“I grew up reading Ayn Rand, and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.”
-- U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, Republican vice presidential candidate, in a 2005 speech
Paul Ryan laughed. He stood naked on top of the vice president’s desk in the Senate chamber, scanning the crowd of sniveling politicians below him.
He flexed his muscles, the result of hours spent in the House gymnasium. Look at these pathetic specimens, he thought. Not one of them could do a one-armed pushup if his life depended on it. Not one was worthy of so much as co-sponsoring one of Ryan’s bills. Every single one of them had been elected by appealing to the average citizen in his (or her -- Ryan snorted at the thought) district. It occurred to him, and not for the first time, that of all the men and women in this room, only he, Paul Ryan, had been selected for his current office by the president himself.
The president. Ryan’s mind wandered as he thought about the only man who stood between him and absolute power. Mitt Romney was a weakling, he thought -- and not for the first time. He’s a man whose views can change. The thought filled Ryan with disgust. His own views were as solid as granite. They were the views of the only clear-thinking woman he had ever met: Ayn Rand.
Ryan thought back on the humiliating “job interview” he had allowed himself to be subjected to before being chosen as Romney’s vice president. Did he have any pregnant, unmarried daughters? Could he see Russia from his living room window?
Worst of all was the probing of his attitude about federal programs such as Medicare and Social Security. His attitude? His attitude was that all of these programs were for pathetic losers. Romney had agreed with him, but said they should keep this opinion under their hats. Ryan had obliged, only long enough to make it through the election. And he despised himself for this. But he did it, and it worked, and the Romney-Ryan team was elected. And now he kept nothing under his hat.
In fact, he didn’t have a hat, or any other article of clothing. Clothing was for weaklings.
It was the opening session of the Senate, Vice President Paul Ryan presiding. The House leadership also was present. Below him he could see and hear so-called leaders of his own party pleading with him to get off the desk and sit in a chair like a normal human being -- or at least put on some clothes, for God’s sake. He cringed inwardly at having to listen to such advice from the likes of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.
Although, he had to admit, he couldn’t despise these two men, much as he might wish to. They both seemed terribly bitter. He liked that. Actually, he had a real soft spot for Senator McConnell, who, when the occasion called for it, could be impressively nasty.
As for House Speaker Boehner, he could be nasty, too, but always with a slight cynical smirk, which said, “I know this is all just a game.” This ruined it for Ryan. For Ryan, this was not a game.
Furthermore, Boehner smoked cigarettes. That marked him as a pathetic, weak character. But it also marked him as a man willing to stand up to the sickening pressures of social conformity. You could argue it both ways. There are merits on both sides of the argument. Reasonable men may differ. …
“Stop!” Ryan thought to himself. Was even he not immune from the poison of relativism? Had not his mistress taught him that there are not two sides to every question? There is only one side to every question. He could hear her voice in his head, saying: “No. No. No. Paul, you disappoint me. Hearing you say that something can be argued both ways makes me physically ill. Yes, yes, I want to vomit. There is one objective answer to any question, and that is the answer that derives from reason. And if you are in any doubt about what reason dictates, just come to me and I will tell you. You can take it on faith.”
Ryan thought about the challenges that lay ahead. Privatizing the interstate highway system. Replacing the Pentagon with national defense vouchers. Turning the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art into block grants for the states. Ryan was especially excited by the defense vouchers idea. Why should national defense have to be “one-size-fits- all”?
Again, he scanned the room. It occurred to him that, if anything, the opposing party was even more pathetic than his own. What a collection of mediocrities. A perfect reflection of the people who elect them. Over there was that weasel Harry Reid. During the campaign -- with no evidence at all -- Senator Reid said that Romney had paid no taxes for 10 years. So what if he hadn’t? Good for him. Taxation is slavery. It is the inferior majority expecting the superior minority to pay them for their very inferiority.
Paul Ryan banged the gavel and brought the Senate to order. It quieted down quickly -- much faster than the House used to under the so-called leadership of that woman from California. The politicians recognized that they had entered the force field of a true, natural leader.
Yes, things were going to be very different from here on out, Ryan chuckled to himself.
(Michael Kinsley is a Bloomberg View columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Today’s highlights: the editors on eliminating the wind-energy tax credit and on Congo’s bloody trade in minerals; Clive Crook on how badly the EU would botch a euro breakup; Edward Glaeser on getting the Army Corps of Engineers out of your neighborhood; Laurence Kotlikoff on economists who become political hacks; William L. Silber on Paul Volcker’s goldless gold standard.
To contact the writer of this article: Michael Kinsley at firstname.lastname@example.org or @michaelkinsley on Twitter.