Paul Ryan has a thing about punctuality and routine. They bring a sense of order to the chaos that he otherwise must try to maneuver through. We sat down at 9 a.m. sharp in the ornate offices of the speaker of the House at the United States Capitol. It was a Wednesday in late July, and Ryan had a packed morning, starting with an appearance on “Fox & Friends” and ending with a meeting at the White House with President Trump — if there is even a difference.
“Ah, jeez,” he said a few seconds after we sat down. An aide had just handed Ryan a note: The president was on the phone. “Let me take this real quick,” he said. I waited a few minutes in the reception area until being invited back in. “The president saw me on ‘Fox & Friends,’ ” Ryan told me, explaining the interruption. “He said he thought I looked good.”
This is among the headiest commendations a Republican could hope to receive in Donald Trump’s Washington. “That happens to me a lot,” Ryan added, referring to his post-TV attaboy. But it’s important to seize openings, and he used the opportunity to steer the conversation to the subject of trade policy. The speaker had met the day before at the Capitol with the top trade officials from the European Union, who later that day would be meeting with Trump. He and the president compared notes. Ryan said he encouraged him to emphasize their shared goal of reducing and eliminating trade barriers. Trump seemed to get the message, or Ryan hoped he had.