MTV’s Cox Attacks ‘Stooge’ Trump, ‘Media Welfare Queen' Paul Ryan

Liberal journalist Ana Marie Cox, senior political correspondent for MTV News, who also has a regular interview feature in the back of the New York Times magazine, dusted off some attacks on that undignified “stooge” and “media welfare queen” House Speaker Paul Ryan in a piece posted Wednesday: “Don’t Pity Paul Ryan --Ryan has never been a thoughtful conservative.”

After condemning House Speaker Paul Ryan with very faint praise as a less impressive Trump brown-noser than Chris Christie or Ted Cruz, Cox got vulgar for her easily distracted millennial audience, while making the argument that Ryan has gotten some kind of free ride in the press, which should puzzle anyone who has turned on broadcast news or cracked open a newspaper.

As one of President Trump’s many stooges, Paul Ryan has not especially distinguished himself....Are a series of lock-jawed refusals to comment really the best Joseph A. Craig High School’s 1988 “Biggest Brown-Noser” can do?

Of course, to really disgrace yourself, you have to have had some grace to begin with, and perhaps that’s Ryan’s real problem. It’s not that he’s lost any dignity, it’s that he never had it.

The myth of Ryan’s "thoughtful conservative" reputation stems largely from his role on the undercard of the 2012 presidential campaign, during which, if you’ll recall, Mitt Romney's momentum was stalled by the release of video showing him dismissing nearly half of America's voters as "takers."...

Some analysts at the time wondered if Ryan's desire to gut entitlement programs would hurt him, but many more journalists took Ryan’s rictus-faced endorsement of policies that would harm the poor as a sign of his seriousness. There's now a popular notion that the media needs to look backward to get misty-eyed over Republicans' past willingness to behave with at least a nodding acquaintance to social norms. But, in fact, reading Ryan profiles circa summer 2012 is a bracing corrective to that....

In her attack on alleged the media has been propping up Ryan’s reputation, Cox sounds like she’s cribbing from fellow Ryan-loather and quasi NYT-colleague Paul Krugman.

Coverage of the 2016 election took this impulse and made it a pathology, but distance makes it possible to see even more clearly how journalists wrenched the 2012 contest (particularly around Ryan) into the same narrative of false equivalency. The race for vice-president matched Paul Ryan, an obscure seven-term congressman from Wisconsin with negative charisma, against Uncle Joe Biden, legend of the Senate with a goddamn doctorate in folksy charm. To elevate Ryan as a worthy foe to Biden, Ryan’s bland obsession with starvation budgets became “wonkiness” and his aggressively mainstream demeanor and interests somehow rebranded as edgy-but-relatable. This breathless snippet from a Politico profile manages to do both:

....

Politico also ventured to assert that Ryan had “found fans on the right, the left and the Libertarian fringes,” a.k.a. “the wonk crowd,” who would be “putting [their] money on the policy wonk with a head for numbers and details over the gaffe-prone -- but often scrappy -- Biden.”

....

Time Magazine pronounced Ryan the “anti-Palin," and mused that Romney "might get more substance than he wants"!

Showing where she’s coming from ideologically, Cox found those damned with faint-praise lines to be “starry-eyed assessments.”

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All of these starry-eyed assessments are laughable, but the one that stings the most is the idea that the “reform-minded” Ryan is above “just criticizing,” and will stop at nothing to produce “alternatives.” There's a hastily assembled, secretly passed, and almost universally derided health care bill that would beg to differ.

If you look at Ryan’s résumé rather than his news clips, a necessarily drier and surprisingly tuneless narrative emerges: Ryan is kind of a fuck-up who has failed ever upward in government....

This seems exaggerated:

He is speaker of the House largely because almost no one else wanted the job.

The coup de grace Cox delivered was a throwback to an apparently offensive Ronald Reagan quip, but it’s OK because Cox is using it to attack a Republican.

In reflecting on Ryan’s charmed career as a reckless budget hawk and social safety net butcher, critics often indulge in a petty irony: This advocate for offloading entitlement programs to the states and privatizing a fleet of government functions paid for college using Social Security survivor’s benefits. I’d point to an even more astounding abuse of government largess: his congressional paycheck. He is, in his terms, a “taker,” not a maker. He survives on journalism handouts -- a media welfare queen.

Clay Waters
Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.