Paul Ryan didn't necessarily choose the House Speaker life, but the House Speaker life chose him for better or for worse — and as a result, he's got Donald Trump to deal with. When Ryan hesitantly accepted the House speakership back in October, he did so with the intention of uniting the divided Republican party. Just about a month later, Ryan seems to be finding that a little challenging, at least in part thanks to Trump's most recent comments about Muslims.
In October, Representative Ryan agreed to run for Speaker of the House of Representatives, after his name was not-so-subtly floated around by key members of the GOP. After much consideration, Ryan agreed to run — and ultimately accept the position — as long as the rest of the party agreed to his conditions. Ryan wanted to delegate more of his duties than previous speakers in order to spend more time with his family, and he wanted to address some of the House rules. Perhaps most important, at least to the future of the Republican party, Ryan wanted to have the full support of the party, including all of its groups and caucuses, and a commitment from them to work together as a united, conservative front.
Within a matter of days, Ryan had the support he asked for, but creating that united front hasn't necessarily been smooth sailing. For now, the attention isn't so much on the Republicans in Congress as it is on the Republicans running for president. Trump, the leading Republican candidate, seems to have thrown a wrench into the unification of the party by making statements contrary to what many establishment Republicans believe. For instance, the Trump campaign released a statement on Monday that called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." The statement came less than a week after two radicalized Muslims attacked a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and injuring several others.
Trump's comments instantly sparked outrage among Americans, including his fellow Republicans. On Tuesday, Ryan spoke out about the comments during a press conference. He stressed that Trump's idea of conservatism doesn't align with what he — or many other Republicans — see as conservatism.
This is not conservatism. What was proposed is not what this party stands for and more importantly, it is not what this country stands for.
Trump's comments came the day after President Obama addressed the nation on this same topic, urging Americans not to let extremist groups like ISIS define Islam. It's not often that a key Republican leader and Obama say the same thing, but Ryan reiterated similar sentiments on Tuesday. He encouraged Americans to recognize the positive contributions that Muslim-Americans have brought to the country.
Not only are there many Muslims serving in our armed forces dying for this country, there are Muslims serving right here in the House, working every day to uphold and defend the Constitution. Some of our best and biggest allies in this struggle and fight against radical Islamic terror are Muslims. The vast, vast, vast, vast majority of whom are peaceful, who believe in pluralism, freedom, democracy, individual rights.
This isn't the first time that Republican figures have called Trump out for promoting a version of conservatism that the party as a whole doesn't believe in. In July, the Republican National Committee issued a statement condemning Trump's insinuation that Senator John McCain is not a war hero. In August, radio and TV personality Glenn Beck, who is about as conservative as they come, told NPR that he doesn't think Trump can consider himself a Republican because he often contradicts Republican values and priorities.
It's a refrain heard over and over again: Trump is not a conservative. His most recent comments have only reignited tensions within the Republican party over his campaign. Maybe Republicans could at least unite around the idea that they don't want Trump.