House Speaker Paul Ryan wants the American people to know that they should excuse Donald Trump’s multiple, ongoing failures during his presidency because he is “new to this.”
Ryan made his remark about Trump during his weekly news conference, conducted while former FBI director James Comey was detailing how Trump repeatedly leaned on him to obstruct justice in the agency’s probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
“The president’s new at this,” Ryan claimed. “He’s new to government, and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”
The remark is stunning, coming as it does at the close of nearly a decade of Republican attacks on former President Obama for being an “amateur” and “naïve.”
Since 2008, when he was the junior senator from Illinois and began his run for the presidency, Republicans have beat the drum on this line of attack against Obama. A centerpiece of the 2008 Republican convention was a line of attack citing Obama’s work as a community organizer as evidence that he was unprepared for the presidency.
In 2014, when Obama was two years into his second term, Republicans like Sen. John McCain were still referring to him as “naïve.”
The conservative media was all-in, with figures like Rush Limbaugh deriding Obama as a “man-child president,” lamenting that the “inexperienced man-child” was “destroying us.” Conservative writer and fabulist Ed Klein even wrote a book about Obama called “The Amateur” (with some completely made up stories to supplement his argument).
During the 2016 campaign, however, Republicans dismissed concerns about Trump’s background and how unprepared he would be for the presidency. It wasn’t an argument based on years of experience, but rather the substance of that experience — Trump was a reality TV star who had repeatedly failed in the real estate industry, mismanaged casinos, and bilked clients while stiffing contractors.
Disproving the Republican allegations, Obama had successes in both foreign and domestic policy. His alleged naivete and amateur status did not prevent his administration from finding and killing Osama bin Laden and dozens of top terrorists, while working to move the economy from recession to recovery and expanding health insurance to millions more Americans.
By contrast, not five months into his term, Trump faces multiple scandals, including corruption and obstructing justice. Those missteps on Trump’s behalf don’t come from external events, but are all a product of his bungling mismanagement, a cascade of errors triggered by hubris and malicious intent.
One does not have to be an expert in arcane Washington, D.C. lore to understand how wrong it is for a president to pressure the head of the FBI to stop a criminal investigation.
Despite Ryan’s attempt to assert the Trump defense, the argument that he is simply unqualified for the position he argued for months would be easy with his “very good brain” and his talent for picking “the best people,” does not cut the mustard.
It has instead been exposed as yet another case of Trump and the Republicans denying the reality everyone is able to see with their own two eyes: He shouldn’t be president.
After all, that’s what most of the voters said last November.