POLITICO has an interesting piece this weekend which I can only think is an effort by the White House to cripple [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ]’s efforts to achieve a rapprochement with conservatives in general and the Freedom Caucus (HFC) in particular. Titled Obama and Ryan: Covert collaborators, it is unique in being sourced entirely from White House sources.
President Barack Obama and House Speaker [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ] haven’t had a face-to-face meeting in more than two-and-a-half years. And despite Ryan’s election this week and Obama’s congratulatory call to him in advance of the vote, there still isn’t one scheduled.
But the two already have a good sense of each other — and beside [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ], Ryan’s probably the House Republican Obama’s spent the most time with. And if Obama had to pick a House Republican to be speaker, people who know the president say he’d probably have voted for Ryan himself. There isn’t a close runner-up.
The mischief starts early. We are told that Ryan worked hand-in-glove with the White House to sandbag conservatives on the fast track agreement for the Trans Pacific Partnership:
People in both offices note that the two leaders helped produce a bill with bipartisan support and tea-party opposition that the president eagerly signed. They’re a lot less eager to talk about what happened behind-the-scenes to get there: significant collaboration between the president’s staff in the West Wing and Ryan’s staff on the Ways and Means Committee, along with several direct phone calls the White House still won’t confirm between Obama and Ryan. Those calls were in part vote counting, in part strategizing about how to avoid looking like they were working together — even though they were.
We learn that Ryan looks like a conservative but he’s a man Obama can deal with:
“That moment is suddenly where there is a more broad realization at the White House that in addition to there being [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ] the elite darling on the right, that there is a [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ] who while being very conservative, could also negotiate and get things done,” said Gene Sperling, director of Obama’s National Economic Council at the time.
We are told that Ryan will be the junior partner in this upcoming “coalition” government:
Obama doesn’t see him as an intellectual equal, those people say, but he does see Ryan as “cerebral,” “someone who we could talk with.”
Seriously? You could randomly choose people from the phone book and two-thirds of them would be Obama’s intellectual equal. Is Ryan truly this stupid?
The White House theory on Ryan assumes a dilemma: for the new speaker’s immediate political purposes, he can’t appear to be working with Obama over his House colleagues, but for his longer term aspirations, he can’t afford to continue the pattern of negative stasis that would come from not working with Obama.
So as Obama spends the next 15 months trying to tie up a few loose ends of his own, he’ll also essentially try to soften up the new speaker for the next Democratic president they’re hoping for — starting to put Ryan on a path toward getting immigration reform through at some point, or actually changing how a Republican Congress deals with a Democratic opposition in the White House, if that’s how things end up after next year’s elections.
This strikes one as old style Soviet propaganda where a kernel of truth is used to build a fabric of lies. The thing Obama can’t stomach is Ryan actually unifying his caucus. His pledge to allow committee chairmen more voice in setting the agenda seems like a good way of buying an initial burst of good will. Having seen the hell Boehner contended with, one has to assume that Ryan wants none that.
One also suspects this bit of mischief has as much to do with roughing Ryan up a bit over announcing that there would be no immigration deal with Obama. Since Obama has begun governing as an internet troll, this would be something to consider. What better way to discredit Ryan’s announcement than by saying “he is our boy.”
If Ryan is a secret collaborator with Obama, that will become clear in short order and Ryan will discover that play was very shortsighted.