Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan has proven a feckless leader.
On Monday, Mr. Ryan told House members he would no longer defend GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and instead would focus on maintaining the party’s majority in Congress. He also said he wouldn’t rescind his endorsement of Mr. Trump.
The #NeverTrump crowd gained nothing in principles. The Trump supporters gained nothing in terms of party unification. And the House majority likely will be at play because Mr. Ryan couldn’t make up his mind how it should be led 29 days going into the general election.
One thing is for sure: Mr. Ryan’s agenda will never be enacted under a Clinton presidency. A conservative Supreme Court will be decades out. Mr. Ryan may not even have an agenda to call his own if Republicans lose the House.
Let’s be clear: Mr. Ryan never actually defended Mr. Trump, ever.
He withheld his endorsement for several weeks after Mr. Trump won the nomination, forcing Mr. Trump to go through a song and dance where Mr. Trump had to promise to support the House Republican’s agenda.
Mr. Trump did. He also adopted their tax plan, and delivered on naming 20 conservative Supreme Court picks. Mr. Trump’s chosen a strong evangelical leader in vice presidential pick Mike Pence. But none of it made a real difference to Mr. Ryan, who declined to campaign with Mr. Trump and was always the first out of the gate to condemn Mr. Trump’s gaffes.
When Mr. Trump’s polling looked good, Mr. Ryan would briefly come out of hiding to perhaps give a smile and wave, but in general, he just pretended Mr. Trump didn’t exist.
Mr. Ryan disinvited Mr. Trump from their joint political rally in Wisconsin over the weekend after The Washington Post leaked a lewd tape of Mr. Trump denigrating women.
“I am sickened by what I heard today,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”
Good grief. It’s not like Mr. Trump’s character hadn’t given Mr. Ryan pause before. There was Mr. Trump’s comment’s on Megyn Kelly’s “blood,” Carly Fiorina’s “face” and the online attacks against Heidi Cruz — all during the primary.
Mr. Ryan wasn’t shocked at the leaked audio, it just gave him the strength he couldn’t muster before to finally distance himself from the GOP nominee.
It’s the reason why Mr. Ryan’s ultimate defection makes him feckless. He was unable to make the hard choices either way at the right time — only at the politically convenient time.
Mr. Ryan had the chance to endorse a Republican nominee during the primary, but he declined because of political reasons. During the primary, Mr. Ryan didn’t want to offend any of his GOP establishment friends or donors by prematurely taking sides. He made the miscalculation Mr. Trump would never become the party’s nominee because he fundamentally misread the electorate’s disgust in the status quo.
For political reasons, Mr. Ryan then endorsed Mr. Trump, weeks after he won the nomination. It wasn’t because Mr. Ryan liked Mr. Trump, it was also for political reasons — Mr. Trump won the most Republican primary votes in history and Mr. Ryan had to hold the base together.
Except he didn’t. Because of his indecisiveness and lukewarm support, the GOP is falling apart.