Paul Ryan Releases Bizarre Anti-Trump Ad That Never Mentions Trump By Name

 

"I'm not saying I'll vote for Trump, but I'm not NOT saying I'll vote for Trump. Of course, I'm also not saying I won't vote for Trump, but I'm not saying I won't WON'T vote for Trump, either."

“I’m not saying I’ll vote for Trump, but I’m not NOT saying I’ll vote for Trump. Of course, I’m also not saying I won’t vote for Trump, but I’m not saying I won’t WON’T vote for Trump, either.”

Yesterday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s office published a very strange video. Titled “The Choice,” the video features Ryan speaking very vaguely about something that he thinks is a real problem today. He doesn’t really name the problem he’s discussing, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s talking about Donald Trump. Here’s the video:

And here’s the transcript:

I have not seen the kind of bitterness in our discourse, our politics, like we have today, and I gotta say I think it’s both sides — I’d love to say it’s just Democrats, but it’s not, it’s both. And it doesn’t have to be this way. America can do better. This anxiety has got to be channeled, and dealt with with solutions instead of just amplified and accelerated and exacerbating it.

How do you fix that? I think leaders fix this. We haven’t had that kind of leadership lately. Leaders need to say, “Here’s my principle, here’s my solution and let’s try and do it in a way that is inclusive, that’s optimistic, that aspirational and that’s focusing on solutions.” And so that’s the choice you’ll have, far more than personality. Republicans lose personality contests anyway. We always do. But we win ideas contests. We owe you that choice.

So a little Ryan-to-English translation is necessary: by “it’s both sides” who participate in bitterness, Ryan is really just calling out Donald Trump. When he says that we “haven’t had that kind of leadership lately,” he’s likely calling out both President Obama and Donald Trump. This is exceptionally weird, right? I can’t recall another time when a prominent elected official has put out a commercial trashing the presumptive presidential nominee of his own party.

Also interesting? Ryan’s idea of what leaders do. Nobody, really, can argue with his claim that leaders should be optimistic, aspirational, and in favor of solutions. This is about as controversial as calling kittens cute. But calling for an “inclusive” leader is a hell of a stretch, coming as it does from a man who is arguably the most public face of a party that is pushing anti-trans bathroom laws, suing for the right to discriminate against gay couples, and working around the clock to ensure that as few people as possible can enjoy the right to vote. Ryan’s budgets are the most exclusionary documents ever embraced by a mainstream political party in modern times. (Here’s a study guide for Speaker Ryan: If your plan rewards the very wealthy at the expense of many more poor people, you’re practicing exclusionary politics, not inclusive politics.)

So in the end, Ryan is attacking Trump for being further along the same spectrum that Ryan himself is on. Maybe Ryan is reacting so forcefully to Trump’s rise because in Trump he sees something of his own politics reflected back at him? Maybe by being so aggressively exclusionary in (for example) his policies against immigrants, Trump is forcing the mainstream Republican Party into an uncomfortable state of self-awareness? Two years ago, it would have been inconceivable to imagine Paul Ryan defending inclusiveness as a core Republican value; maybe two years from now Ryan will realize that getting into a fight with Trump was not unlike picking a fight with the guy in the bathroom mirror.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.