Donald Trump

Paul Ryan's Refusal to Criticize Donald Trump By Name Gives Trump a Pass

The House Speaker's speech on the state of American politics made no direct mention of the GOP frontrunner.

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Foter / Gage Skidmore

When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced that he'd be delivering a speech today on "the state of American politics," many assumed that he'd be making a statement in opposition to Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the Republican party's presidential nomination.  

The remarks would come just days after New York Times columnist Ross Douthat sharply criticized Ryan's response to the Trump campaign so far, saying that "faced with a potentially-existential threat to his vision of conservatism (not to mention his House majority), Ryan's answer is first, change nothing; second, do nothing."

The framing of the announcement raised expectations that Ryan, who has made several speeches indirectly criticizing Trumpish behavior but has also indicated that he would back the candidate if he became the party's presidential nominee, might finally address Trump directly. Which, of course, would be a big deal given that Ryan is, in addition to being the Speaker of the House, arguably the institutional voice of the party right now, its chief spokesperson and visionary.

But Ryan did no such thing. He didn't mention Trump by name at all, and he didn't raise many of the biggest concerns people have about Trump and his campaign. Instead, he waxed nostalgic about his political mentor, Jack Kemp and issued a nonspecific call for greater civility in politics. Trump's campaign loomed over the speech, but Ryan seemed determine not to take it on in anyway—even indirectly. If anything, Ryan's speech today offered even less in the way of resistance to Trump and his ideas than previous remarks.

Earlier this month, following Trump's initial refusal to disavow the support of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist leader David Duke, Ryan gave a forceful speech in which he said that he'd call out objectionable behavior when he saw it.

"When I see something that runs counter to who we are as a party and as a country," he said, "I will speak up. So 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. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln."

That's an admirable sentiment, and it's clear enough who and what it's directed at. But then, as today, Ryan didn't atually name Trump, choosing to criticize Trump-like behavior generally rather than go after Trump himself. And when asked whether he'd support Trump as the nominee, Ryan said yes. In follow ups, he's stuck with that line, saying that he has to "respect the primary voter."

Here's what that ends  Trump's campaign rallies have become increasingly marked by physical unrest, and Trump has rationalized violence committed by his supporters, saying it's "appropriate" and that "we need more of it." He has on multiple occasions suggested he might pay the legal bills for supporters who commit violence at his rallies, and then lied and claimed he never did. He's said he believes that a brokered Republican convention this summer would result in riots. He's also issued gone after his rival Ted Cruz's wife, issuing a vague threat to "spill the beans" on her after accusing Cruz of backing an ad that was produced by an outside anti-Trump group.

And, at the same time, Trump has continued to blatantly lie about everything from his own business record to the state of the economy to his own half-baked policy positions, while proving that he has neither the temperament nor the basic knowledge that required to be president. In practice, supporting the nominee if it's Trump means potentially supporting all of the above.

Yet in his speech today, Ryan barely touched on any of this. He called for a kinder, gentler tone in politics, said that debate was preferable to disorder, and urged politicians to be more specific in their policy proposals. But he didn't mention Trump's rallies, or his ostentatious fabrications, or his campaign's telling mix of petty personal bullying and authoritarian bluster. Instead, Ryan gently called for everyone to generally be nicer and more upbeat and a little more specific about policy. He described the world he'd like to see, rather than attempting to grapple with the world that exists 

That's fine, I suppose, but it does little to meaningfully address the Trump-poisoned state of American politics, or of Ryan's own party. And in combination with its overt Kemp-nostalgia, it suggests that Ryan, and much of the party he represents, will continue to, well, do nothing and change nothing in response to Trump's campaign. 

The only other way to interpret Ryan's speech today is that he sees nothing from Trump that, to borrow Ryan's own words, runs counter to the character of the Republican party or the nation, that he believes Trump has done nothing that merits speaking up about specifically and directly, by name, with no evasion and no games. I don't believe that's the case, but if it is, then that reveals more about the state of American politics today than anything Ryan actually said.

Regardless, Ryan's speech today constituted a kind of tacit acceptance of the GOP frontrunner's campaign, which it ultimately serves to enable. And in doing so, Ryan is, at least inadvertently, rapidly paving the way for the party of Lincoln to become the party of Trump.

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  1. He’s also issued gone after his rival Ted Cruz’s wife, issuing a vague threat to “spill the beans” on her after accusing Cruz of backing an ad that was produced by an outside anti-Trump group.

    How is that any different than Mitt Romney claiming there are “big surprises” in Trump’s tax return? One does not make the other right. But I don’t recall Peter condemning Romney. It is different in that it is Cruz’s wife. But anti Trump people were putting up semi naked pictures of Trump’s wife in Utah to get straight laced Mormons to vote Cruz. I don’t recall Cruz condemning that. So, i can’t see how either wife is off limits.

    It has devolved into a dirty campaign, like most campaigns. I really don’t see how Trump’s attack on Cruz’s wife is particularly worse than any of the attacks.

    I suppose, but it does little to meaningfully address the Trump-poisoned state of American politics, or of Ryan’s own party.

    So politics was not poisoned before Trump? I am pretty sure 90% of reason’s readers would disagree with that. And I bet a year ago Peter would have said politics were toxic. So how exactly are politics “Trump poisoned” if they were already poisoned?

    1. 90% is lowballing it, I’d say. Trump is just replacing the Tea Party as the scapegoat of the political cycle. Before that, it was Sarah Palin, then GWB, and so on.

      1. Joe Biden said that Mitt Romney wanted to put black people back into slavery. Howard Dean described 911 trutherism as a “serious position”. And not to be partisan about it, Karl Rove and George Bush spent millions convincing the country that John Kerry intended to surrender to the Muslims. The list of horrible nasty rhetoric goes on and on.

        But somehow Trump has “poisoned politics”.

        1. I made a similar comment in the AM links. Accusing your opponents of supporting slavery, and wanting to starve poor people is far more nasty and vulgar then Trump accusing Megan Kelly of being on her period. Unless someone believes being on your period is worse then being a slave owner who starves poor people.

          1. Unless someone believes being on your period is worse then being a slave owner who starves poor people.

            I’m sure there’s a dumb broad somewhere who believes this.

    2. ‘He’s also issued gone after his rival Ted Cruz’s wife,..’
      What does that mean? Is proof reading no longer required?

    3. I don’t think most libertarians themselves buy what they say about politics. Anarchists like Nikki shouldn’t give a shit about Donald Trump compared to any of the other candidates; hell, if anything Sanders should be more concerning for anarchists given that he is obviously against those values. And if libertarians aren’t particularly convinced by their own emotional and logical appeal, why should anyone else be?

      Participating on this board has pretty well convinced me that most left- and right-libertarians are such because they’d rather not be as dumb as the average member of their herd, but that they are not as separate from those herds as they’d like to think. Libertarians should think about why that is, and work to create an aesthetic apart from left and right that is more appealing than either lest this continue to happen.

      1. and work to create an aesthetic apart from left and right that is more appealing than either lest this continue to happen.

        You mean like this?

      2. Anarchists like Nikki shouldn’t give a shit about Donald Trump compared to any of the other candidates

        That assumes I care only about the existence of the state, and not basic things like bullying and decency. Living outside the state means caring about more than state politics.

        1. Nikki is absolutely right. Us ancaps don’t really think our vision is gonna come about any time soon, its just what we think would be an ideal society. We still have morals that tell us supporting violence at rallies is unacceptable, even if Bernie might be worse on strictly policy

        2. That is exactly what I said, isn’t it? The concerns you and others often discuss fall outside libertarianism even in a tangential way, up to and including your view on politics and politicians — and there is nothing wrong with that, persay. However, it is a going concern if libertarians want to make an impact in how people see the world — if relatively hardcore libertarians are not particularly motivated by the ethos of libertarianism as opposed to their own prerogatives, you simply don’t have the buy-in from people to support a mass movement. That should be especially important for anarchists and libertarians who see themselves outside the political system, since that requires even more buy-in to create community without the ideological investment.

      3. Participating on this board has pretty well convinced me that most left- and right-libertarians are such because they’d rather not be as dumb as the average member of their herd, but that they are not as separate from those herds as they’d like to think

        Abso-fucking-lutely! Why? Because it’s much easier to live under a tyrant who is sympathetic to your ideals than it is to let others be free to do stuff antithetical to your ideals.

        Nikki and I went back and forth about patriarchy in the pay gap comments. Why? Because if I accept that cultural oppression exists and must be remedied (along with all the philosophical underpinnings to get me there), my basis for being a libertarian vaporizes. Similar but opposite for Nikki.

        I personally find it fascinating how two people who can’t agree on what color the sky is are able to co-exist under a common ideological banner. If you pull on the loose threads too much, “cosmo” and “yokel” or some variant comes out.

      4. Those are all very good points. Trump is basically kicking the Bush conservatives out of the GOP. Considering this board’s opinion of the Bush conservatives, you would think they would find that to be a good thing.

        1. I think a lot people are just pissed that it isn’t their guy doing the kicking.

        2. While I’m not aware of anyone here supporting Jeb! and his ilk many have weighed in that Trump is “far worse”.

          Remarks about a news presenter being on the rag is worse than unnecessarily killing brown people.

        3. Could it be that–Jerry Falwell’s senile droolings notwithstanding–Trump is “not really” an antiabortionist? Can you imagine the shrieks if God’s Own Prohibitionists were to have to excise their coercion of pregnant women from the platform? Didn’t dry Dems have some such prohibitionist problem with their loud, obnoxious, outspoken New York candidate in 1928?

      5. “that most left- and right-libertarians are such because they’d rather not be as dumb as the average member of their herd, but that they are not as separate from those herds as they’d like to think.”

        Hey I resemble that remark!

        1. The truth is there are no right and left libertarians. Right is code for coercive religionists, and left is code for coercive redistributionists. Libertarians are about looking for every opportunity to legally replace coercion with voluntary choice and individual rights.

        2. The truth is there are no right and left libertarians. Right is code for coercive religionists, and left is code for coercive redistributionists. Libertarians are about looking for every opportunity to legally replace coercion with voluntary choice and individual rights.

      6. , but that they are not as separate from those herds as they’d like to think.

        I think you are pretty close. But I think it is also a result of our tribal preferences vs our political preferences. Pretty much if you have become a libertarian, you don’t believe the government should have a hand enforcing a specific tribe’s norms. That doesn’t mean you don’t want a tribe of your own- just that you recognize that tribe-structure ought not be mandated by the government.

        A lot of the right vs left sparring I see in the comments comes from people who closely align with their tribe- enough that they defend that tribe and attack members of other tribes. I have found it difficult to extract my political preferences from my tribal preferences, and that has led to a lot of arguments in the past.

        1. Or…

          Libertarians may just believe in adhering to the NAP????

          1. Sure, but you can follow the NAP and still express tribal norms. For example, being hostile or accommodating to gays, or religious people. A small town where all the private businesses refuse to serve gays isn’t violating the NAP, nor is a campus where expressing your religious convictions causes people to constantly ridicule you.

            Some people are assholes, and when I talk about tribe allegiance I am talking about people who defend their tribe even if they don’t want that tribe’s norms mandated.

            1. That’s outside of libertarianism then.

              Sure, I belong to tribes. Has nothing to do with politics. Libertarianism has to do with following the NAP. If you completely follow the NAP, you’re an anarchist. Where you fall on the Nolan Chart (the NAP/anarchism is at the very top) depends on how far you deviate from the NAP and on what types of issues.

  2. Being a GOP House Speaker means first and foremost you at all times have to go along to get along.

    1. But being an opposition small party in search of spoiler votes to change laws means you do have to have priorities and not the suicide strategies backed by anarchist and “former” conservative infiltrators. None of us need to actually be elected so long as the LP gets enough votes to equal the gap between hand-in-the-till winners and sore losers. Entrenched looter parties need to change their platforms and laws to accommodate the voters who prefer our policies, not the other way around. We must appeal to people capable of independent thought and motivated enough to vote.

  3. You tell ’em, Suderman. Because everyone knows that politics were serious pursuits for serious people until this Trump character came along.

  4. The only other way to interpret Ryan’s speech today is that he sees nothing from Trump that, to borrow Ryan’s own words, runs counter to the character of the Republican party or the nation, that he believes Trump has done nothing that merits speaking up about specifically and directly, by name, with no evasion and no games.

    There isn’t anything about Trump like that. Reason doesn’t like Trump and they shouldn’t. Trump is not a libertarian. Trump is however no more or less offensive to Libertarian positions than any other candidate sans Gary Johnson, Rand Paul and maybe Ted Cruz. The idea that Trump is some uniquely bad candidate or even the worst candidate available is nothing but absurd social posturing.

    1. Yes, but Reason isn’t going to admit that Cruz is even slightly Libertarian.

    2. Trump is not a libertarian. Trump is however no more or less offensive to Libertarian positions than any other candidate sans Gary Johnson, Rand Paul and maybe Ted Cruz. The idea that Trump is some uniquely bad candidate or even the worst candidate available is nothing but absurd social posturing.

      This is why I judge people who are violently against Trump more than Trump supporters. Trump is ideologically a blend of Clinton and Rubio. The only thing that he’s different about is his style of rhetoric.

  5. Wait, does Suderman hate Trump?

    1. Apparently so. That is of course not surprising. Trump isn’t a Libertarian. The more interesting issue is why Suderman hates Trump more than Bernie or Hillary or Kaisich who are also not Libertarians.

      1. Well, for one thing he’s the only one of those four who has publicly and repeatedly fellated cops.

        1. The only one of those people who isn’t in the tank for cops is John Kaisich. Seriously, Nikki, you think Hillary and Cruz are anti-cop? Really?

          1. Cruz is most definitely pro-cop.

            Hillary, I’m sure, has no problem with cops as long as they aren’t kicking down her door.

          2. Did I say I thought any of them were anti-cop?

            1. he’s the only one of those four who has publicly and repeatedly fellated cops.

              Other than Kaisich, explain how all of them haven’t done just that? I sure don’t see it.

              1. It’s not her fault, it’s just that any mention of Trump makes Nikki become unhinged.

                1. Yes, she’s definitely showing severe TDS.

          3. Kasich is the most pro-cop of the bunch. He authorized federal funding to pay for 10,000 local cops.

      2. Well, that was obviously sarcasm. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Suderman article that wasn’t just another anti-Trump rant. Most of the writers here have the decency to change things up occasionally. Trump articles are just lazy.

        1. From time to time, he’ll occasionally still change it up and suck on some D.C. Top Man cock, but it’s campaign season and those are definitely more rare for now.

          1. Suderman has to elbow the missus out of the way if he wants to blow a central planner.

        2. If politicians were to pass laws telling cops to fellate us that’s what’d happen. Some cops actually think like brutish looters in addition to acting the role, and bring hatred upon themselves.

      3. Being a professional fake libertarian concern troll is pretty damn hard work, but someone has to do it.

        1. We’re all glad that you step up.

  6. Why won’t Peter discuss that backstage, during the second debate, Donald Trump offered Ted Cruz a blowjob if he promised to drop out of the primary?

    1. I thought that was off the record! I wouldn’t have taken so long to decide if I knew the cameras were on!

  7. Is this like not saying “Islamic Terrorism”? Trying to keep score at home.

    1. damn you

  8. But Ryan did no such thing. He didn’t mention Trump by name at all, and he didn’t raise many of the biggest concerns people have about Trump and his campaign

    He won’t even speak the words “radical Islamic terrorism”

  9. “When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced that he’d be delivering a speech today on “the state of American politics,” many assumed that he’d be making a statement in opposition to Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the Republican party’s presidential nomination. ”

    Yes, Paul Ryan didn’t come out strongly against Trump in a manner that would have just upped Trump’s vote percentage by a quarter of a point. Maybe that’s because Ryan is smarter than either Suderman or Ross Douthat.

    1. “The only other way to interpret Ryan’s speech today is that he sees nothing from Trump that, to borrow Ryan’s own words, runs counter to the character of the Republican party or the nation,”

      Or maybe Ryan doesn’t feel it’s particularly smart to become yet another member of the establishment bashing Trump which only feeds into the narrative that Trump is the brave David fighting the mighty Goliath.

      I wonder if it occurs to Peter Suderman that a large part of Trump’s success is due to the semi-retarded pants wetting articles that get written about Trump every damn day. Trump plays the media like a violin and they fall for it time after time after time.

      1. Trump is the greatest media troll of the internet age.

        1. The fact that the media hasn’t caught on after almost a year demonstrates they are even stupider than we all thought.

  10. Ridiculous, lecturing the American people about improper discourse in politics. If he has a problem, he ought to go and discuss it with those in his party who he has a problem with. Using the American people as the go between, hoping that THEY will communicate the message he is offering, isn’t courageous. It’s cowardly.

    1. Whoosshhh…….just keep being you, joe, it’s comedy gold.

  11. Earlier this month, following Trump’s initial refusal to disavow the support of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist leader David Duke…

    Even though Trump had already disavowed Duke 4 or 5 times over the years. Keep on asking him the same question and he’s eventually not going to give the perfect answer so he’s a RACIST!!!

    When the communist party endorsed Obama back in 2008 did he disavow them? Of course not, and nobody cared, even though communists have been involved in killing 10s of millions of people.

    Because Trump doesn’t yell and scream “I disavow David Duke!!” every time he gets asked then he must be HITLER!!!

    1. Trump Ovens are classy ovens!

    2. Obama was also endorsed by “The Economist” out of Mohammedan England. Nobody mentions that either…

  12. I think I know why Suderman can’t stand Trump. Trump doesn’t even pay lip service to liberty or the Constitution. Trump is ignorant and downright degrading. Stealing a line from a movie “Everyone is dumber for having listened to Trump”.

    I only disagree with Suderman about Paul Ryan. Ryan is twice as bad for America as Trump because Ryan knows what the right thing is and he clearly and openly does the opposite. He knows the budget needs to be cut and he raises expenditures. He knows that Iraq is a disaster and he works to keep funding it.

    Trump is a random number generator who puts forward bizarre, thought-free ideas and then uses people’s reaction to cold read them like a fortune teller. He’s a master of it as his ability to get more investors in his half brained projects demonstrates. Despite four bankruptcies in which the creditors insisted that he be removed from all day to day activities of the businesses, he still manages to find new “marks”.

    Trump’s randomness and cold readings might lead him to occasionally do the right thing. Ryan will ALWAYS do the wrong thing.,

    1. Suderman hates Trump because his whole social whirl’s parasitic employment is threatened by him. Peter couldn’t give a rat’s ass about “liberty and constitution”. He believes those to be racist dog whistles.

      Good observation on cold reading.

  13. Well, I say we roll with it dude.

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  14. So the party Lysander Spooner criticized is whining because “their” voters prefer The Don to its own bigoted, prohibitionist, woman-coercing looter soft machine? Tsk tsk tsk. That’s a shame…

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