At a certain level, the speculation about whether House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would eventually endorse Donald Trump was always a little pointless. The question was when, not whether, the congressman would throw his support behind the presumptive Republican nominee.
When Trump hedged on denouncing support from white supremacists, Ryan denounced the candidate’s comments – but said he’d support his party’s presidential nominee anyway. When Trump took steps to encourage violence at his campaign rallies, Ryan denounced the candidate’s actions – but said he’d support his party’s presidential nominee anyway. When Trump raised the prospect of violence at the Republicans’ national convention, Ryan denounced the remarks – but said he’d support his party’s presidential nominee anyway.
With this in mind, this report from The Gazette in Janesville shouldn’t have surprised anyone.
The speaker of the House of Representatives says he will vote for Donald Trump. Rep. Paul Ryan made that statement in a column submitted Thursday for publication in The Gazette, his hometown newspaper. […]Ryan wrote in the opinion piece, which is being released on this website this afternoon, that he and Trump have talked at length… Ryan goes on to say that he and Trump do not agree on everything and that when he sees the need, Ryan will continue to speak his mind.
“[T]he reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement,” Ryan wrote.
The Speaker promoted the piece on Twitter, writing that he’ll vote for Trump in the fall because Ryan is “confident he will help turn the House GOP’s agenda into laws.”
In case there were any lingering questions about intra-party semantics, the Wisconsin lawmaker’s spokesperson clarified that Ryan’s comments constitute “an endorsement,” even if Ryan’s column didn’t explicitly include the word.
As for the broader context, Ryan’s inevitable announcement wasn’t entirely optional – the Speaker realizes his members wouldn’t tolerate opposition to the GOP nominee – but that doesn’t make today’s announcement any less sad.
I realize the Speaker has been given quite a bit of credit for appearing contemplative. After Trump wrapped up the Republican nominating process, and GOP leaders grudgingly started offering Trump their backing, Ryan paused, drawing raves from a political establishment already predisposed to celebrate the Wisconsin congressman’s every move.
The truth, however, was a little more complicated. Ryan put himself in a very awkward position, probably because he expected Trump to eventually fail. Three months ago, the Speaker proudly declared, “Today I want to be very clear about something: if a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games, they must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people’s prejudices.”
And then Donald Trump preyed on people’s prejudices anyway. Stuck in the corner he’d put himself in, Ryan tried to buy some time, saying four weeks ago that he wasn’t yet “ready” to back Trump, and insisting he wanted to hear more from the candidate before making a final decision. The hope, obviously, was that the GOP candidate, entering the general election, would put some distance between himself and the buffoonish persona Ryan repeatedly condemned.
Soon after, Trump started peddling Vince Foster conspiracy theories, called for more guns in school classrooms, got caught lying about money for veterans’ charities, falsely attacked a federal judge for being “Mexican,” got caught up in ugly new revelations about “Trump University,” and went after Republican Governors’ Association Chair Susana Martinez because she’d hurt his feelings.
Paul Ryan saw all of this unfold and then decided to endorse him. Why? Probably because the Speaker realized that if he waited for the day in which Trump adopted a mature and responsible posture, Ryan would be waiting for a very long time.
I don’t know if it’s the most pathetic development in Republican politics this year, but it’s close.