It’s long been clear that House Speaker Paul Ryan is, shall we say, not wholly comfortable with Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. The latest reminder came Friday when Trump’s vulgar comments about women in 2005 surfaced. Trump was to appear with Ryan at an annual festival in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin, the first time the highest-ranking Republican in the federal government had campaigned with the GOP’s presidential nominee.
Amid the furor from Republicans and Democrats over Trump’s remarks, Ryan issued a statement saying he was “sickened” by them and that Trump wouldn’t be coming to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, after all. A short time later, Trump announced that his running mate, Mike Pence, would be going in his place while he spent the day preparing for Sunday night’s debate.
Ryan hadn’t exactly trumpeted the New York businessman’s appearance in the first place. In an awkwardly worded missive on Thursday, it was noted that top Wisconsin Republicans, including Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson, would be joining the congressman. Not until the third paragraph of Ryan’s release was it noted that that Trump would be on hand, too.
In the news business, that’s known as “burying the lead.”
The announcement also didn’t say that Ryan would actually campaign for Trump, just that they would be appearing at the same event.
Asked Thursday why he hadn’t appeared with Trump, Ryan said, “I’ve been busy doing my job.” He added: “I want to win up and down the ballot, but my primary responsibility is re-election of House Republicans.”
A recap of the greatest hits of the awkward Trump-Ryan relationship:
No endorsement (Ryan)
Jaws dropped in May when Ryan withheld his endorsement of Trump just days after the billionaire businessman effectively clinched the nomination. “I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now,” the Wisconsin Republican said on CNN. Ryan came on board the Trump train a month later: “It’s no secret that he and I have our differences. I won’t pretend otherwise. … But the reality is, on the issues that make up our agenda, we have more common ground than disagreement.”
No endorsement (Trump)
Even after Ryan endorsed him, Trump declined to return the favor as Ryan faced a tea party primary challenge from Paul Nehlen. Trump even praised Nehlen, saying he was running “a very good campaign” and telling The Washington Post, “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country” and “I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.” Days later, Trump endorsed both Ryan and GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Ryan joined a chorus of Republicans last December and again this summer in condemning Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the US. “This is not who we are as a party or a country,” Ryan told fellow House Republicans in a December closed-door meeting. When Trump reiterated the call for a ban in June, Ryan said: “I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest. I don’t think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party but as a country.”
Attacking a judge
Immediately after endorsing Trump, Ryan weighed in to criticize him for saying a federal judge of Mexican-American heritage was biased against him in a lawsuit involving Trump University. Ryan said Trump’s comments were “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
Attacking a grieving father
When Khizr Khan, a Muslim-American whose son Humayun Khan died while serving with the US Army in Afghanistan, criticized Trump during the Democratic National Convention in July, Trump went on the attack. Ryan was among those who rebuked Trump and used the occasion to say again that a Muslim ban would be a mistake. “Many Muslim-Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Capt. Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice _ and that of Khizr and (Khan’s wife) Ghazala Khan _ should always be honored. Period.”
As the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, Ryan released his tax returns. In September, he urged Trump to release his. “I released mine. I think we should release ours,’ Ryan said, referring to GOP nominees. “I’ll leave it to him when to do it.”
David Duke and The Klan
When Trump in February declined to condemn the Ku Klux Klan or decline the endorsement of former Klansman David Duke, Ryan joined a chorus of outraged establishment Republicans. “If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games,” Ryan said. “They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.”
In a South Carolina campaign event in February, Trump repeated his opinion that Ryan’s budget plan, which called for sharply curbing benefit programs like Medicare, helped cost Republicans the 2012 election. “That was the end of that campaign, by the way, when they chose Ryan,” Trump said.
If you can’t say something nice…
Ryan typically rebukes Trump when he says something especially egregious and over the top. He stays out of smaller controversies like Trump’s proposal for paid maternity leave, a plan that defies GOP orthodoxy. And he declined to weigh in on Trump’s emphasis on police “stop and frisk” tactics as a way to improve race relations.