Steve Bannon, in search of a fall guy for Donald Trump's failed agenda, is leading the angry charge against House Speaker Paul Ryan.
It wasn’t his idea. In fact, he denounced it as "disgraceful" and "unworkable." But House Speaker Paul Ryan is taking the blame from lots of Republicans for Donald Trump’s stunning decision to stiff GOP leadership and cut a debt limit deal with Democrats in order to get Hurricane Harvey relief funding passed through Congress.
Trump’s quick capitulation to Democrats completely foiled the Republican leadership’s plan for a series of unfolding votes in the coming months — votes they hoped would cause political pain for Democrats.
Trump’s deal not only immediately nullified that — it actually handed Democrats new-found leverage for those same looming votes, infuriating Republicans.
And who has emerged as the GOP fall guy from Trump’s erratic embrace of Democrats? Paul Ryan.
"In a whipsawed moment, some House Republicans defended Trump’s handling of a deal they don’t like, while simultaneously criticizing Ryan, who had been overruled by the president," the Associated Press reported.
In other words, this makes no sense. There is no straight line of logic in play, as conservatives beat up on Ryan because Trump did something Ryan very publicly opposed.
The debt deal has served as a flashpoint to the "tortured relationship" between Trump and Ryan, as the AP put it, noting phone calls between the two men have become less frequent since Ryan's fellow Wisconsinite Reince Priebus departed as Trump’s chief of staff.
And now the tea party members are circling Ryan, who they've never seen as a true believer. Teaming up with Trump’s failed strategist Steve Bannon, three members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus recently met with Ryan and "were ‘frank’ about their mounting concerns and warned Ryan that they and others in the House Republican conference could desert him in the coming months if the leadership fails to enact conservative policies," the Washington Post reported.
There was also chatter in the article about who might replace Ryan as Speaker if the conservative caucus rebelled against him, and it has been evident for some time that Ryan may be driven out of his job by his own party.
Meanwhile, Bannon’s out claiming Ryan doesn’t support Trump’s agenda. "The Republican establishment is trying to nullify the 2016 election," Bannon told CBS’s Charlie Rose. "They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented. It’s very obvious."
That, despite the fact Ryan’s House spent huge chunks of 2017 relentlessly trying, and ultimately failing, to repeal and replace Obamacare, which had been Trump’s top priority. And despite his stalwart support of things like Trump's border wall and unrestricted war powers.
Yet Ryan appears content to remain silent now, possibly because, as Madison.com put it, "it is widely accepted that no other House Republican could garner the support needed to replace him."
But it seems clear that the GOP’s far right, white nationalist wing, led from the outside by Bannon, needs a villain. They need somebody to blame for the fact that Trump has delivered on virtually none of his legislative promises this year.
And for now, that villain is Paul Ryan.