There are plenty of reasons - including his own sanity - for Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., not to take the speaker job. And under no circumstances should he take the job without certain conditions, some of which I have previously noted. His spokesman says not to expect any news this week, which still suggests he is pondering the issue. With all of that, however, he should take the spot (with conditions) for a number of reasons:
1. His future prospects would be enhanced if he stood up, even for a short time, to help unify the party and lead the House through a rocky time.
2. He does not need to be chairman of Ways and Means to get his policy ideas to the floor. To the contrary, he knows what his policy objectives are; now he can be the one to draw the conference together and get votes on tax and health-care reform.CartoonDavies' latest cartoon: Key to the White HouseCommentSubmit your letterReader essaysGet published in Newsday
3. If he succeeds he will bridge the gap between establishment and angry tea partyers, channeling both sides into a constructive reform agenda.
4. As a defense hawk and foreign policy internationalist, he would be positioned to push the White House toward action, continue to increase defense spending and try to push through reauthorization of sanctions as well as new ones.
5. While he wants to limit time on the road, he nevertheless will cement and expand his fundraising base, which will come in handy in any future run for the presidency. By the way, Mitt Romney can decide to step up and do some of the fundraising for Ryan. Romney's earned a place as senior statesman.
6. He can explicitly limit his tenure to the balance of the president's term, if he likes.
There is no denying the job would entail plenty of headaches and risks for Ryan. Nevertheless, as Chris Spatola writes, we have become more tribalistic and angry in our politics. The problem with Washington these days, he observes, is that politicians "have become so dogmatic in adhering to ideology that it has paralyzed them. This fundamentalist approach to politics has created an establishment political system that is not only dysfunctional, but also cruel. In fact, the cruelty is perhaps most responsible for the dysfunction."
Spatola's insight is dead on that both Donald Trump and Ben Carson's rhetoric "has been so toxic and degrading that it has only served to foment our discontent, not soothe it; and neither candidate has made a case that he would be prepared to productively govern." I cannot think of a sunnier personality or better temperament than Ryan for soothing that polarized, nasty atmosphere that pervades our politics.