There probably isn't ever a good time for someone who wants to be taken seriously to endorse Donald Trump, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) seemed to pick a particularly inopportune moment. Right around the time the Republican congressman was announcing his support for the party's presumptive nominee, Trump was escalating his ugly offensive against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel.
Indeed, the GOP presidential hopeful was pushing a line that many characterized as inherently racist: Trump said because he intends to "build a wall" along the nation's southern border, no judge of Hispanic descent should hear court cases to which he's a party.
And what does Trump's new pal, the Speaker of the House, think of these comments? Apparently, Ryan wasn't impressed. BuzzFeed reported:
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he completely disagrees with comments made by Donald Trump accusing the judge who presides over the fraud case against Trump University of a conflict of interest because of his "Mexican heritage." Ryan, who endorsed Trump on Thursday, told WISN's Up Front with Vicki McKenna: "Look, the comment about the judge the other day just was out of left field for my mind. It's reasoning I don't relate to. I completely disagree with the thinking behind that."
An audio clip of the Speaker's comments is online here.
Note, when Ryan referenced the racially charged comments from "the other day," it's unclear exactly which day he meant. Trump has gone after Judge Curiel several times, and it's hard to say with certainty which of the attacks Ryan saw as coming from "out of left field."
But therein lies the point: the House Speaker is apparently surprised by Trump's racially charged comments, and it's hard to imagine why.
Trump started criticizing the judge -- based explicitly on Curiel's ethnicity -- back in February. The Republican candidate escalated his offensive last week, and then again yesterday.
If Ryan believes the ugly attacks were "out of left field," perhaps the Speaker hasn't been paying close enough attention to the man he intends to help elect president.
More broadly, the idea that Ryan would be at all surprised about Trump race-based messaging is just bizarre. Trump's most notable contribution to the political discourse ahead of his presidential campaign was cheerleading a racist conspiracy theory for several years. The New York Times' Jonathan Martin noted earlier that the Republican Party is responding to eight years of the nation's first African-American president by nominating a man who "openly practices racial politics."
Ryan knows this. He endorsed him anyway.
For all the talk about Trump's unpredictability, his offensive approach to racial politics is probably the single most predicable thing about the guy. "Out of left field"? We should be so lucky.
As for what the Speaker is doing to his reputation with such pathetic antics, the New Republic's Brian Beutler questioned today whether we've finally found the one thing that can tarnish the reputation of the GOP leader the Beltway media loves to love. "If you've built your public image on claims to ideological commitment and high-mindedness, a cyclical, structural corrective like this should shatter it," Beutler noted.
And with that in mind, the editorial page of the Washington Post described Ryan's Trump endorsement as a "sad day" for both the Republican Party and the country.