The Fog Of History: Paul Ryan Meets James G. Blaine

For better or worse, Paul Ryan is the Speaker of the House. I have my doubts that he’ll have better luck uniting the flying monkeys of the GOP caucus than Speaker Boner. The drooling teahadist loons who the voters have elected since 2010 were convinced that Boner,  a Gingrich protegé, was a RINO instead of a down-the-line conservative. The hilariously named House Freedom caucus is convinced that Ayn Rand quoting, entitlements attacking Paul Ryan is a squish instead of a hardcore right-wing ideologue. This is what the quest for purity brings you: the Zombie eyed Granny starver isn’t conservative enough for the likes of John Fleming and Louis Gohmert Piles. I guess they think Eddie Munster is a squish too:


One thing that was often noted last week was a connection between Lyin’ Ryan and a legendary 19th Century pol also noted for his mendacity:

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives elected Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, as the next speaker of the House. Ryan, 45, became youngest Speaker since James G. Blaine, who was 39 years old when he was elected speaker in 1869,according to the House historian.

When James G. Blaine was the Republican nominee in 1884, many goo-goo GOPers refused to endorse him; supporting instead the overstuffed sofa who was the Democratic nominee, Grover Cleveland. During the 1884 campaign, his foes jeered,”James G. Blaine. James G. Blaine. James G. Blaine, continental liar from the state of Maine.” And Paul LePage thinks he’s got it bad…

Blaine lost the 1884 election, which was his third and last attempt to be Oval One. As a person. Blaine has little in common with Paul Ryan. He was a charming rascal who talked his way out of many a tight spot. Paul Ryan is known for his earnestness and ideological zeal whereas Blaine was ideologically flexible to say the least. One thing they have in common is hypocrisy, but I think Ryan’s insistence on “family time” while opposing it for others trumps Blaine who was always entertaining.

James G. Blaine is another historical figure that I first encountered in one of Gore Vidal’s books, 1876. In many ways, Blaine was the Houdini of 19th century politics because of his uncanny ability to escape trouble. One of Vidal’s characters describes Blaine as the most, “beguiling monster since the Serpent in the Garden of Eden.” It beats the hell out of being compared to a werewolf or a zombie like Paul Ryan.

One final, marginally relevant observation. I’m not quite sure when the practice vanished, but we rarely us a politician’s middle initial as a central part of their public identity any more. It used to be a common practice with pols such as John F. Kennedy, Thomas E. Dewey, Lyndon B. Johnson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, or the man Archie Bunker always referred to as Richard E. Nixon. Harry Truman did not have a middle name but felt compelled to adopt the letter S in order to be HST.

That concludes this edition of the Fog of History. I’m not sure if it was terribly illuminating but it gave me a chance to say this, “James G. Blaine. James G. Blaine. James G. Blaine, continental liar from the state of Maine,” and to post this:


Class dismissed.

2 thoughts on “The Fog Of History: Paul Ryan Meets James G. Blaine

  1. James Earl Carter. Don’t think I ever heard James E or Jimmy E….just Jimmy Carter, and from then on it’s just been first and last.
    Except for Obama and the idiots before he was re-elected. They used it all the time to try to scare folks I guess.

  2. I believe the S. used as Truman’s middle initial came from two grandfather’s,one a schipp,
    the other a Solomon,signifying,both.

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