- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The jury is still out on likely House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan. Is he a good conservative, not conservative enough or Republican in name only? Hatchet man or healer? Mr. Ryan appears to be the panacea the party prays for, described by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus as “the right person at the right time.” The opposition is also pleased; Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer called Mr. Ryan bright, industrious and even “outstanding” this week.

Whatever the description, there is one reality about Mr. Ryan that can’t be disputed.

“The 45-year-old Ryan will go down in the books as the youngest Speaker in nearly 150 years — the youngest to hold the position since Maine Republican James Blaine in 1869,” notes the ever-vigilant Eric Ostermeier, a University of Minnesota political professor who doggedly tracks historical trends in politics.

“He would be younger than each of the last 26 speakers, from Democrat Michael Kerr of Indiana in 1875 through John Boehner,” the professor says.

The average age of House speakers over the years has been 62. But Mr. Ryan would not be the youngest of all.

“That title goes to Virginia Whig Robert Hunter, who was elected to the post at the age of 30 years, 7 months and 25 days in 1839. The oldest in the chamber’s history was Illinois Democrat Henry Rainey in 1933 at 72 years, 6 months, 17 days,” the exacting Mr. Ostermeier says, adding that, prior to the Civil War, a dozen House members in addition to Hunter won the speakership while in their 30s.

THE TO-DO LIST FOR MR. RYAN

Meanwhile, the speculative press has much to say about House Speaker-to-be Paul Ryan. Just a few headlines from the last 24 hours:

“Paul Ryan: The Haunted House doesn’t need a Speaker. It needs an exorcist” (Alabama Media Group); “Don’t call him Paul — it’s Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Politico), “Meet 11 Republicans who could make Paul Ryan’s job very difficult” (Washington Post), Will the speakership be the end of Paul Ryan? (Bloomberg News), “Paul Ryan doth protest too much” (The American Prospect), “What Paul Ryan can teach us about work-life balance” (The Fiscal Times), “Can Paul Ryan keep the manure out of the house barn?” (Roll Call), “Republicans like Paul Ryan — but will they turn on him?” (Gallup editorial).

BLIMPARAMA

The escape of the U.S. Army’s JLENS aerostat on Wednesday afternoon gave the mainstream press a chance to critique the military and make swell puns. But the drifting behemoth inflatable loomed over Twitter in a big way.

“What’s the difference between the runaway budget deal and the Runaway Blimp? Eventually the blimp came back down,” tweeted Rep. Eric A. “Rick” Crawford, Arkansas Republican and a former Army explosive ordnance disposal technician. From Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry asked the question “Has anyone tied this to Deflategate?” while National Journal political writer Ron Fournier asked: “What is full of hot air and out of control?

a) JLENS blimp b) GOP presidential field c) Me d) All of the above.”

And from Goodyear, official maker of the blimp of the same name, came this: “One piece of advice for JLENS: Flying airships is always better with a pilot.”

NOT HAPPY WITH MARCO

“Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job. We’ve got serious problems with clogged highways, eroding beaches, flat Social Security checks and people who want to shut down the government. If you hate your job, senator, follow the honorable lead of House Speaker John Boehner and resign it. Let us elect someone who wants to be there and earn an honest dollar for an honest day’s work. Don’t leave us without one of our two representatives in the Senate for the next 15 months or so.”

— Editorial in the Florida Sun Sentinel critical of Sen. Marco Rubio and the intensity of his presidential campaign.

THE DEBATES PILE UP

Wait, didn’t we just finish with a debate? Yes, of course. But another Republican debate already looms in less than two weeks. This one is hosted by the Fox Business Network and The Wall Street Journal, which have joined forces to present a prime-time debate in Milwaukee on Nov. 10.

Moderators include the very apt Fox Business News anchors Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo, plus Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker for the main event. Fox business correspondents Sandra Smith and Trish Regan, plus Gerald Seib — Washington bureau chief for The Journal — will moderate the undercard event.

“Both debates will focus on jobs, taxes and the general health of the economy, as well as domestic and international policy issues,” organizers say. The prime-time debate will be followed by a one-hour special edition of “Cavuto,” while John Stossel will host a midnight foray into the Libertarian reaction to the debate, complete with a live studio audience.

The Libertarians are too happy at the moment.

“No wonder the two old parties’ approval ratings are at an all-time low. Democratic and Republican politicians in Washington, D.C., are lavishing taxpayer money on their K Street pals while raising taxes and printing money to pay for it, devaluing the dollar and selling the rest of the country down the river,” declares Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark.

POLL DU JOUR

63 percent of Americans say it’s “too early” to decide who they will vote for in the 2016 presidential election.

54 percent are paying little or no attention to the 2016 presidential election; 45 percent are paying attention.

53 percent say they are “dissatisfied but not angry” about Washington politics; 26 percent are “satisfied but not enthusiastic,” 17 percent are angry.

53 percent consider the federal government a “protector of life and liberty; 33 percent say it is a threat.

36 percent will vote in a GOP primary, 36 percent will vote in a Democratic primary; 16 percent don’t plan to vote in a primary at all.

Source: A New York Times/CBS News poll of 1,289 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 21-25.

Cranky conclusions, chitchat to [email protected]

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