Ryan chooses Trump over principles

The Observer editorial board

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Republican nominee Donald Trump this week.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Republican nominee Donald Trump this week. Bloomberg

This week with Donald Trump was a lot like every week with Donald Trump. He denigrated people in speeches and on Twitter. He alarmed conservatives and progressives with his policy positions and attacks on those who disagree. He was, as he so often is, unbecoming of the presidency he seeks.

But this week was different in one very big way. As a reward for all that poor behavior, Trump finally got the endorsement of one of the most powerful Republicans in the country.

Despite months of questioning Trump’s integrity and frowning at his ugly rhetoric, House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a Wisconsin newspaper Thursday that he would support the presumptive Republican nominee.

It was a win for the cynics, who’ve been saying all along that Ryan would eventually endorse Trump. Politics is politics, after all, and Republicans were sure to line up behind Trump the same way Democrats will soon line up behind Hillary Clinton.

Ryan insists he made his decision with eyes wide open. In his op-ed, he said discussions with Trump convinced him that a President Trump will support policies Ryan has long been advocating.

That might be wishful thinking, given that most of Trump’s policy convictions seem to be written in pencil. But even if Trump were to help out a guy whose endorsement he didn’t need to get the GOP nomination, it shows how much Ryan is willing to endanger to improve his party’s short-term prospects.

Those threats are wide and varied. The man Ryan is voting for has proposed religious discrimination by banning Muslims from the United States, advocated war crimes in the killing of terrorists’ families, and floated foreign policy positions that frighten experts on world affairs from both parties.

He also has threatened the future of the GOP by denigrating women, Muslims and Latinos, three voting blocs the party already struggles to woo.

Trump’s latest recklessness: trashing federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding in a lawsuit filed against Trump by former students of Trump University.

When Curiel unsealed testimony of predatory behavior by Trump University employees, Trump said the judge “happens, to be, we believe, Mexican” and that Curiel was getting back at Trump for saying he wants to build a wall along the Mexican border.

Curiel, by the way, was born in Indiana.

Legal scholars were shaken this week by Trump’s remarks. David Post, a retired professor who writes for a conservative-leaning law blog, told the New York Times: “This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary.”

Even House Speaker Ryan shook his head, telling a radio station Friday that Trump’s comments on Curiel were “out of left field” and that “I completely disagree with the thinking behind that.”

None of which is new for Ryan, who’s criticized Trump regularly for similar outbursts and tantrums. Each time, Ryan emphasized the need to respect and preserve his party’s principles or long-term interests. He was right.

Yet this week, Ryan gave in to short-term gratification – in this case his party’s last, best chance against Hillary Clinton. It’s the same kind of near-sightedness that prompted Republicans to embrace tea party voters, some of whose vitriol stoked the political climate that’s made a Donald Trump candidacy viable.

Now, only a handful of Republican leaders recognize that there’s more to lose than gain from a Trump presidency. They lost a powerful ally in Ryan on Thursday. The Republican Party lost, too.