Sir Walter Scott, the great poet and author of Rob Roy, Ivanhoe, etc. once said that people who play "hard to get" are often the most sought after, and the harder a goal is to reach, the harder people work for it.
So indeed, Paul Ryan, former vice presidential candidate on the ticket with Mitt Romney, and currently a representative from Wisconsin, has been playing hard to get. After John Boehner, almost compulsively, it seemed, decided to resign his position as Speaker of the House the day after a closed door meeting with the pope, the House was thrown into chaos, only made worse when the heir-apparent, Kevin McCarthy, mercifully dropped out rather than embarrass himself by saying more dumb things on television.
So then the rumbles, which were already there for Ryan, grew louder. But even after Boehner himself asked Ryan to stand for speaker, and multiple congressmen and women ambushed Ryan while he was at the gym working out Ryan was still coy, saying he didn’t want the position even after the most progressive part of the House, the powerful Freedom Cacucus said they might support him.
All the while the chatter grew, with representative after representative calling on Ryan to be “the white knight” to “save the party from itself.” Even Darrell Issa challenged Ryan to run, and he still said no.
But now Ryan has shown his hand. The man just might be a master manipulator after all; behind his youthful veneer of sincere intelligence. He has now announced he will run, if…
And the ifs are huge. Ryan says he will not get into the race unless and until every single group within the party in congress endorses him. Beyond that he wants the job of the speakership to be powerful, like really powerful. First things first, Ryan demands that if he takes the nomination of the GOP in congress, they have to change the rules to disallow challenges to be made easily against his position.
And really, for the GOP, there is nobody else. Webster is far-right, Chaffitz could never rule, Issa has no charm. If Ryan has not been playing a great game with everyone, it certainly does at least seem that way. He waited, and waited, until every other knight of any note had withdrawn from the lists. The he waited, while everyone begged and pleaded with him. And now he has what he wants. If Ryan becomes speaker, no one can say they didn’t really want him, he we will have such a referendum.
And his demand that everyone back him will accomplish the single hardest thing the new speaker will have to do, unite the fractured GOP. And Ryan will have done it before even taking the job. The brilliance of the move, if a move it truly was on Ryan’s part, is stunning. And Ryan has given the GOP until Friday to give him what he wants or he promises he will walk away.
The GOP can’t afford that and they know it. There is nobody else. If the party splits its vote, the Democrats will take over the speakership, and of course that is unacceptable. So at this point, for all sides, Paul Ryan has made himself the only acceptable man for the job. All by playing hard to get.
Andrew C. Abbott