(Washington, D.C.) -- Life can be funny. You never know who you're going to meet along the way.
In 1993-1994, Paul Ryan and I worked together as policy analysts for a conservative organization called Empower America. He worked out of one cubicle, primarily as an aide to former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp. I worked in the cubicle next to him, primarily as an aide to former Education Secretary and Drug Czar Bill Bennett.
Everyone in the office could see that Paul -- only 23 at the time (I was only 25) -- was smart as a whip, creative, highly energetic, devout in his Catholic faith, and the definition of "Midwestern Nice." There was no question this guy was going to make a major impact if he chose to stay in Washington. I can't say, however, that in our crystal ball any of us saw he was going to go on become the Vice Presidential nominee in 2012 or unanimously drafted (against his will, mind you) to become the Speaker of the House.
But that's where he is today -- the third highest-ranking elected official in the American government, second in line for the presidency only behind Vice President Mike Pence.
At only 48, Paul deserves tremendous credit for his historic conservative achievements:
passing the largest tax cuts and tax reform in U.S. history
passing budgets to dramatically rebuild the U.S. military and pay our troops and veterans more
creating an environment of true free market reform and economic growth
helping reduce unemployment for all Americans — especially black and Hispanic workers — to record lows
creating enterprise and empowerment zones in America's inner-cities;
passing some of the strongest pro-life legislation in history;
defending religious freedom at home and abroad; and
always working tirelessly to strengthen U.S. critically important ties to Israel and our Sunni Arab allies.
That's just to name a few -- and it should be noted that he actually helped craft and pass far more sweeping reforms through the House that were, unfortunately, not passed by the Senate (including the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare.)
What's more, he helped conservatives retake the House of Representatives from the liberals and hold the majority for several cycles. He's worked closely and effectively with President Trump even while at times disagreeing with him. He's set an example of working closely with Democrats whenever he could. And -- less noticed -- he's made it a point to consistently visit inner cities, build relationships with black, Hispanic and other minority communities, listen to their concerns and seek ways to empower them in a way that reveals his deepest convictions.
Is there more we could have asked for in a Speaker? I submit the answer is no. Paul would be the first to say he's made mistakes and this hasn't been a perfect ride. But the naysayers are asking for perfection and will never be satisfied.
Recently, Paul announced he will retire in January. He's not just stepping down from being Speaker; he's leaving Congress altogether. His reasons are clear and admirable: he's a husband and father first. He's gotten almost everything done he set out to do when he came to Congress two decades ago. Now his kids are teenagers. He doesn't want to be a "weekend dad" any longer. He wants to make his wife, Janna, and their kids the center of his life. He wants to move back to Wisconsin to be with family and friends. He wants to travel less, hunt more, and see what God would have him do next.
Bravo. He is absolutely doing the right thing and I couldn’t be happier for his decision or more grateful for the service he's given the country.
What a joy it was, therefore, to be invited to come over to see him in the Capitol yesterday. I introduced him to my 19 year old son, Jonah; presented him with a copy of my latest political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy; and we caught up a bit on old times and what has happened since.
The Speaker is a good man in a cynical town. He's a humble and honorable leader doing a brutally tough job in an often thankless environment. I was glad to be able to tell him thank you, and honestly tell him that I pray for him and his family and team daily. I hope he’s in your prayers, as well.
God bless you, Paul -- finish well -- I'm eager to see what the next chapter of life holds for you and your dear family!