The political media is chuckling over House Speaker Paul Ryan’s performance at the Al Smith charity dinner. The event traditionally features leading politicians telling self-deprecating jokes, and in this case, it featured Paul Ryan telling Trump-deprecating jokes. But were any of them really jokes?
At Axios, Mike Allen rounded up some of Ryan’s sharper lines, and it’s depressing to read them in succession:
"Enough with the applause ... You sound like the Cabinet when Donald Trump walks into the room."
"I don't think I've seen this many New York liberals, this many Wall Street CEOs in one room since my last visit to the White House."
"I know why Chuck [Schumer] has been so hard on President Trump. It's not ideological; Chuck is just mad he lost his top donor."
On Trump's remarks to the dinner last year: "Some said it was unbecoming of a public figure and they said that his comments were offensive. Well, thank God he's learned his lesson."
"The truth is, the press absolutely misunderstands and never records the big accomplishments of the White House ... Look at all the new jobs the president has created — just among the White House staff."
"Every morning I wake up in my office and I scroll through Twitter to see which tweets I will have to pretend I didn't see later on."
"Every afternoon former Speaker John Boehner calls me up, not to give advice, just to laugh."
Does anyone believe Ryan was kidding about any of this? Obviously not. These are damning statements delivered behind the plausible deniability of a comedy routine. What makes them funny is the discomfort of knowing they’re accurate, and that Ryan is saying what everyone knows he believes.
So what we have here is the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives saying that President Trump demands sycophancy from his staff, that the populist administration he promised is filled with Goldman Sachs executives, that he continues to conduct himself in ways unbecoming of a public figure, that his White House is in a continuous state of chaos, and that the way that his top political allies manage all this is to pretend they don’t know about it or didn’t hear about it or have no thoughts on it.
Ha ha ha ha ha.