- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Paul Ryan, who first came to Congress as a college intern and rose to become House speaker, delivered his farewell Wednesday, warning colleagues of a cancerous approach that threatens the American democratic experiment.

While saying he doesn’t have any of the big answers, the Wisconsin congressman delivered a devastating diagnosis of a politics that feeds on outrage and failure, and chases good people from seeking office.

“The drivers of our broken politics are more obvious than the solutions,” Mr. Ryan said in a speech at the Library of Congress.

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He claimed the speaker’s post in 2015, drafted by colleagues after Rep. John Boehner, fed up with constant challenges from a restless and at times unrealistic right wing, retired.

In the three years since Mr. Ryan ascended, he managed to forge a partnership with President Trump, push a major tax cut bill through Congress and approve a major boost in Pentagon spending.

But he said Congress has failed at some of the big divisions of soaring debt, lack of action on immigration, and endemic poverty that traps communities.

Mr. Ryan, as a former chairman of both the Budget and Ways and Means committees, had pushed for action on all three of those issues — but largely came up short, with an immigration deal eluding lawmakers, with poverty still cyclical and with entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare fueling a mountainous debt.

“Ultimately, solving this problem will require a greater degree of political will than exists today. I regret that,” the congressman said.

He also warned policymakers to confront China as the biggest threat to an American-led world order, saying the answer is a more confident U.S. striding the world stage.

“When we show that our way of doing things still has juice, that we can do the most good for the most people, liberty gains ground,” he said. “When we get complacent, we risk seeing more countries go in the direction of the autocrats.”

His most searing critique, though, was over the partisan gridlock that’s gripped Congress in recent years.

“Today, too often, genuine disagreement quickly gives way to intense distrust. We spend far more time trying to convict one another than we do developing our own convictions,” he said. “Being against someone has more currency than being for anything.”

He said the internet world amplifies those divisions, and he was frank about his inability to make headway.

Mr. Ryan announced his retirement well before leading the House GOP as it suffered massive losses in November’s elections. He turns the reins of the GOP over to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who had been his top lieutenant.

He was introduced Wednesday by Rep. Trey Gowdy, another Republican who is retiring at the end of this year, and who called Mr. Ryan unequaled in the House.

“People like you don’t come along very often,” Mr. Gowdy said. “If I had one draft choice, if we were starting this experiment to lasso human nature through government, if I had one pick as a modern day founding father, a mother, it would be you, Paul. Of all the people I know in politics, it would be you.”

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