Donald Trump is “not a conservative”, the former Republican House speaker Paul Ryan said, but “a populist, authoritarian narcissist”.
The former vice-presidential pick, who led the House majority for two years when Trump was president, also praised the Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for opposing Trump to the cost of their congressional careers.
Ryan, from Wisconsin, left Congress in 2019 and now sits on the board of Fox Corp, parent company of Fox News. He was speaking to Kevin Kajiwara, co-president of Teneo Political Risk Advisory, in a podcast interview recorded in November but widely noticed this week.
Voices on both sides of the main political aisle have criticised Ryan for not strongly opposing Trump when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2016, or through four chaotic years in the White House that ended in the deadly January 6 attack on Congress.
When stepping down Ryan praised Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, widely blamed for increasing inequality and the national deficit, as one of his biggest achievements along with increasing defense spending.
Trump was impeached twice, including for January 6, but escaped conviction and now dominates polling for the next Republican presidential nomination.
He does so despite facing 91 criminal charges, including 17 related to attempted election subversion, and civil threats including a business fraud trial and a defamation suit arising from a rape claim a judge called “substantially true”.
Kajiwara asked Ryan how he thought history would judge Kinzinger and Cheney, conservative Republicans from Illinois and Wyoming who stood against Trump and sat on the January 6 committee before being forced out of Congress.
“Look,” Ryan said, “Trump’s not a conservative. He’s an authoritarian narcissist. So I think they basically called him out for that. He’s a populist, authoritarian narcissist.
“… All of his tendencies are basically where narcissism takes him, which is whatever makes him popular, makes him feel good at any given moment.
“He doesn’t think in classical liberal-conservative terms. He thinks in an authoritarian way. And he’s been able to get a big chunk of the Republican base to follow him because he’s the culture warrior.”
Historians searching for the roots of Trumpism have generally looked to the 1990s, when another Republican speaker, Newt Gingrich, turned Congress into a scorched-earth battleground; to the rise of Fox News; or to opposition to Barack Obama, the first Black president, particularly through the Tea Party movement.
Ryan, an economic conservative who was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, continued: “There has to be some line, some principle that is so important to you that you’re just not going to cross, so that when you’re brushing your teeth in the morning, look yourself in the mirror, you like what you see. I think Adam and Liz are brushing their teeth, liking what they see.
“And I think a lot of people in Congress … on the second impeachment, they thought Trump was dead. They thought after January 6, he wasn’t going to have a comeback. He was dead, so they figured, ‘I’m not going to take this heat, vote against this impeachment, because he’s gone anyway.’
“But … he’s been resurrected. There’s lots of reasons for that. But he has been. So I think there’s a lot of people who already regret not getting him out of the way when they could have. So I think history will be kind to those people who saw what was happening and called it out, even though it was at the expense of their wellbeing.”
#Trump #populist #authoritarian #narcissist #exspeaker #Paul #Ryan #Paul #Ryan