President Trump — his morality, his ethics, his honesty, his competency, his stability and his cockeyed policies — is the biggest issue facing this country. No one knows that better than Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), now the outgoing House speaker whose legacy is a roaring silence about the damage Trump is doing to American democracy. Go, Paul, go. You will not be missed.
Oh, I know that Ryan will be replaced by someone worse — probably Kevin McCarthy of California or Steve Scalise of Louisiana. McCarthy is more conservative than Ryan, and Scalise is more conservative than almost anyone. Both men, in fact, are more closely aligned with Trump than Ryan ever was. They will not criticize Trump if only because they agree with him on so much.
That was not the case with Ryan. A thoroughly decent man, a conservative Republican in the once-traditional sense, he was as appalled by Trump as any American should be. But just as certain evangelical Christian leaders subordinated their morality to their zeal to outlaw abortion, Ryan chose to remain speaker and get a tax bill rather than confront Trump. I understand. He got his tax bill, and so he moves off the stage as nothing more than an accountant. He ducked the fight that really mattered.
The excuse that Republicans offer to explain their silence about Trump is that their base supports him. Opposition would mean a primary challenge, likely defeat and no improvement. The hideous truth about the Republican Party is that there is always someone more to the right than the incumbent. In this case, the worse is the enemy of the awful.
But that is not the case with Ryan. He’s out. He will face no opposition. Why didn’t he unload on Trump while announcing his retirement from the House? Why didn’t he say that Trump’s scapegoating of immigrants is abhorrent? Why didn’t he denounce Trump’s dishonest attacks on the press? Why didn’t he say something about Trump’s use of his personal lawyer to extract nondisclosure agreements from several woman? Why didn’t he ask about the strange affinity Trump has for Vladimir Putin? Why? Why? Why?
Ryan fades having already faded. His silence on the most important issue facing America is a gross dereliction of duty, but it secures his place in history: He has none.