- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

CLEVELAND — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, hoping to unite a clearly divided GOP, offered a full-throated defense of his party’s ideas late Tuesday, saying the only way to fight poverty, repeal Obamacare and offer a “better way” to America is to banish a “third Obama term” by dismissing Hillary Clinton and linking arms with Donald Trump.

Mr. Ryan, the highest-ranking Republican in government, started with a crowd-pleasing prediction: When the next State of the Union Address is delivered, “You’ll find me right there on the rostrum with Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump.”

Moments later, he capped off his star turn in Cleveland with a rousing call to make that scene possible.

“Fellow Republicans, what we have begun here, let’s see this thing through — let’s win this thing,” he said, drawing raucous cheers from the hall.

In between, Mr. Ryan prosecuted his case against Mrs. Clinton and progressive ideas that, he said, never seem to deliver progress and instead leave poverty and stagnating wages in their wake.

He said 2016 will be “the year America moves on” instead of extending President Obama’s agenda and electing another Clinton as president.

But he also urged Republicans to explain what they’re for, echoing a case he’s made in the months since he replaced former Speaker John A. Boehner on a platform of party unity last fall.

“We know better than to think that Republicans can win only on the failures of Democrats. It still comes down to the contest of ideas. Which is really good news, ladies and gentlemen, because when it’s about ideas, the advantage goes to us,” he said.

Mr. Ryan, who played for time before endorsing Mr. Trump in early June, is touting a six-plank agenda to unify his troops and their nominee around a common set of goals for 2017, even if the mogul himself has offered little, if any, public praise of his prescriptions on health care, the Constitution and an overhaul of the tax code.

The plan, among other things, empowers the legislature against encroaching bureaucrats, slashes corporate and individual tax rates and replaces the Affordable Care Act with market-oriented health reforms.

Dubbed “A Better Way,” the agenda is designed to unify the party, so it left out areas of disagreements within the GOP, such as immigration and trade reforms — two areas where Mr. Ryan clashes with Mr. Trump.

The mogul is still forcing GOP leaders to wade into those very topics, though the speaker’s office says the two men and their staffs have spoken for months about the agenda, and that Mr. Trump appears comfortable with their plans.

The “Better Way” rollout got off to a rocky start, as Mr. Ryan was forced to call out Mr. Trump for criticizing an Indiana-born judge’s Mexican heritage after an unfavorable legal ruling in a lawsuit against one of the mogul’s business ventures.

Saying someone couldn’t do their job because of their heritage, Mr. Ryan said, is “sort of the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Hours after Mr. Trump sewed up the nomination Tuesday, Mr. Ryan took the first steps toward bridging any lingering divide between the GOP and their unpredictable choice for president.

“So what do you say we unite this party,” he said, “at this crucial moment when unity is everything?”

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