Ed already summarized what Ryan said but the “big meeting” isn’t really big unless we can milk it for multiple posts. The irony of the Trump/Ryan summit is that rapprochement might not be in either of their best interests. Superficially it makes sense, as a split party is dangerous for every Republican running this fall, from Trump on down. But if that’s Ryan’s top priority, he never should have withheld his support from Trump in the first place. Ben Shapiro’s right:
It’s not difficult to parse this situation: it’s all been theater. Ryan acted as a sort of antithesis to the non-conservative vulgar thesis of Trump; now, there will be a Hegelian synthesis. Ryan acted out the part of the wronged conservative, then surrendered to Trump. His cave will be used as a club against any conservative who refuses to join in this new “unification.”
Because Ryan’s endorsement will have been “earned,” it’ll be more useful in promoting Trump than Mitch McConnell’s perfunctory insta-cave was after Trump won Indiana. Ryan’s set himself up as a living, breathing conservative litmus test for Trump, except that party unity requires that Trump pass that test no matter what. So Ryan will end up giving him an ideological benediction that McConnell didn’t. I sure hope that was the plan all along, because if Ryan blundered into his current position by not thinking it through, the GOP leadership’s strategic disabilities are worse than I thought.
Trump’s taking a risk by gladhanding Ryan too. Matt Bai:
If the fall campaign is about an even more divisive, nativist Republican against an uninspiring Democrat, Trump almost certainly loses.
If, on the other hand, it’s about a renegade reformer against the establishment of both parties in Washington, he might have a chance to change the quadrennial math altogether.
And this is why Trump should welcome and even encourage the resistance of Ryan and the others, no matter what the old-timers tell him. He’s already hijacked the Republican minivan, and he can drive it anywhere he wants. His best shot is to run as close to an independent campaign as he can…
Running against both parties’ elite would have the added benefit, for Trump, of deflecting attention from the fact that he knows almost nothing about policy, governance or really anything related to the presidency at all. Instead of having to defend the Republican platform or reconcile his own inconsistencies with it, he can simply shrug and say it’s about the failure of the system, period.
Trump’s strategic problem here is harder than Ryan’s, as he wants Republicans unified behind him yet he also wants to run as a de facto independent in hopes of peeling off Democrats and indies from Hillary. Cuddling with the GOP establishment complicates that, although I think Bai’s underselling Trump’s ability to distinguish himself from the rest of the party even after he’s made peace with Ryan. After all, he’ll go on insulting people at rallies, he’ll continue to tack left on policy, and Ryan will have many opportunities to tsk-tsk him in interviews. They’ll be unified yet not so unified at the same time. That’s yet another example of Trump as human Rorschach test. If you like him, you can see him as a more or less loyal Republican or as an independent who’s broken from the party as you so choose. Reminds me of another celebrity candidate who ran for president as a “blank screen” on which supporters could project their own views. Worked out okay for him.
One more thing, from a pre-summit interview. What game was Trump playing with this uncharacteristic soundbite from last night?
A relatively sedate Donald Trump said that Paul Ryan was the leader of the Republican party despite his status as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee this fall.
“I would say Paul Ryan. I would really think that,” Trump told Greta van Susteren Wednesday night. He made the deferential statement despite noting his electoral success in the primary.
“I would say Paul for the time being, and maybe for a long time.”
It is not like Trump to pass on an opportunity to celebrate his own grandeur. That was a softball question inviting him to say that he’s the leader of the party now, as some of his more prominent propagandists have been insisting lately. What was his angle in deferring to Ryan? Was he simply trying to butter him up before the summit? You would think Trump, whose public image rests on him being seen as the consummate alpha male, would want Ryan to go into the meeting viewing him as the authority figure, not vice versa. Maybe calling Ryan the leader of the party was just his way of nodding at Bai’s point, creating some distance between himself and the widely loathed GOP before the general election. That’s fine, but I’d bet cash money that Trump will be calling himself the leader of the party soon, and rightly so. In which case why bother deferring to Ryan at all?
Here’s a few minutes from the presser. I literally laughed out loud when Ryan mentioned the “principles that tie us all together,” like … reining in the power of the presidency and restoring Congress’s preeminence. Have you watched this campaign at all, Paul? If you’re going to lie in the name of unity, at least make the lies plausible. He also went on to call Trump a “very warm and genuine person,” which is standard political gladhanding but not something you typically hear even from Trump’s supporters. Just the opposite. What they like about him, or so it seems, is that he’ll do anything to gain an advantage for himself, up to and including lying, lawfare, nasty insults, and so forth. Now he’s promising to put that ruthlessness to use for them. If he were “warm and genuine,” he wouldn’t be the fabulous success that he is. Only cuck chumps care about that.