Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has a habit of saying outlandish and offensive things, making personal attacks against anyone who crosses him and promoting policies anathema to mainstream Republicans like Ryan.
And every time Trump does one of those things, Ryan must confront whether to go along with him or renounce him. He often opts for the latter, and usually has to do so repeatedly.
But there’s one thing Ryan ― who presents himself as the high-minded steward of conservative policy and a reluctant leader who wants what’s best for the House and America ― won’t renounce, and that’s Trump himself. Because Ryan wants Trump to be the next president.
Ryan has plenty of company here, including other party bigwigs like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and virtually every GOP governor and member of Congress. But the Speaker of the House is a constitutional position that puts Ryan third in the line of presidential succession, and he’s the highest-ranking elected Republican official in America, so his actions merit more scrutiny.
Here are all the times that Ryan said Trump was wrong:
August 9: The Second Amendment ‘Joke’
Trump sunk to a new low when he suggested ― or “joked,” if you want to be really generous ― that a gun could solve a problem if a ballot couldn’t. “If she gets to pick her judges ― nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said in North Carolina. “Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.” The real estate businessman and his campaign, with an assist from the National Rifle Association, trotted out several excuses for these comments. Ryan was only too happy to help.
“I heard about this Second Amendment quote. It sounds like just a joke gone bad,” Ryan said. “I hope he clears it up very quickly. You should never joke about something like that.” Trump hasn’t cleared it up. He won’t back down from his remarks and clearly thinks its perfectly fine to joke about something like that. And Ryan still supports him, because he believes Trump is the best and most qualified candidate to be president of the United States.
July 31: The Khan Family
In 2004, Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan died at age 27 protecting his fellow troops and nearby civilians from a bomber in Iraq, actions for which he was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star. Last week, his father, Khizr Khan, addressed the Democratic National Convention alongside the late captain’s mother, Ghazala, and delivered an emotional rebuke to Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies.
Trump predictably responded by attacking the Khans, and hasn’t let up. Ryan’s office issued a statement condemning insults against Muslims and Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration, but he didn’t mention Trump by name and didn’t back away from Ryan’s endorsement of the businessman to be president.
July 15: Anti-Semitism
When Trump posted an image of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton featuring a Star of David (an image later discovered to have been created by white supremacists) to Twitter, Ryan called it “anti-Semitic.” He also blamed Trump campaign staffers for the tweet, without actually knowing who published it. “He’s got to clean this up,” Ryan said of the campaign, but not of Trump himself, whom Ryan wants to be president.
July 5: Saddam Hussein
When Trump praised the late Iraqi dictator ― “You know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good.” ― Ryan responded by saying, “He was one of the 20th century’s most-evil people.” He did not say Trump shouldn’t be president because Trump believes Hussein had admirable qualities.
June 17: Judge Curiel
“Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” Ryan said. “I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable.” But Ryan did not say that Trump would be unacceptable as president because he made those racist claims.
July 16: No ‘Blank Check’ For Trump
Weeks after endorsing Trump to be president of the United States, Ryan suggested there’s a limit to what he’ll tolerate from the candidate.
In a sit-down interview in his ceremonial Capitol Hill office on Thursday, Ryan told The Huffington Post that Trump does not have “a blank check” with his endorsement. “I don’t know what that line is,” Ryan said, “but right now, I want to make sure that we win the White House.”
Ryan may or may not know at this point what that line is, but it evidently lies beyond personal attacks against the parents of a dead solider, because Ryan still recommends Americans elect Trump president.
June 14: Orlando
Trump’s first reaction to the massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida was to congratulate himself for predicting terrorism would happen. He then went on to re-emphasize his proposed Muslim ban, and to insinuate that President Barack Obama is involved with international terrorists.
“I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest. I do not think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party but as a country,” Ryan said. Presumably, Ryan believes a President Trump is in his party’s and our country’s interest, because he didn’t say otherwise or rescind his endorsement.
March 17: Riots
“I think you’d have riots.” That’s what Trump predicted would happen if he narrowly lost the GOP nomination on the floor of the Republican National Convention. It was a plausible idea, considering Trump encouraged violent behavior by supporters on other occasions.
“Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint at violence is unacceptable,” Ryan said in response. Even so, Ryan endorsed Trump less than two months later because he wants Trump to become the president.
March 1: The Ku Klux Klan
Trump’s pussyfooting around with white supremacists has been a recurring theme of his campaign, and perhaps the best example is his reluctance to fully reject the endorsement for his candidacy offered by former KKK leader David Duke.
This wasn’t good enough for Ryan. “If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games,” he said. “They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.” What is good enough for Ryan is Trump as president of the United States.
December 8: The Muslim Ban
One of the hallmarks of Trump’s campaign is his pledge to enforce a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Ryan disagrees. “Freedom of religion’s a fundamental constitutional principle,” he said. “It’s a founding principle of this country.” Having Trump as president, even though he demonstrably does not believe in that fundamental constitutional principle, remains Ryan’s strong preference.
Ryan correctly identifies these as the worst things Trump says and does, and his denouncements are clear and unambiguous. And yet Ryan endorsed Trump to be president.
“House Republicans are helping shape that Republican vision by offering a bold policy agenda, by offering a better way ahead Donald Trump can help us make it a reality,” Ryan wrote in his hometown newspaper when he endorsed the candidate on June 2.
Ryan hesitated at first to back Trump’s White House bid, and said he needed to see a change in tone and substance before he would extend his support. Trump didn’t do any of the things Ryan indicated he needed Trump to do to win his support. Ryan endorsed him anyway, because he thinks Trump should become the president.
How could it be that Ryan rejects those things for which Trump is now best known, but still advises voters to support him at the polls?Ryan is clearly communicating his preferences through his actions.
Trump isn’t a Democrat, for starters. And more specifically, Trump isn’t Hillary Clinton, the bête noire of the Republican Party for decades.
Then there’s Ryan’s gamble that Trump will go along with what Ryan really cares about: carrying out the House GOP agenda of cutting taxes and shrinking the social safety net and other federal programs.
“Yes, I’m the head of the legislative branch as Speaker of the House. I’m also a high-ranking Republican official. If I lead a schism in our party, then I am guaranteeing that a liberal progressive becomes president,” Ryan said at a news conference June 23. “The last thing I want to do is help Hillary Clinton become president of the United States.”
Much has been made of the political bind Ryan is in because of Trump’s nomination. But, in the end, it’s quite simple. Whatever their disagreements, there remains one opinion in which Ryan and Trump are in complete accord: That Donald Trump is the best candidate for president of the United States. HuffPost will update this article if that fact changes.
This article has been updated to include Ryan’s response to Trump’s Second Amendment comments in reference to Clinton. The Huffington Post will update the post each time Ryan defends Trump and restates his support for the GOP nominee.