House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) will be snared in an ethical and intellectual trap of his own making so long as he continues to back Donald Trump for president.

Ryan’s recent comments demonstrate this, as the Hill reports:

“If I hear things that I think are wrong, I’m not going to sit by and say nothing, because I think I have a duty as a Republican leader to defend Republican principles and our party’s brand if I think they’re being distorted,” Ryan told Green Bay’s WTAQ radio.
Asked whether there are situations that could cause him to withdraw his support of Trump for president, Ryan responded, “of course there are.”
“I’m not going to get into the speculation or hypotheticals. None of these things are ever blank checks. That goes with any situation in any kind of race. But right now, he won the thing fair and square. . . I don’t like doing this. I don’t want to do this, but I will do this because I feel like I have to in order to defend Republicans and our principles, so people don’t make the mistake of thinking we think like that,” Ryan said.

There are so many logical errors here, one hardly knows where to start, but here goes:

1. If he has to constantly step forward protect the GOP “brand,” Trump is therefore a threat to it. Ryan acknowledges Trump has been distorting the party’s principles. Ryan’s ongoing support thus contradicts his stated intent to protect the GOP.

2. If attacking a Gold Star family, inviting Russia to meddle in our election and launching a racist attack on a federal judge are not grounds for pulling support, it is fair to ask if Ryan has any “red line.” It’s not a hypothetical; it’s a statement of his current principles.

3. Winning “fair and square” has nothing to do with Ryan’s continued support. As he said, things can change, and Trump surely has gotten worse since he sewed up the nomination. Moreover, it is Ryan’s obligation to provide voters with his own, independent judgment. That’s what all elected officials should do, but it seems a basic requirement for leaders.

4. Ryan’s continued support for Trump in order to provide cover for his members (“defend Republicans”), which one can surmise is one reason he continues this excruciating contortionist act, is deeply misguided. Trump is losing nationally by a lot. He’s losing in critical states where there are at-risk members of Congress. Rather than tying their fate and the fate of his majority to Trump, Ryan should be telling every member that we are in extraordinary times, when endorsing the presidential candidate is not a requirement of being a Republican in good standing.

Politicians don’t like to admit they’ve made errors, especially errors of judgment. Fine. Ryan, then, can simply say the cumulative weight of evidence since his initial endorsement is such that he no longer thinks Trump can responsibly manage the duties of president. I suspect that is what Ryan believes anyway, and saying it aloud will free him and a great number of Republicans from the intellectual and ethical corruption required to support Trump.

It’s very likely Ryan and other Republicans thought they’d tepidly nominate Trump, keep the election close and thereby save some GOP seats. It has turned out differently, as Trump has repeatedly embarrassed the party and attempted to humiliate Ryan and other leaders. You cannot fine-tune the electorate such that you can bank on losing but not by too much. In the case of Trump, once the American people get a look behind the curtain and recognize what they are dealing with, a runaway election becomes entirely possible. Support for Trump then becomes an anchor around the ankles of Republicans — not to mention a source of nonstop intellectual and ethical stress for Ryan. Perhaps in the weeks to come, he will see that.