- - Sunday, May 8, 2016


Hillary Clinton is cornered and bleeding, with Bernie Sanders nipping at her ankles, the FBI closing in on her and she’s armed only with the shattered expectations of inevitably. That’s not an augury to gladden the hearts and expectations of the Democrats, and the Republican elites see only rage and resentment through the tears of their pout.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, rightly says the obvious, that Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee must pull his party together for the long march to November. “At this point,” he says, “I think [Donald Trump] needs to do more to unify this party, to bring all the wings of this Republican Party together and then to go forward to appeal to all Americans in every walk of life, every background, a majority of independents and discerning Democrats.”

Not much to argue with there; the speaker employs all the cliches of focus-group marketing, but acts as if he doesn’t mean a word of it. That’s exactly the kind of talk that Mr. Trump’s 16 original opponents beat him over the head with, and with no success. Imperfect candidate though he may be, but Donald Trump understood that Republican voters want more than unctuous cliches this year. Jeb and Rubio and Ted and Scott, all the men (and Carly, too) who fell off their campaign wagons could have made the same points and in the same way, but they didn’t.

By withholding his endorsement until the Donald passes the speaker’s litmus tests, Mr. Ryan offers only a new definition of chutzpah: “You have to unify the party,” he tells Mr. Trump, “and my contribution in support is to continue to find nothing but fault in you.”

Mr. Ryan, who assumed the speakership with so much goodwill and armed with the high hopes of his party, has invited only disbelief and puzzlement from the mature party regulars who see as the first and most important task the prevention of Hillary Clinton becoming president. Mr. Ryan and the pouting elites get the full measure of scorn from Newt Gingrich, one of his predecessors as speaker.

“These pseudo-intellectual right-wingers who have made a living in Washington being brilliant while they alienated the entire American people are showing you by their hysteria the degree to which they are being repudiated,” he said at week’s end, “and they just don’t know what to do. They’re in a state of psychological hysteria that is really kind of amazing.”

He agrees that Donald Trump has a responsibility to unify the party, but he can’t do it with the jilted elites throwing sticks and stones from the sidelines. “He is the speaker of the House,” Mr. Gingrich says. “He has an obligation to unify the party, too. He has an obligation to reach out. Obviously he and Donald Trump are going to have disagreements. Some of them will work out and some of them won’t. That’s fine. Our Constitution provides that speakers and presidents can fight, but I think he sends the wrong signal and a signal which I think endangers the House Republicans and endangers the Senate Republicans. I much prefer what Mitch McConnell did and what John McCain did — they both said, ‘OK, game over. We have a nominee, and I’m for him.’”

This is the plain talk the party elites must hear unless they want the disaster their pout invites. They should remember Adlai Stevenson’s benediction to his losing campaign to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952: “It hurts too much to laugh, and I’m too big to cry.” Something like that is what grown-ups are expected to say.

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