Can House Speaker Paul Ryan Save Himself?
The entire political class is asking two questions this week.
What is wrong with Donald Trump that makes him so unstable? As I write the list of outraged people grows longer following Trump’s attacks on a Gold Star family. Veterans groups and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have voiced their strong displeasure with Trump’s thoughts and words.
The second question is when will some solid Republicans take the exit ramp and withdraw their support for Trump for his continued outlandish actions and statements? If there is no deference to the party from Trump why should elected officials continue to show him any solid support as we head to the general election?
This latest mess is but one of many minefields that Trump has willingly and almost gleefully walked into–and worse yet has also taken the Republican Party. It has placed those who have leadership duties to the GOP, such as Speaker Paul Ryan, in the spot of rightly needing to defend the Khan family without so much as naming the party nominee. The top of the GOP needs to protect their views and stand on the side of the military while at the same time trying to show support for their nominee who has gone off the rails. It is a bizarre position to be placed.
At some point the smarter members of the GOP will need to look out for their own self-interest which might also be the same as looking out for the long term needs of the party. Bret Stephens has a must-read column today in The Wall Street Journal which speaks to this point.
This is the point that needs to dawn—and dawn soon—on Republican officeholders who pretend to endorse Mr. Trump while also pretending, via wink-and-nod, that they do not. Paul Ryan has tried to walk this razor’s edge by stressing how much he disagrees with Mr. Trump’s “ideas.” On Sunday the speaker issued a flabby statement extolling the Khan family’s sacrifice and denouncing religious tests for immigrants without mentioning Mr. Trump by name.
Mr. Ryan is doing his personal reputation and his party’s fortunes no favors with these evasions. The central issue in this election isn’t Mr. Trump’s ideas, such as they are. It’s his character, such as it is. The sin, in this case, is the sinner.
It will not do for Republicans to say they denounce Mr. Trump’s personal slanders; his nativism and protectionism and isolationism; his mendacity and meanness and crassness; his disdain for constitutional protections—and still campaign for his election. There is no redemption in saying you went along with it, but only halfway; that with Mr. Trump you maintained technical virginity. To lie down with him is to wake up with him. It’s as simple as that.