonald’s uniform, you didn’t get the job.

Because of that axiom, politicians are obsessed with two things, image and perception. The higher a politician climbs up the ladder, the more staged his events become, and the more his campaign pays to image consultants. The more famous a politician gets, the less of his own words you are hearing, they are written down for him, carefully crafted by paid wordsmiths to adhere to whatever the latest surveys on public opinion are. Politicians learned long ago that your perception of them is more important than what they actually say. After all, if a ‘vette picks up the chicks, who cared if it handles like shit?

Right now, if you want to see Paul Ryan’s “perception” in the eyes of his House GOP caucus, you’d have to use a pooper scooper to move the shit out of the way. Yesterday I wrote an article, that chronicled the fact that Politico had spoken to more than 3 dozen Ryan insiders who said he planned to retire after the 2018 elections, but before the new session started in 2019. Ryan’s office half heartedly pushed back om the article, and as Ryan left the podium at a briefing yesterday, he was asked “Speaker Ryan, are leaving the House anytime soon?”, to which Ryan grinned, shook his head, and said “no.” As Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out last night, that was the wrong question. Ryan is not leaving “Soon”, he will be there until next December. The question should have been, “Mr Speaker, can you guarantee you are running for reelection next year?” Bet he wouldn’t have heard that one.

This is why the perception of Ryan taking a hike is so important. The tax bill that will soon likely land on the floor of the House like the house on top of the Wicked Witch of the West is a piece of shit. It is especially toxic for GOP House incumbents from districts in states with high property and state and local taxes like CA, NY, NJ, CT, and MA. There are more than enough GOP incumbents in CA and NY alone to sink the bill. The original House bill barely passed at all, and the majority of congresscritters from those states voted in favor of it with a “nudge-nudge-wink-wink” understanding that the state and local tax language wouldn’t survive the conference committee. And yet, it looks that it will only be changed minimally, still screwing residents of those traditionally blue states.

Look, hindsight is 20/20. Ryan already hung his caucus out to dry once, arm twisting and forcing them to vote for a disastrous healthcare bill that their constituents screamed bloody murder about, he forced them to put their vote out there, and the blowback from that won’t be felt until next November. If his caucus believes that Ryan knew when he called that bill to the floor for a vote that it wouldn’t matter to him personally, because he wasn’t running for reelection, the only understanding they can have is that he bent them over and gave them a dry cornholing. And now, he wants them to do it again, vote for a tax bill that a majority of their constituents already hate. The question every GOP member of the House will have to ask themselves is “Do I risk my career on a bad vote when the guy who’s asking me to die on this hill isn’t even going to be in the trenches with me next November?” We shall see.

The Democrats actually have already won the imaging battle on this bill. When the ACA was proposed, the Republicans instantly went on the offensive with “Socialized medicine”, and Caribou Barbie’s infamous “death panels” before the Democrats even managed to open their mouths. This time around, the Democrats pounced with “Tax giveaways for the rich” and “Medicare and Social Security cuts”, which are hard for the GOP to cointer, since those are exactly what the bill does. The Republicans live in the world of “image”, and they know what the image of this bill is. The on ly question they still have to answer is “Do I want to bring a cardboard box to my desk next December for this bill?” The answer should be interesting.

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