Super Tuesday saw a veritable fruit salad of disingenuous comments from all parties involved—from Marco Rubio’s declaration of victory after losing 11 of 12 states to Donald Trump’s claim of being a “uniter” at the very moment when several leading members of his party announced they would rather suck on an exhaust pipe than allow Trump to become the face of the GOP.
However, if there was one assertion that rose above all the others for its sheer, jaw-dropping chutzpah, it was the following reaction to Trump’s continued success from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan:
If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry. This party does not prey on people’s prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln. We believe all people are equal in the eyes of God and our government. This is fundamental, and if someone wants to be our nominee, they must understand this.
Between that statement and Chris Christie’s facial expressions during Trump’s victory speech, I can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard following a presidential primary night.
Specifically, Ryan was addressing Trump’s initial reluctance to bat away the endorsement of a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, although (let’s face it) he could’ve been referring to pretty much anything Trump has said or done over the last eight months.
While Ryan deserves heaping praise for taking such a clear, principled stand against everything Donald Trump represents, his characterization of the party he leads is so comically lacking in self-awareness that Trump himself could not have put it any better.
The Republican Party doesn’t prey on people’s prejudices? It believes all people are created equal? Speaker, please.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I could’ve sworn the GOP had built its entire brand—say, over the last three or four decades—on such “high ideals” as denying marriage rights to same-sex couples because God intoned that gays are no different from murderers and child molesters. I do believe it was Republican leaders who defended the “liberty” of business owners to deny service to gay customers for the exact same reason.
Whenever an unarmed black teenager is senselessly murdered by a white police officer, Republicans are always the first to assume the kid must’ve done something to deserve it. When it comes to elections, Republican officials never hesitate to make it as difficult as possible for African-Americans and Hispanics to be able to cast a vote.
Quick as GOP leaders are to evoke “religious liberty” as a cornerstone of American democracy, they somehow always find a loophole for anyone wearing a turban, hijab or some other manner of foreign-looking funny hat. (Rarely, of course, do most Republicans take the time to understand which funny hat corresponds to which foreign-looking religion.)
Perhaps you saw the exit poll showing that 60 percent of Republican voters agree with Trump’s plan to prevent Muslims from entering the United States on the basis of their religion. Even assuming that every single Trump voter is included in that 60 percent, we are still left with 40-50 percent of non-Trump GOP voters who apparently think that all Muslims are terrorists. Or, at minimum, that Muslims are so inherently suspect that it’s worth discriminating against all of them on a federal level. You know, just in case.
This is the party Paul Ryan would have as a paragon of liberty, equality and justice: A party distrustful of Muslims, contemptuous of gays and utterly oblivious to the plight of Hispanics and blacks. If Ryan is serious that any prospective nominee “must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry,” they would need to begin with the Republican Party itself.
Ryan calls it “the party of Lincoln.” If I may rework a line from a classic Woody Allen movie: If Lincoln came back and saw what was going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.