Paul Ryan could use a lesson in leadership

Published 2:03 am Sunday, April 2, 2017

Call Trent Lott.

That’s what Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan should do: Call Trent Lott, with hat in hand, asking for some sage, honest advice from one of the most successful conservative leaders in history on how exactly good governing works.

Longtime Sen. Lott, our friend from Ole Miss and Mississippi, who for many years was one of the most effective Republican leaders in Washington, got a lot done because he understood the value of brokered change and how to get it done.

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Translation: He worked closely with Democrats in the name of leading Republicans and America.

Take former President Clinton, a Democrat, as a good example. As Senate majority leader during President Clinton’s tenure, Lott routinely reached across the aisle despite many heated political differences – remember impeachment? – to find accord so that change benefiting the American people could occur.

Also, President Clinton frequently reached across the aisle to Lott on key issues. They had plenty of conflict, but they didn’t let that conflict get in the way of brokering change.
“We never lost our ability to talk,” Lott has said in recent years.

That’s why both have admitted since that working together despite tensions led to progress.

But now we have Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House who said on the record this week that he feared Republican President Donald Trump might work with Democrats on the failed health care bill that Republicans couldn’t agree on how to fix.

“What I’m worried about, if [Republicans] don’t do this, (Trump will) go work with Democrats to try to change Obamacare, and that’s hardly a conservative thing,” Ryan said this week in an interview with CBS.

The very notion that reaching across the aisle is wrong suggests precisely what is wrong in politics today. Ryan can’t whip the votes from his own party to get health care reform, despite what should be controlling Republican interests, yet he doesn’t want Trump to work with Democrats?

Go figure.

Another friend, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, also wondered this week if Ryan’s thinking is sound.

“We have come a long way in our country when the speaker of one party urges a president NOT to work with the other party to solve a problem,” Sen. Corker tweeted in response to Ryan’s claim about cross-party work.

Bob Corker understands how to broker change, and his point is well taken. Party lines may help leaders get elected to Washington, but leadership requires the willingness and ability to find accord with others.

Just ask President Trump, who suggested during the campaign that getting things done in Washington would be easy, yet he has discovered different during his first 100 days in office.
Ryan himself explained the problem publicly, suggesting that Republicans had been the “opposition” party for so long that they don’t know how to lead.

In other words, being a habitual complainer is entirely different than leading.

That’s why Ryan should call former Sen. Lott, seeking some tips on how to broker change in the name of getting something done.

It’s a strategy that’s been proven to work. It’s called leadership.

David Magee is Publisher of The Oxford Eagle. He can be reached at