The Corner

Singling Out the Speaker: A Few Thoughts

In our latest Need to Know, Mona Charen and I discuss many things, including, of course, Trump — and his endorsers. I express particular regret about Paul Ryan. And I’ll tell you why.

Paul Ryan knows. He knows about history, politics, philosophy. He’s a smart cookie. Beyond that, he grasps the moral dimension in politics. He knows the importance of character.

I suspect that he realizes that Trump is not a conservative. And not quite a democrat. He’s a man with an authoritarian streak, at best. I also suspect that Ryan realizes — or fears — that Trump would be a threat to the constitutional order. Also that he would warp America’s idea of conservatism (if he hasn’t already).

Some of Ryan’s Trump-endorsing colleagues? Very nice people. Well-meaning, patriotic people — who conclude that they and Trump are vaguely on the same team. I kind of give them a pass.

But Ryan is something else. He knows that his worldview — essentially a Reaganite worldview — and Trump’s are worlds apart.

I understand, of course, that Ryan is in a ticklish position. He is a Republican speaker of the House. And GOP voters have chosen Trump as their presidential nominee. Moreover, Ryan may well reason that he can mitigate Trumpian harm.

But he also entered politics because he wanted to stand for certain things. He is a conviction politician. And his convictions are far removed from Trumpism, previously known as Buchananism.

Another thing: Ryan can please no one. He is almost in a lose-lose situation. He will never win the affections of the Trumpites, who, endorsement or no endorsement, will always despise him: as a GOPe cuck RINO open-borders Israel Firster globalist etc., etc. You know how they talk. And Ryan’s Reaganite, or Ryanite, fans are dismayed.

Two years ago, I interviewed Ryan and did a series on him. (The three parts are here, here, and here.) The response I got from the Right was thunderous. It taught me something about the Right — something I had not known before, which made me less surprised about the Trump phenomenon.

They hated Ryan as venomously as they ever would Obama, Hillary, or Pol Pot. “Ryano” was about the nicest thing they called him. (“Ryano” is like “RINO.” Get it?)

This is a very strange political year, to put it mildly. Perhaps even more than Trumpites hate Ryan, they hate his predecessor, John Boehner — who is supposed to epitomize the mustache-twirling establishment. Yet Boehner is a Trump fan and endorser.

In the primaries, you remember, Boehner attacked Trump’s chief rival, Ted Cruz, as “Lucifer in the flesh.” And he had nothing but warm words for Trump — whom he revealed to be a texting and golfing buddy of his.

Where did that leave Trump folk? More admiring of Boehner? Or less admiring of Trump?

If I’m hard on Ryan, it’s because I admire him so. I think he represents the best in American politics. He’s worth paying attention to. And his Trump stance has been hard for some of us to swallow. I imagine it has been hard for Ryan, too.

If he does 99 admirable, shining things in a row, and then endorses Trump — does the hundredth act negate the previous 99? How much does it matter? To support Donald Trump for president is a very significant thing.

We to the right of center are in a schismatic moment — which is awkward and painful. There is a gap between those who think that Trump is fit to be president and those who don’t. I don’t think there is a bridge.

I hope everything will turn out all right. Frankly, for all my doom ’n’ gloomin’, I think it will.

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