There is no question that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is in a very tough spot during this election. On the one hand, as a Republican Party leader his role is traditionally to rally conservatives around the presidential nominee. On the other, the nominee he has to work with is Donald Trump, a belligerent, bigoted egomaniac with thin-skin and a legion of neo-Nazi supporters.
Since officially endorsing Trump, Ryan has had to smile and nod as Trump 1) accused Iraq War veterans of stealing money 2) congratulated himself after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history 3) re-affirmed his idea that Muslims should be banned from the United States 4) suggested the President of the United States is working with ISIS 5) a million other things that would normally disqualify a person from running from office.
So it’s unsurprising that when Paul Ryan sat down with Chuck Todd during Sunday’s Meet the Press, the House Speaker looked like he had aged 25 years in two weeks. The decay of one’s soul after endorsing Donald Trump quite literally eats away at you. Ryan was jittery, somber, and nearly despondent. Todd didn’t let Ryan’s sorry state stop him from going for the jugular during an exchange that will probably haunt both Trump and Ryan for the remainder of their careers.
After Todd notes how nuts the Republican candidate is, Ryan was forced to justify his spineless endorsement of him. It was a hollow, defeated answer:
I feel like I have certain responsibilities, as not just Congressman Paul Ryan from the First District of Wisconsin, but as Speaker of the House. And imagine the Speaker of the House not supporting the duly elected nominee of our party, therefore creating a chasm in our party to split us in half, which basically helps deny us the White House, and strong majorities in Congress.
Todd correctly points out that this sounds an awful lot like Ryan is putting the party ahead of his country.
You just made a case though of party over country.
Ryan chooses to see it less as completely selling out his integrity than as knee-jerk duty to stop Democrats. In other words, putting party over country.
No, I didn’t. I think there’s a lot of things in government– I know Hillary Clinton won’t agree with anything we want to do. She’ll put a bad judge on the Supreme Court. She won’t agree with any of the conservative reforms we’re trying to do. I have spoken with our nominee a number of times about our agenda, about conservative principles, and about the policies we need to put in place in order to save the country. And we have so much more common ground than any other thing. And that is why I’m voting for our nominee.
Todd lets him have it:
How did he reassure you though? How did he reassure you? Why do you trust him? Because you’ve asked him to tone things down. You’ve asked him to reconsider some things. And then you hear, “So and so did reassure you in private that he would possibly back off the Muslim ban.” And then he goes right on with it, and then some. He essentially accused the President of treason. And he went a little farther.
The question for Republicans is whether their hatred for the “other side” is so intense that they are willing to put an emotionally-stunted narcissist who exploits tragedies for self-glorification and demonizes entire minority groups for poll bumps. For Paul Ryan, this is clearly the choice he has made. For many conservatives, including former presidents and presidential candidates, the answer has to be “no.” There are some things that transcend politics and stopping Donald Trump from ever getting into the Oval Office is one of them.
Watch Paul Ryan say he would rather stick with his party than vote with his conscience below:
Featured image via NBC News