Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was set to appear at a big Wisconsin rally on Saturday featuring Republican presidential standard-bearer Donald Trump, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. That event, which was to be called “Wisconsin Fall Fest,” will no longer feature the Republican presidential candidate after the release of a 2005 tape in which he is heard seeming to describe sexually assaulting women.
Ryan responded to those comments by announcing that Trump would not be in attendance and saying that Trump’s remarks “sickened” him.
Here’s the thing, though: The rest of that statement implies that even after Trump described how he would “grab [women] by the pussy,” Trump still was not going to lose Ryan’s endorsement.
Since Trump claimed enough delegates to knock out his primary rivals and secure the GOP nomination in May, Ryan’s repeated denunciations of Trump have always fallen well short of renouncing his candidacy.
Immediately after Trump clinched the nod, Ryan said he was “just not ready” to endorse the billionaire walking grotesquery. As I wrote at the time, Ryan’s statement of doubt was so full of caveats that it seemed obvious he would eventually endorse, which he did less than a month later.
Ryan has repeatedly said that his support of Trump is not a “blank check,” but he has never said where exactly he would draw the line, which suggests that check might as well be for a trillion dollars. When Trump said an American judge of Mexican heritage was not fit to adjudicate the Trump University lawsuit because of his ethnicity, Ryan acknowledged that was a case of “textbook racism.” But he explicitly refused to revoke his endorsement. When Trump feuded with the family of a Muslim-American soldier who died in combat, Ryan sided with the Khans against Trump. He did not take back his endorsement, though, and didn’t even hint at it.
Maybe Friday’s video will prove to be the final straw, with revelations that a man who has been publicly accused of committing sexual assault had privately appeared to brag about committing sexual assault forcing Ryan’s hand. Maybe he won’t have a choice but to finally say enough is enough.
But if you look at the statement he released Friday, Ryan is giving himself plenty of room not to back out now. “I hope that Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves” Ryan says, meaning that if Trump says anything about it that Ryan can point to as “serious,” then he will have nothing to worry about from the Speaker.
If history is any guide, he doesn’t.