The Slatest

Paul Ryan Says His Trump Endorsement Is Not a “Blank Check.” So Where Does He Draw the Line?

Speaker Paul Ryan visits the Graceview Apartments on June 7 in Washington, D.C.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan, fresh off of his nonendorsement from Donald Trump, said in a radio interview Thursday morning that he still supports Trump even after the latter’s “pretty strange run since the convention.” He reiterated, though, that his endorsement is not a “blank check” for Trump to just do whatever he wants and expect to retain that support.

So how big a check has Ryan cut the nominee? When do the funds dry up?

Trump’s comments about the Khan family, Ryan said in Thursday morning’s interview with radio host Jerry Bader, were “beyond the pale. … You don’t do that to gold star families.” Beyond the pale, then, is still inside the spending limit Paul Ryan granted in his endorsement check.


Also within the limit: textbook racist comments. “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race,” Ryan infamously said during Trump’s one-sided feud with Judge Gonzalo Curiel, “is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.”


Under Ryan’s endorsement, Trump is permitted to make comments “beyond the pale,” including but not limited to textbook definitions of racist comments. As we know, Trump is also permitted to go out of his way to humiliate Ryan personally, not that Ryan needed help in that department.

“We are a grassroots party, we aren’t a superdelegate party,” Ryan told Bader. “We are a party where the grassroots Republican primary voter selects the nominee. There’s something to be said for those voters.”


He’s just following the will of the voters. That’s respectable. But how far will he follow them? Sen. Ted Cruz claimed, similarly, that the pledge he signed to support the party’s nominee was not a “blanket commitment.” He drew the line on Trump insulting his wife, Heidi, and his father, Rafael. Trump is one sick puppy, and he may well continue pushing Paul Ryan for fun, debasement, and to test the speaker’s limits. This is not a snapshot of a healthy family. But at least Donald Trump, sitting at the head of the table, is enjoying himself.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.