House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) (Evan Vucci/AP)
Columnist

My fellow Republicans, my fellow Americans:

I stand before you today with a heavy heart, to say that I cannot in good conscience support the man my party appears to have chosen to be its nominee for the presidency.

As a result, I will be asking Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to release me from the role of serving as convention chairman in Cleveland. I respect the views of the millions of voters in Republican primaries and caucuses who backed Donald Trump. I applaud his seeming ability to amass the requisite 1,237 delegates. I simply cannot preside over this choice and gavel this nomination into being.

This is an extraordinary statement, but this is an extraordinary moment. As you know, there were many candidates for the Republican nomination. I agreed with some more than others; I thought some would be stronger choices than others; but I could have supported any of them.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he cannot support Donald Trump. Trump says he doesn't care. Can the two work out their differences? (Deirdra O'Regan/The Washington Post)

Except Donald Trump. I was not being coy when I said last week that I was not yet ready to support Mr. Trump. I was being hopeful that he would moderate his too-often intemperate tone and hopeful that he would offer reassurance about his too-often malleable political convictions.

Unfortunately, he has done neither. His actions and words in the interim — in just these past few days — have served only to deepen my reservations about what a Trump nomination would mean for our party — and, more important , what a Trump presidency would mean for our nation.

Instead of moving to unify the party, instead of ascending to a higher plane of public discourse, instead of tapping voters’ frustration to channel that understandable fury into solutions, Mr. Trump has doubled down on unhealthy anger and unfounded accusations.

Instead of reassuring lifelong Republicans — and, more important, lifelong conservatives — that he believes in the fundamental convictions of this party, in limited government and free-market solutions — he has raised serious concerns about his leadership.

Let me offer some specifics. Not from earlier in the campaign, when Mr. Trump described Mexican immigrants as rapists, proposed banning Muslims from entering the country and made remarks demeaning women and the disabled, but just from last week.

Mr. Trump again crossed the line when he cited scurrilous suggestions that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father had somehow been involved with Lee Harvey Oswald. He made clear that he intends to run against Hillary Clinton not on the merits but on the argument that — two decades ago — she was a “nasty, mean enabler” of her husband’s misconduct with women. Tactically, this is bad politics. More important, it falls woefully short of the serious discussion the times demand.

And speaking of ideas, this predilection for insult over reasoned argument would be troubling enough were it not paired with a disturbing combination of ideological inconsistency and policy ignorance. I have spent my life believing in, and fighting for, the ideals of the Republican Party: limited government, fiscal responsibility, free trade and free markets, the United States’ role as the world’s most important force for peace and liberty. It is not clear to me which, if any, of those convictions Mr. Trump shares.

On the fiscal front alone, Trump has pledged not to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. But a leading challenge for the next president will be to get entitlement spending under control. Nothing Mr. Trump has said indicates he understands that imperative, much less has a plan to deal with it.

Again, here, the past week has been instructive — and worrying. Mr. Trump has proposed a tax cut — a huge tax cut, as he might say. But he has been all over the lot on whether what he has laid out is all up for negotiation, and whether taxes on some will go up, not down. Similarly, after arguing against increasing the minimum wage, he now appears to be for it — maybe. Voters deserve more clarity from their nominee about what principles are nonnegotiable.

Then there are his jarring comments on the national debt, seeming to suggest that it might not be backed up with the full faith and credit of the United States or that the Federal Reserve, departing from its customary independence, could inflate away the debt problem. Imagine how global markets would react if the president of the United States made such remarks.

I believe in the Republican Party. I love the Republican Party. I cannot participate in putting this man at its helm.

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