U.S. President Donald Trump (C) listens to House Speaker Paul Ryan (L) as he gathers with Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House...
CARLOS BARRIA

Ryan finds new ways to downplay concerns about Trump’s fitness

Updated

Earlier this month, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) made the case that Donald Trump’s stability is in doubt and may set the nation “on the path to World War III.” The president responded by saying he believes Corker is short and cowardly.

Asked for his reaction, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) suggested the two men should “sit down and just talk through their issues.” That would be quite a conversation.

Yesterday, as the Associated Press reported, the Republican leader offered a slightly different response.

Remember the extraordinary public clash this week between two Republican senators and President Donald Trump? House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that people aren’t interested.

Ryan waded into – and quickly out of – that dispute on Thursday, when a reporter asked whether he shares Sen. Jeff Flake’s criticisms of Trump. “I don’t think the American people care about that,” the Wisconsin Republican responded.

Just so we’re clear, this week, two prominent U.S. senators from the president’s own party have publicly suggested that Donald Trump isn’t fit to serve, leaving the nation to confront, to use Flake’s phrasing, an “alarming and dangerous state of affairs.”

Presented with this information, the Speaker of the House didn’t dismiss the concerns about Trump’s ability to be president, so much as he suggested that the public dismisses the concerns.

I won’t claim to be an expert on public attitudes, but if GOP senators have questions about the stability of a GOP president, shouldn’t the American people care quite a bit?

Similarly, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) reportedly appeared on NPR this morning and said Republican senators who are worried about Trump’s fitness should keep their fears “private,” and discuss their concerns “within the family.”

In other words, if the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has reason to believe the president is dangerously unfit, the important thing is that the public not find out.

In case this isn’t obvious, what policymakers in both parties should be worried about is Trump’s ability to do the job, not public awareness about concerns that the president can’t do the job.