U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) and Vice-President elect Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 10, 2016.
Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

With his embrace of Trump, Paul Ryan’s sellout is complete

Donald Trump took yet another break from his transition schedule last night to attend yet another self-congratulatory rally, this time in West Allis, Wisconsin. It was the sixth time the president-elect headlined a rally in celebration of himself since Election Day.

This event, however, was notable in part for its introduction: as the Huffington Post noted, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) did the honors.
Ryan briefly introduced Trump at the rally. He thanked him for winning Wisconsin, the first GOP presidential victory since “before I had my driver’s license,” Ryan said.

It was a turnabout from just two months ago, when Ryan disinvited Trump from a Wisconsin GOP event a day after The Washington Post published the infamous video of Trump bragging about grabbing women by their genitals…. Ryan was again scheduled to appear with Trump just days before the election. That rally also was canceled.
That, of course, was when the House Speaker assumed Trump would lose. But now that Trump will soon take the oath of office, it’s amazing to see just how quickly Paul Ryan can abandon any pretense of principle.

Asked about Trump’s many conflicts of interest, Ryan has said he doesn’t care. Asked about Russia’s alleged role in helping get Trump elected, the Speaker has said he’ll defer to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee – who happens to be a member of Trump’s transition team. Asked about Trump choosing an obviously unqualified Vladimir Putin ally to be Secretary of State, Ryan said yesterday that he thinks it’s a great idea.

Indeed, as far as the far-right Speaker of the House is concerned, Donald Trump can effectively do no wrong. Every controversy is deemed unimportant, every question is carelessly dismissed.

It’d be less offensive if Paul Ryan hadn’t already made clear that he knows better.

Ahead of the election, when the Speaker saw Trump’s defeat as inevitable, Ryan publicly rebuked his party’s presidential nominee – repeatedly. In early October, after Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, Ryan told GOP lawmakers he would no longer defend Trump or campaign with him. A week before the election, the Wisconsin congressman was reluctant to even say Trump’s name out loud during a television interview.

And yet, Ryan now seems quite eager to defend Trump and even introduce him at a public rally.

There’s no great mystery here: Paul Ryan has an ambitious and regressive policy agenda that he intends to push through a Republican-led Congress, and he sees Trump as little more than a pen who’ll sign GOP bills into law. It’s not that the Speaker respects Trump, so much as he sees him as a means to an end.

But that’s not much of a defense. This is effectively an argument predicated on the belief that Ryan is an unprincipled sellout, backing up an offensive television personality the Speaker knows has no business in the Oval Office, because the congressman desperately wants tax cuts for people who don’t need them.

As Jon Chait recently explained, “Asked about Trump’s blatant conflicts of interest, Ryan just says over and over he is focusing instead on ‘fixing the country’s big problems.’ High taxes on the rich and excessively generous social spending on the poor are big problems. Kleptocratic government is not. Liberals have been saying that the Republican Party is going to be held together by a devils’ bargain, in which Trump gives Ryan his core economic agenda, and Ryan gives Trump a free hand to corrupt American government as he sees fit. What’s amazing is that Ryan is now basically saying the same thing.”


Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Wisconsin

With his embrace of Trump, Paul Ryan's sellout is complete