“Paul Ryan has been a curse to the Republican Party,” the former president said in a statement Friday morning. “He has no clue as to what needs to be done for our country, was a weak and ineffective leader, and spends all of his time fighting Republicans as opposed to Democrats who are destroying our country.”
Trump also dismissed Ryan as a Republican-in-name-only and said he does “nothing for our forward-surging Republican Party!”
Ryan left politics after three years as speaker during which Trump ascended as the de facto leader of the GOP. He attacked Trump the candidate but backed off when Trump became president. His criticisms became more cautious, and he often told reporters he had not seen Trump’s latest questionable or incendiary tweet.
“Once again, we conservatives find ourselves at a crossroads. And here’s one reality we have to face: If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere,” Ryan said Thursday.
But Ryan came short of denouncing Trump. Instead, he credited “the populism of President Trump in action, tethered to conservative principles” for a robust economy in early 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic.
Discussing the current struggles of the GOP, Ryan also nodded at Trump’s refusal to accept the 2020 election results.
“Even worse, it was horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end,” the former speaker said.
He also seemed to swipe at his successor, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), when he said voters won’t be “impressed by the sight of yes-men and flatterers flocking to Mar-a-Lago.”
Ryan, who sits on the board of Fox Corp., which includes Fox News, also urged his party not to get “caught up in every little cultural battle.”
“Sometimes these skirmishes are just creations of outrage peddlers, detached from reality and not worth anybody’s time,” he said.
Fox News dedicates considerable airtime to the culture wars. A Ryan spokesman did not respond when asked if the former speaker has concerns about Fox’s coverage.
Ryan, the 2012 vice-presidential nominee on the GOP ticket with Mitt Romney, was once seen as a rising star in the party. He was a young, polished, policy wonk who some Republicans believed would usher in the next generation of conservatives.
Instead, like other up-and-comers, he was sidelined by Trump’s swift takeover of the Republican Party and its base. Unlike others who left politics — and even some still in, like Romney, a senator from Utah — who feel freer to say what they really think about their party’s new leader, Ryan has kept a relatively low profile.
That has not spared him from Trump’s ire though. Ryan gave interviews to Tim Alberta of Politico for a book about the GOP under Trump, where he unleashed on the president. When the book came out in 2019, Trump counterpunched Ryan.
“He had the Majority & blew it away with his poor leadership and bad timing,” Trump tweeted. “Couldn’t get him out of Congress fast enough!”
In his speech Thursday, Ryan also criticized President Biden as a “nice guy” with too-liberal policies.
“In 2020, the country wanted a nice guy who would move to the center and depolarize our politics,” Ryan said. “Instead, we got a nice guy pursuing an agenda more leftist than any president in my lifetime.”