In a stunning announcement, US House Speaker Paul D Ryan, the top Republican in U.S. Congress, said on Thursday he was not ready to support Donald Trump as the party’s presumptive presidential nominee in November’s general election.
Asked by CNN anchor Jake Tapper whether he backs Trump, Ryan responded: “I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now. And I hope to, though, and I want to. But I think what is required is that we unify the party. And I think the bulk of the burden on unifying the party will have to come from our presumptive nominee.”
“He’s got some work to do,” Ryan said,”I think that he needs to do more to unify the party… then to go forward and appeal to all Americans from every walk of life and background, and a majority of independents.”
The House speaker said he’d only started considering whether he’d support Trump after Trump became the last man standing, winning Indiana’s primary Tuesday, knocking both main leaders out of the race. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are now out of the race and thus ended the possibility of a contested convention.
“I thought about this two days ago. I thought, actually, this thing was going to go to June 7 at the very least, probably to a convention, and so this is all pretty new for us,” he said.
Ryan, as speaker of the House of Representatives, will oversee the Republican presidential nominating convention in July.
“I don’t want to under play what he accomplished. He needs to be congratulated for an enormous accomplishment. For winning now a plurality of delegates, and he’s on his way to winning a majority of delegates, but he also inherited something very special. That’s very special to a lot of us.
Our party is having – enjoying success, because we have unified around common conservative principles, and then we have one hill to climb, one more mountaintop – that’s the presidency. So please know that we think the stakes are extremely high. The Supreme Court, Congress, the future of America is on the line.
And no Republican should ever think about supporting Hillary Clinton. Let’s make that clear.
But for us to be a successful party, to climb that final hill and win the presidency, we will need a standard-bearer that can unify all Republicans, all conservatives, all wings of our party, and then go to the country with an appealing agenda that can be appealing to independents and disaffected Democrats. And we have work to do on this front. And I think our nominee has to lead in that effort,” he said.
As more and more Republicans are coming round to Trump it was assumed that Ryan would get on board too.
Ryan said a nominee Republican should be one who the nation can be proud of, and is asking the profanity-prone, boasting, bullying, Twitter-abusing, equal opportunity offender to rise to the occasion and become more presidential.
It is perhaps a futile attempt to let the unbridled Mr. Trump understand that the campaign is not only about him but the values that the Republicans stand for. He also reiterated the position of other House Republicans who are uneasy with Mr. Trump and want some reassurance before giving him their full support.
“This is the party of Lincoln, of Reagan, of Jack Kemp. And we don’t always nominate a Lincoln and a Reagan every four years, but we hope that our nominee aspires to be Lincoln and Reagan-esque, but that person advances the principals of our party and appeals to a wide, vast majority of Americans. And so I think what is necessary to make this work, for this to unify, is to actually take up principles and advance them. And that’s what we want to see,” he said.
Mr Ryan is a disciple of Jack Kemp, the New York lawmaker and is deeply conservative.
Mr. Ryan is also very close to Mitt Romney, who is unsparingly critical of Trump. A frequent critic of Trump himself Ryan has often been at odds with Trump’s policies and campaign. Ryan had voiced his opposition to Trump’s proposition to indefinitely ban Muslims from the United States in December, by saying that the move is ‘not who we are as a party’ and in violation of the Constitution.
When Trump refused to disavow the support of former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke he had said, “If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people’s prejudices.”
When Trump had warned that there’d be ‘riots’ at the GOP convention if he were denied the party’s nomination, Ryan was sharply critical, saying that “nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint at violence is unacceptable.”
But as recently as last week, Ryan had also said, “I feel like we will be able to unify Republicans and conservatives to offer the country this fall, a very clear and compelling choice so that the people of this nation get to decide where we go as a country.”
However the recent reaffirmation by Trump to ban Muslims from entering the United States and deport millions of illegal immigrants, seemed to have tipped Ryan over to the other side.
Both Bush presidents, George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush, have signalled they will not endorse Trump in 2016, while Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee on the ticket with Ryan, is reportedly not going to attend the Republican convention.
Trump responded to Ryan late Thursday afternoon, saying in a statement that “I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda. Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people. They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!”
Reince Priebus has ‘connected’ Ryan and Trump for a potential meeting and there is an understanding that “it’s going to happen.”
Whether it will is anyone’s guess. But one thing should not be in question, and that is Paul Ryan’s unmatched integrity and unwavering commitment to the conservative cause.