Opinion

Let Paul Ryan Chair the Mabel's Labels Fundraiser: Read My Lips

Speaker of the House of Representatives is the new PTA president.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Toward the end of the last school year, the local PTA sent out an appeal. It had filled all of its important posts, save one, and needed a brave volunteer to step forward. 

The group had found parents to chair the after-school committee, the book fair, Family Bingo Night, the grocery rewards committee, the Mabel's Labels fundraiser, the spirit wear committee, the staff appreciation committee, the yearbook committee. Moms and dads were lined up to run for vice president of communications, vice president of finance, vice president of special events, vice president of promotions, plus secretary, treasurer and parliamentarian. 

All that was missing was someone gallant, committed and naïve enough to run for PTA president

Nobody, it seemed, was eager to submit to the infighting, the egos, the factionalism, the personal attacks, the competing unreasonable demands and the unwinnable fights that are hardwired into the job. 

Speaker of the House of Representatives is the new PTA president. How else to explain the remarkable effort to cajole Paul Ryan to accept the post? It's not like he'd proven unambitious in the past (see: 2012 Republican ticket), or at all shy (see: his muscle poses for Time magazine). The only explanation is the sheer awfulness of the job. 

On the surface, it should be a pretty sweet gig: illustrious predecessors, full-time security, papal drop-bys, a balcony and fireplace, a front-row seat at important speeches and a retirement slush fund, not to mention being two heartbeats away from the most important job on Earth outside the Kremlin. 

Sure, the money stinks. The speaker's annual salary is $223,500 -- more than rank-and-file House members earn, but less than what you masters of finance make every time the yuan hiccups against the price of Ithaca Hours

No problem. The real money to be made is as an ex-speaker. In 1978, Newt Gingrich was a college professor making barely $10,000. Now he counts his millions and dreams about vacationing on the moon

Yes, there must be something truly frightening to make someone like Ryan resist being handed the gavel. Maybe it's the institution itself. The House yaps more and accomplishes less than that Kardashian family. 

Or maybe it's the group the speaker must try to lead. 

The list of former representatives includes such towering figures as Abraham Lincoln, John Hancock, Margaret Chase Smith and Sonny Bono. But today's House includes the former governor who went AWOL on the "Appalachian Trail," the guy who stole the pope's water, the dude who apologized to BP for getting sea water into its oil, and the New Yorker who does this on a beach. Americans generally don't love their own congressperson, but they darn near loathe Congress as a whole. 

In retrospect, Tom DeLay may have been onto something. In 1998, despised by Democrats but in line to be speaker, he chose to remain the power behind the gavel and helped a vanilla colleague named Dennis Hastert win the post. After all, who could object to Hastert? His nickname was "Coach," and there's no way a guy like that could have skeletons in his closet

Handed the job, Hastert accepted. 

This time around, Ryan put up more of a fuss. 

The man with the crazy-low body fat issued a list of conditions before accepting the speaker's post. Some of his demands were well publicized. Others were kept secret: bowls of M&Ms, but with the blue ones removed; legislation naming P90X the official American workout; and Ayn Rand books on tape played in a loop on C-Span 7. 

Ryan won some, lost some, and is on track to be elected speaker in the coming days. Then he'll go about trying to pacify a group so enamored with rules and restrictions that it calls itself the Freedom Caucus

For Ryan, here's some advice from somebody who's been there:

 "You cannot please everyone. If you try, everyone will end up being frustrated and no one wins."

 That's a real quote, though not from a House speaker. It's from a PTA president

*****

 Many adjectives came to mind when California Congressman Adam Schiff, settling a lost bet with a fellow Democrat from New York, sang "Meet the Mets" on the floor of the House. 

Grudging. Off-key. Silly. 

Also, "pained" (NPR), "miserable" (Vanity Fair), "sheepish" (Maxim), "despairing" (New York Magazine) and "halfhearted" (New York Daily News). 

It might have been a bit brave, as well, since voters don't always appreciate learning that their elected representative has time to sing while dealing with, you know, more important matters. 

Who can forget Representative Michael Pappas of New Jersey and his rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Kenneth Starr"? He sang it on the House floor on July 21, 1998, to show his support for the independent counsel investigating that guy married to Hillary Clinton. 

Pappas' constituents remembered the song when they went to the polls in 2000, electing his Democratic challenger, Rush Holt. Pappas was through after a single two-year term. 

Schiff might be on safer ground. He took 76 percent of the vote in winning his eighth term last November. 

***** 

There was a fair amount of feedback to Friday's column, which argued that some presidential candidates come across as less-than-well-informed when asked about worldly affairs. One stood out: 

Liberals are a fascinating breed, mostly demented by any moral standards, but incredibly dishonest when presenting political information. You didn't have one word to say about Hillary Clinton. That says quite a bit about you and your lack of ethics or integrity as a reporter. 

We found out this week that Hillary received 600 requests for additional security in Benghazi from the people she pays to give her such advice but she claims she never saw one of them. So either she is incredibly incompetent or she is a pathological liar. She's a Clinton so probably both. 

We also found out that hours after the attack in Benghazi Hillary and Obama knew an al-Qaeda affiliated group had conducted a staged terrorist attack. We definitively know the story about the YouTube movie was a lie propagated by many people including Hillary. And of course there is the private e-mail server. Its obvious purpose was to hide all of the criminal activities Hillary was engaged in and thus thwart the FOIA. 

None of these things bother you. What does that say about you? Quite a lot. You aren't interested in reporting the truth. You are interested in covering up criminal activity and creating propaganda for the second most ethically challenged person in the country. You facilitate criminal behavior by liberal politicians for a living. 

The only question is have you faced this reality. I suspect you have and are comfortable with it. I'd love to know what other laws and conventions you regularly disregard. Do you cheat on your significant other? Is murder acceptable under certain circumstances? The possibilities are endless. 

Since I am a paying customer of Bloomberg I'd appreciate it if you would stop writing articles for Bloomberg. If I wanted to read DNC propaganda I'd go to their website. I want to read financial news of import and don't want to be associated with anyone as morally depraved as yourself. The world would actually be a better place without you. Let that sink in because no matter how you mentally protect yourself from all of these truths, it is a sad, scary fact. 

I welcome a response from you but I am only interested in facts so if you intend to get personal and spew propaganda don't bother. 

Etai, the writer, requested that his last name and firm name not be published.

Read My Lips is a column dedicated to the proposition that men and women in a position of power, or the pursuit of it, will say or do things for which they will be sorry.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE