As we bid adieu to 2018, a pair of Irish-Americans were saying their goodbyes to the denizens of the political fever swamp that is Washington D.C. Soon to be a former speaker of the House, Paul Ryan chose to slink out of town with his reputation in tatters. And Brighton-born-and-bred John Kelly has been shown the door by Donald Trump, leaving the former Marine Corps general’s legacy as tarnished as Ryan’s.
In addition to those sorry leave-takings, there is the plight of the once-respected General Michael Flynn, whose only hope of evading any prison time has apparently hinged on his turning informer against his former boss, the president. Even if Trump is found blameless of any coordination with Russia in the 2016 election (not a great bet), his administration is likely to earn ignominy as the most corrupt in America’s annals.
At first glance, the onset of the New Year indicates that the president is doing some house-cleaning among his cadre of Irish-American acolytes while in Flynn’s case, he is being used by Special Counsel Robert as a scouring pad at a certain house on Pennsylvania Avenue. Not so fast, though. When it comes to several familiar Irish Americans still standing by their man in the Oval Office, waist-deep in the waters of corruption and possible crimes by administration members, Kellyanne Conway and Mick Mulvaney are still marching in lock-step with the president as his endless lies pile up higher and higher.
Conway’s near-nonexistent relationship with truth and common sense rivals that of her boss. Her sometimes cozy, and usually ludicrous, interpretation of the facts makes her the ideal mouthpiece to “explain” Trump’s pathological Twitter thumbs and the falsehoods and cons that spill from him straight to the public.
Mulvaney, once a Congressional leader of the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus and a rigid deficit hawk, has been named “acting” chief of staff to replace Kelly as he is being pushed out the door. Mulvaney already holds another job— director of the Office of Management and Budget—and only recently stepped down as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Like Paul Ryan, Mulvaney once preached the conservative doctrine of always trying to cut the federal deficit. That was until he and his cohort saw the light of Trump’s 2018 tax giveaway to America’s boardrooms and billionaires. No problem for these two Irish-American budget-slashers. What could go wrong with placing personal ambition and fear of nasty Trumpian tweets above a trillion-dollar hole in the deficit? In all likelihood, we’ll find out in 2019.
As the stench of the Potomac swamp spreads across the United States, and as our immoral and amoral Prevaricator-in-Chief continues his assault on such “impediments” as the Constitution, the free press, the courts, the Department of Justice and the FBI, the entire intelligence community, and democracy itself, Irish-American pols and advisors such as Mulvaney and Conway cravenly carry the President’s rancid water along with virtually every GOP senator and representative in the US House.
For 2019, out with the old applies to Paul Ryan and John Kelly. In with the old, however, lingers with Mick Mulvaney and Kellyanne Conway.
Ryan, in particular, has long grown misty-eyed with professed pride at how his Irish Catholic heritage has shaped his views. To The New York Times and numerous other outlets, the speaker waxes nostalgic about how James Ryan of Kilkenny survived the Great Famine and reached America in 1851 to settle in Wisconsin. Now, as Ryan relinquishes the House gavel to Nancy Pelosi, his Irish eyes have gone watery again.
Ted Hesson, of Politico, recently wrote, “House Speaker Paul Ryan is leaving Congress with a grateful nod to his Irish ancestors. A bill pushed by Ryan…could provide Irish nationals with thousands of additional US work visas each year….The bill would give the Irish access to unused E-3 visas, which currently are available only to Australians in ‘specialty occupations’ that require a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. In return, Ireland would offer additional work visas to Americans, among other concessions.”
A proverbial tip o’ the tam might be in order if it weren’t for the fact that Ryan has stood in mute concert with the Trump Administration against those from all over the world who simply want the same chance afforded a certain James Ryan in 1851.
As 2019 begins its run, in many ways, to paraphrase Led Zeppelin, “the song remains the same,” politically speaking. An adage more appropriate for the times is one uttered by a legendary 19th-century Irish statesman and either ignored by, or unknown to, Trump’s Irish-American minions. Some 170 years ago, Daniel O’Connell, the Irish leader who devoted his life and career to the battle for Irish Catholic rights in Ireland and across the British Empire and to the relief of his island homeland’s poor, said, “Nothing is politically right that is morally wrong.”
To this scribe, those words, which appeared several times in this space over the past year, bear repeating yet again in this new year. Sadly, members of the two great American political parties have perverted O’Connell’s pronouncement into something like “everything that is politically right can be morally wrong.” Stern tests for both versions await in 2019.