It is difficult to know where Paul Ryan stands in relation to Donald J. Trump. Both men have towering egos, are rank opportunists, and lie nearly as often as they open their mouths, raising an interesting if terrifying image of the two men trying to co-exist during a Trump administration.
Yesterday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan appeared with Charlie Sykes on WTMJ radio to talk about a wide range of issues, including Trump’s use of twitter, and, in particular, his anti-Semitic tweet with its use of a Jewish Star of David, which Trump has since claimed is a sheriff’s star.
As we saw Tuesday, Trump’s most recent claim (he has previously blamed interns) is that the media is responsible for saying a Star of David is a Star of David. Paul Ryan made clear to Sykes wasn’t buying this explanation (relevant portion begins at 9:29 mark):
Charlie Sykes: Your reaction to Donald Trump’s use of that image.
Paul Ryan: Look, anti-Semitic images – they’ve got no place in a presidential campaign. Candidates should know that. The tweet has been deleted and I don’t know what flunky put this up there. Obviously they’ve got to fix that.
Sykes: At some point does Reince Priebus have to get him on the phone and say ‘Mr. Trump you’ve got to stop tweeting these things, they’re no longer accidents’?
Ryan: Yeah I think he has to clean up the way his new media works. But most importantly, as you know, one of the few times I spoke out against him during the primaries, very forcefully, was in this area, where he failed to disavow a white supremacist.
Ryan: I have made this very clear – the point is I think he has to clean this up. My understanding is that staff, not he himself, did this, but most importantly they’ve got to clean this thing up.
While criticizing Trump, Ryan, who is hardly in a position to preach about propriety, carefully ignores the GOP’s widespread appeal to white supremacists and anti-Semites, not to mention misogynists. Paul Ryan’s party bears responsibility for Donald Trump by radicalizing the GOP base. Trump exists, like all of us, within a context, and that context is the extremist rhetoric of Fox News and the Republican Party.
It is a little late to criticize Trump for being anti-Semitic when you give Ann Coulter a free pass when she says Jews are just “un-perfected” Christians, or Ted Nugent telling supporters that it’s really Jews who are behind gun control, or Michael Savage calling Bernie Sanders a “little weasel Jew.”
It’s all well and fine that Ryan chose to speak up in criticism of Trump’s chosen imagery, but let’s face it: his critique is both late and incomplete and hardly begins to expose the ugly truth of a Republican Party given over to hate.
After all, Fox News might have gotten the ball rolling, but it was the House of Representatives’ own four-year vendetta against Hillary Clinton that has made it “OK” to tell virtually any lie about the former Secretary of State a Republican might care to tell. Trump didn’t invent his birtherism either. That also rose from the rancid stew that is today’s GOP.
The GOP Paul Ryan represents.