ICYMI: How To Lose Your Principles in 10 Months: The Paul Ryan Story

By: Meredith Kelly

In case you missed Paul Ryan’s 60-Minutes interview Sunday evening, Scott Pelley spent the better part of 13 minutes holding Speaker Paul Ryan accountable about his awkward year-long tango with Donald Trump. Poor Paul Ryan tried the best to keep a light mood, laughing off all the times Trump called him a weak leader, jovially assuring they’re now ready to roll up their sleeves to demolish the Affordable Care Act, and sharing how excited he is to help Trump out with some of the basics of governing (like how the U.S. Constitution works).  It was painful to watch: the interview left Ryan looking blithe at best, and at worst, like a man with no principles who blindly embraces his party’s reckless standard-bearer.

Case in point: towards the end of the interview Pelley asked Speaker Ryan a seemingly predictable question.

Pelley: Trump tweeted in the last week or so that he had actually won the popular vote if you deduct the millions who voted illegally. Do you believe that?

Ryan: I don’t know, I’m not really focused on these things.

Pelley: Wait a minute, wait a minute, you have an opinion on whether millions of Americans voted illegally?

Ryan: I have no way of backing that up, I have no knowledge of such things.

Pelley You don’t believe that?

Ryan: It doesn’t matter to me, he won the election.

It is mystifying that the Republican Speaker of the House—to say nothing of Donald Trump’s highest-ranking supporter—seems completely uninterested that the President-elect claims that the elections were rigged. There are three reasons this is unfortunate:

Demonstrably False. Experts and non-partisan fact-checkers like Politifact have long put to bed the myth that millions of people could infiltrate the election and sabotage the results. These claims have long been red-meat for right-wing conspiracy websites like Infowars and FreedomDaily. That such conspiracies now emanate from the personal Twitter account of the President-elect is so disturbing that we’re shocked Paul Ryan can ignore them and still see straight.

Votes Suppressed. It is also disturbing because, beneath the noise of Trump’s tweets is the more nefarious reality that this election may indeed have been negatively impacted—in the form of voter suppression. According to NYU Law School’s Brennan Center For Justice, 14 states passed laws restricting voter access for the 2016 election, including Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin. But in Paul Ryan’s eyes, who gives a lick? Trump won!

A Win Without Mandate. Finally, in saying that all that matters was Trump’s win, Paul Ryan forgets that while 2016 brought Republicans a victory, it did not bring them a mandate. In 2016, more Americans voted for Democrats than Republicans, and it was not close. Paul Ryan confuses being in power with being in the majority in the eyes of the American people. And now that he’s determined more than ever to dismantle Obamacare and privatize Medicare, Speaker Ryan is openly working against the will of most Americans. But hey, Trump won, so once again…who cares?

“Called to task about yet another one of Trump’s wild conspiracies, it is disturbing how at ease Speaker Ryan is with Trump’s willingness to spew misinformation and outright lies.” Said Meredith Kelly of the DCCC “It would have taken Speaker Ryan the better part of five seconds to denounce these inflammatory views and move on, but he clearly doesn’t care enough to do that. With a Trump victory devoid of a mandate, he doesn’t even bother pretending to have a shred of principle anymore.”