Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Last night the president held a prime-time special to announce that he would essentially be continuing unabated America’s longest-ever war, holding the course of his predecessors in Afghanistan while refusing to divulge any sort of timetable or troop count that might be used as a cudgel against him by political opponents, which is to say, pretty much everyone. Immediately afterward, Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan, known by Washington insiders as the wonk who couldn’t pass a piece of legislation if his life depended on it, held a town hall meeting with his constituents in Wisconsin, where he defended the president (as is his wont) for his new doctrine of “principled realism” and took a few questions from the folks assembled there.

One, a Catholic nun named Erica Jordan, inquired as to how Ryan squares his Catholic faith, which espouses helping and defending the poor, with his party’s proposed healthcare and tax plans, which would overwhelmingly disadvantage the poor and working class and leave millions of people uninsured in order to fund a massive tax cut for the country’s richest people. Ryan listened with his practiced everyman smile and then responded with the smug sense of self-satisfaction that suffices as his signature political accomplishment at this point:

Yes, the problem was merely that the nun didn’t quite understand the healthcare system, and so needed someone like, say, Paul Ryan to explain it to her in the most obtuse terms imaginable. Sister, please direct your attention to this flowchart describing inputs and, um, outcomes, or something. If everyone pulls themselves up by the boot straps simultaneously, Ryan seems to be saying, then everyone will be rich, at which point the church’s mission to help the poor and working classes will be moot. Easy peasy! This is not a realistic vision of healthcare, the American populace, taxes, or even math, but then, these are the contortions Ryan must go through to pretend he possesses a soul.

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Sister Jordan seemed unimpressed by the whole thing, for what it’s worth.