These days, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan really seems loathe to talk about President Donald Trump. It's not hard to see why, either. Ryan, a conservative technocrat, has been dreaming for a long time ― since drinking from kegs in college, by his own account ― of implementing drastic conservative reforms to government spending, taxes, and the social safety net, goals that Trump's persistent scandals threaten to put on the back burner. When it comes to openly challenging the sitting president, however, Ryan tends to be pretty shy. Yet, here are seven negative things Ryan has said about Trump, because nowadays you don't hear much tough talk from the speaker.
Make no mistake, Ryan's not the type to inspire a profile in courage when it comes to Trump. Like the vast majority of the American right, Ryan and the Republican establishment lined up behind Trump when his ascendance during the election became obvious, and he didn't fight too hard to try to keep him from taking over the reins.
Ryan did, at least occasionally, say vaguely critical things about him during the campaign, however, a level of candor that's really tapered off as Trump's young presidency marches on. Here are seven such remarks — little reminders that once upon a time, Ryan was still willing to say something, at the very least.
1. "I'm Just Not Ready"
In May of 2016, with the Republican National Convention fast approaching, Ryan made it clear that he wasn't yet prepared to back Trump as the nominee, demonstrating he was concerned about the GOP front-runner's long-term prospects.
2. "He Rejects This Idea"
Although the remarks didn't come from Ryan directly ― the statement was released by his spokeswoman AshLee Strong ― he was clearly concerned with the fallout from Trump's hostile smearing of Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan.
3. "No Place In A Presidential Campaign"
As Time detailed, Ryan notably denounced the Trump campaign's tweeting of an anti-Semitic meme back in July of last year, stating that such images have no place in American politics.
4. "The Speaker Is Fully Confident"
In another statement from Strong, rather than from Ryan himself ― teasing the increasingly calculated, highly hands-off tact he's taken throughout the early months of the Trump presidency ― the speaker nonetheless affirmed confidence in the integrity of the U.S. election system. Ryan challenged Trump's conspiratorial claims that the race would be stolen from him leading up to Election Day.
5. "I Am Sickened By What I Heard"
Despite voicing the above condemnation after the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, Ryan never rescinded his endorsement of Trump, just one of many elected Republican officials who made moralistic condemnations then quickly fell in line.
6. "I Won't Defend Donald Trump"
In October, with Trump's numbers sagging, the disgraceful Access Hollywood tape hitting the airwaves, and the GOP establishment fearful he'd bring down Republican congressional races, too ― this was before the final weeks, in which the polls tightened considerably ― it was reported that Ryan out-and-out disavowed Trump behind closed doors, although he never publicly withdrew his endorsement. The news fueled the ongoing tensions between Trump and Ryan, and it made Ryan look all the more foolish and toothless after Trump's victory.
7. And Here's The Audio
The audio of Ryan's October comments was ultimately leaked and published by Breitbart, as part of an apparent effort to undermine the speaker among the Republican base and elevate Trump.
All in all, it's a pretty modest list of criticisms when you consider just how aggressively inflammatory and demagogic the Trump campaign was, and how much wrongdoing he was accused of ― although he forcefully denies all the allegations, the fact remains that he was accused of sexually predatory behavior by more than a dozen women. And nowadays, well, even that mildly proactive version of Ryan seems to have faded into the background, replaced by a party leader driven only by achieving his policy goals, no matter how Trump might get in the way.