Paul, no! It’s a trap!

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - KATH­LEEN­PARKER kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com

The worst job in the world, it turns out, isn’t the U.S. pres­i­dency but speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“It’s where you go to die,” as one vet­eran Hill watcher put it to me. Vol­un­teers? In the wake of Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) sud­den with­drawal from his once-cer­tain as­cent to the speak­er­ship, sev­eral oth­ers are con­sid­er­ing run­ning for the job.

McCarthy’s fall wasn’t only ow­ing to his ver­bal blun­der sug­gest­ing that the House se­lect com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­gat­ing Beng­hazi was pri­mar­ily cre­ated to bring down Hil­lary Clin­ton. Like Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), he was shafted by the three dozen or so mem­bers of the Free­dom Cau­cus who promised a bloc vote in ex­change for public pledges, which McCarthy (to his credit) re­fused to make. He sim­ply didn’t have enough votes. By Fri­day, the hands-down fa­vorite to take the spot was Rep. Paul Ryan (RWis.), who ve­he­mently has said he doesn’t want the job. In­deed, who in his or her right mind would want to walk into this seething ring of “win­ning” losers?

By Fri­day af­ter­noon, a dogged Ryan was mov­ing from an ab­so­lute “no” to “pos­si­bly con­sid­er­ing.” He left the Capi­tol pur­sued by a swarm of re­porters and pho­tog­ra­phers as if he’d just emerged from an in­ter­ga­lac­tic chrysalis bear­ing greet­ings from the Supreme Be­ing in­stead of head­ing home to talk things over with his wife.

Ob­jec­tively, Ryan is in ev­ery way the right choice for the party. For the past sev­eral years, he’s been the go-to guy for all mat­ters bud­getary. In 2010, when the GOP mantra was cut, cut, cut, few could ar­tic­u­late their pref­er­ences. Al­most any­one you asked about cuts would an­swer,

Ask Paul Ryan. He’s got it all fig­ured out.

He was the wun­derkind who could do — and speak— math. This is con­sid­ered a marvel neigh­bor­ing on mirac­u­lous given some no­table public-speak­ing deficits of late.

Ryan is also in­dis­putably a good guy— lik­able, good-na­tured but tough, and a de­voted fam­ily man who wears him­self lightly — qual­i­ties we’ve come to rec­og­nize as ex­cep­tional in a world of an­gry or­di­nar­i­ness.

Poor Paul Ryan. It will take strength to re­sist his sup­port­ers’ call to duty — Ryan’s sweet spot. Ed­i­tors of the con­ser­va­tive Na­tional Re­view were among those mak­ing this ap­peal, while also sug­gest­ing that Ryan would surely want to re­de­fine the fundrais­ing part — the de­mands of which leave lit­tle time for fam­ily.

This men­tion brings us to an im­por­tant point ap­par­ently over­looked by the ex­tor­tion­ist Free­dom Cau­cus. They’ve booted two of their mem­ber­ship’s top three fundrais­ers with Boehner and for­mer ma­jor­ity leader Eric Can­tor (R-Va.), who lost his seat last year to a tea party can­di­date, and now have re­jected the third, McCarthy. Not only have these three brought in the big­gest hauls through their cam­paigns and su­per PACs but they’ve also been the most gen­er­ous — in­clud­ing to those who now smite them.

The Free­dom Cau­cus’s pre­ferred choice for speaker, Rep. Daniel Web­ster (R-Fla.), has raised $5.6 mil­lion since his elec­tion in 2010 and shared just 2 per­cent of that amount, ac­cord­ing to opense­crets.org, which mon­i­tors such things. Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz (Utah), who picked up the speak­er­ship ball as soon as McCarthy fum­bled, has raised just $3.4 mil­lion since 2008 and shared only 7 per­cent.

Com­pare this with McCarthy’s trove of $25.5 mil­lion since 2006, of which he shared 34 per­cent with party and col­leagues.

The big­gest and most gen­er­ous fundraiser of all cur­rent House and Se­nate mem­bers, with the ex­cep­tions of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and La­mar Alexan­der (R-Tenn.), both of whom ran for pres­i­dent, is — drum roll, please — John Boehner. Since 1989 when he re­ceived his first do­na­tions, Boehner has raised $97 mil­lion and given away $41.1 mil­lion.

Me­thinks those who protest way too much will miss the gen­eros­ity of those they stabbed in the back. Ryan, mean­while, would do well to let history guide him. No good deed goes un­pun­ished with this crowd. Soon enough, the Free­dom Cau­cus gang will make life mis­er­able for the next speaker, and then what?

Who­ever takes the job had best have no fur­ther as­pi­ra­tions. This isn’t to di­min­ish the of­fice, which is a noble po­si­tion and no mea­ger endgame. But few think Ryan has no higher as­pi­ra­tions. Thus, the ques­tion isn’t should he run for speaker but why should he? He shouldn’t. If it helps, think of it as duty to the best use of his tal­ents and, per­haps, to a higher call­ing.

Poor Paul Ryan. It will take strength to re­sist his sup­port­ers’ call to duty.

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