Littwin: Paul Ryan’s knocking the crap out of Donald Trump

Paul Ryan is playing the game by Donald Trump rules.

Known as the somber-faced, mild-of-manner, would-be adult in the GOP’s play room, Ryan offered up more than what the headline writers are calling a “rebuke” of the Donald’s candidacy.

In Trumpian terms, the GOP speaker knocked the crap out of the whole idea of Trump as the new face of the GOP, shocking nearly everyone in the GOP establishment along the way.

Ryan went on CNN to say he was “not ready” to endorse Trump, which was startling in and of itself. But Ryan actually went much farther than that. He seemed to be saying that unless Trump came to him and other conservative leaders on bent knee, promising to be more like them — and, of course, nothing like himself — that he could never support Trump.

In the process, Ryan set terms — Trump had to be more of a traditional conservative and less of a bully (yes, he actually said it’s time for Trump to “set aside bullying, to set aside belittlement”) — that Trump is never going to meet. Instead, Trump countered that he was “not ready” to endorse Ryan’s agenda.

And if you lose Ryan …


In his first days as the presumptive GOP nominee, Trump has already lost both Bush presidents. And he’s lost Mitt Romney. And he’s lost George Will. And he’s lost The National Review. So much for the Trumpian unity tour.

Ryan, meanwhile, is losing Sean Hannity. And that may just be the beginning.

Trump has made competing noises about whether he needs Republican unity, but of course he does … and he doesn’t. How do you stay Trumpian – which has gotten him this far — and still appeal to the many people you’ve willfully and gleefully offended? It’s a conundrum, all right, as they say in the really good schools.

He has already rushed back to the center on minimum wage — he’s ready to deal — and on taxes – maybe it’s not a good idea to give billionaires all the money — and in a Trumpian move that says everything about him, he Tweeted a picture of himself on Cinco de Mayo eating a “Taco bowl” from the Trump Grill while saying that he “loved the Hispanics.”

Ryan, meanwhile, was saying that Trump needed to meet the standards of the party of Lincoln, of Reagan, of Jack Kemp. In case you missed the reference, Jack Kemp – one of Ryan’s heroes — was the Republican who famously tried to do minority outreach when the party was busily demonizing minorities. Let’s just say it didn’t work. But Ryan used Kemp as a way of saying that Trump’s stands on Mexican “rapists” and the banning of Muslims and his unwillingness to condemn David Duke weren’t in line with Kemp, although much of it seems to be in line with Republican voters.

You could see this as a fight for the soul of the Republican Party, although that might be giving too much credit all around. Ryan is trying to save the Republican House majority, which, last I looked, had wasted the nation’s time by voting every other day to repeal Obamacare. Trump’s appeal is that the party has sold out its voters — something you or I might agree with, at least until Trump gets to the part that to win them back, they need to join him in his nationalistic (some actually say fascistic) American-first-ing movement. He has been winning with it, and, unlike Ryan, he’s got a slogan and a hat.

I’m no fan of Ryan. He may knock Trump for bullying, but it was the Ayn-Rand-spouting Ryan who once, in an argument over unemployment benefits, called the safety net a “hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” But give him credit here. He made a real stand — one that less-bold Republicans (can you hear me, Cory Gardner?) might embrace.

He might have made it earlier when, you know, it could have helped to stop Trump. But during the actual campaign, Ryan was saying that though he had reservations, he would support the Republican nominee. It was only when Trump won that Ryan formed his own branch of #neverTrumpists.

Certainly Ryan’s play was a little bolder than the Kelly Ayotte play — in which the embattled New Hampshire senator said she “supports” Trump, but won’t “endorse” him, as if there were any distinction between the two. As soon as I heard it, I expected Gardner to endorse Ayotte, but then she was roundly mocked and we haven’t heard from Gardner since.

What Ryan did was change the conversation. One of the real fears that all political types have is the tendency for the political and media establishments to normalize the least normal of races. It’s what they do. It doesn’t matter that only one side is quoting Mussolini or that only one side is proposing an unworkable and un-American ban on Muslims and only one side has called women “dogs,” we are used to two-sided races, which must follow a set of rules even if Trump doesn’t.

But normal-seeming Ryan has changed the narrative, at least for now, by saying Trump is not normal. Ben Sasse is calling for an independent run. Romney, while denying it, seems to be offering himself as a third-party candidate.

Meanwhile, shocked party leaders – like Newt Gingrich, who some are suggesting should be Trump’s vice-president; yes, really — are talking up a Trump-Ryan summit meeting, in which the two could work out their differences. I’m old enough to remember when something like that might have worked. We’ve got six months to see if it still can.

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. I have news for the author. There is a tidal wave coming and Paul Ryan will be under the surf and lose reelection. I have been enjoying the “expert analysis” from all these pundits. Great to get a good laugh.

  2. Ryan’s rhetoric is not asking for policy agreement, but for style and values in accord with a longer tradition of Republicans. Ryan didn’t object to Trump’s call for better control of immigration, just the exclusion of “all Muslims.”

    I’m not certain Trump would be willing (or able) to change. But Ryan seems insistent on going back to the approach of Jack Kemp – affirmatively appealing to all communities rather than scapegoating some to gain among others.

  3. This may be one of the most moral (yes), sanest, boldest and honest stands that House Speaker Ryan has taken. The question is whether he cave to pressure or stand firm.

  4. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    It’s a theme readers will see repeated, ad nauseam, by Mr. Littwin this election year. First it was Senator Cruz who Mr. Littwin virulently referred to as “despicable” until he left the Republican presidential race and attacked Donald Trump at which point he became less “despicable” and his opinion embraced without comment.

    Today it’s Speaker Ryan who has become Mr. Littwin’s new BFF although he does admit that “I’m no fan of Ryan”. But that admission comes mid-column, an area reached by only the brave.

    Mr. Littwin is still pouting because his politi-vision goggles didn’t help him correctly forecast Cory Gardner, Donald Trump, Bernie(“a benign summer fling”) Sanders or, well, anything. And it’s too late to return them.

    But he’s keeping his rear-view goggles because they’re still 20/20.

    And Mr. Littwin’s childish and continued bitterness towards Senator Gardner is both sad and funny but mostly sad. He criticizes Senator Gardner when he says something and he criticizes Senator Gardner when he’s silent.

    Mr. Littwin needs to get over it!


    For a year now, Hillary Clinton’s misuse of email during her tenure as Secretary of State has hung like a dark cloud over her presidential campaign. As I told you months ago, EmailGate isn’t going away, despite the best efforts of Team Clinton to make it disappear. Instead, the scandal has gotten worse, with never-ending revelations of apparent misconduct by Ms. Clinton and her staff. At this point, EmailGate may be the only thing standing between Hillary and the White House this November.

    Specifically, the Federal Bureau of Investigation examination of EmailGate, pursuant to provisions of the Espionage Act, poses a major threat to Ms. Clinton’s presidential aspirations. However, even if the FBI recommends prosecution of her or members of her inner circle for mishandling of classified information—which is something the politically unconnected routinely do face prosecution for—it’s by no means certain that the Department of Justice will follow the FBI’s lead. –

    Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has to worry about a steep drop-off of the black vote that could imperil her chances of winning the White House in November, an analysis has found.

    The number of African-Americans who voted in Tuesday’s primaries plummeted by an estimated 40 percent in Ohio, 38 percent in Florida and 34 percent in North Carolina compared with the 2008 Democratic primary when Barack Obama was on the ballot, reported the advocacy group Black Votes Matter. – New York Post

    “White men narrowly backed Hillary Clinton in her 2008 race for president, but they are resisting her candidacy this time around in major battleground states, rattling some Democrats about her general-election strategy.

    While Mrs. Clinton swept the five major primaries on Tuesday, she lost white men in all of them, and by double-digit margins in Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio, exit polls showed — a sharp turnabout from 2008, when she won double-digit victories among white male voters in all three states.

    She also performed poorly on Tuesday with independents, who have never been among her core supporters. But white men were, at least when Mrs. Clinton was running against a black opponent: She explicitly appealed to them in 2008, extolling the Second Amendment, mocking Barack Obama’s comment that working-class voters “cling to guns or religion” and even needling him at one point over his difficulties with “working, hard-working Americans, white Americans.” – New York Times

    “Pro-lifers condemned (Mrs. Clinton), as expected. As perhaps unexpected, she was also attacked by her pro-choice allies for uttering the words “unborn person.” Whatever position one takes on abortion, to say that the fetus is a person if the mother wants it and it’s not if she doesn’t is not science. It’s spin.” – Wall Street Journal

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Memorial Day – May 30, 2016

  5. If Paul Ryan or one of his many aides read a synopsis of textbook version of a sociopath, they know that is what the Republican party is dealing with in Donald Trump. He only cares about himself, doesn’t give a rip about anyone else. He is superficial, glib and cunning and manipulative. Those who follow this man are in for a big surprise. This is a guy who’s appearances are very deceiving. He is a pathological liar, with a great need for stimulation. He ahs poor behavior control and believes he is all powerful and all knowing, he also has no sense of personal boundaries. His lack of realism is obvious by his grandiose promises for the future. Ryan is quite aware that the Republican party is dealing with a mad man. God help us if this sociopath is elected President.

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