Republican House speaker Paul Ryan made headlines on Monday when he said he could no longer defend Donald Trump, his party’s presidential nominee.
But it didn’t take long for commentators to point out that Ryan hadn’t withdrawn his endorsement. So we have the spectacle of the most powerful elected Republican in the country saying he can no longer “defend” his party’s nominee while still supporting the same person to become president of the United States.
Hypocritical? Of course. And for those of us who had high hopes for Ryan, it is profoundly disappointing as well.
I argued here in June that Ryan’s excuses for supporting Trump were embarrassing.
On all the major issues Ryan says he cares about — limited government, fiscal discipline, free trade, entitlement reform, national security — Trump has taken positions that are at odds with Republican orthodoxy: He seems ignorant of the Constitution and its restraints on the office he seeks; his tax and spending proposals aren’t serious; he has criticized all major trade agreements the United States has signed in recent decades; he opposes changes to Medicare and Social Security; and he has said NATO is outdated, allies like Israel, Japan and South Korea should fend for themselves while a Trump Administration would seek better relations with Russia instead.
Then there is Trump’s racism, his misogyny and his xenophobia — which, to his credit, Ryan has criticized time and again.
When Trump proposed to ban all Muslim immigrants, Ryan said this was “not what this party stands for and more importantly it’s not what this country stands for.”
When Trump argued that a federal judge was biased against him because of his Mexican heritage, Ryan said it was the “textbook” definition of racism.
And after it was revealed last week that Trump had bragged about groping women in 2005, Ryan reportedly told lawmakers, “you all need to do what’s best for you and your district.”
In other words: feel free to put some distance between yourselves and this madman.
Yet Ryan still thinks Trump would make a better president than Hillary Clinton?