On Tuesday, the chief debate among Republicans was the level of responsibility borne by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has endorsed GOP nominee Donald Trump and not rescinded the endorsement, for the video released Friday casting Trump in an incorrigibly bad personal light.
In the hot-mic video from a 2005 episode of Access Hollywood, Trump is seen discussing his efforts to seduce Nancy O’Dell, the show’s co-host, and boasting of the forward sexual behavior his fame allows him to get away with. The video, which lay dormant in NBC’s vault for 11 years, magically emerged the same day that WikiLeaks released a mountain of disqualifying information about Hillary Clinton and the hopelessly corrupt Democrat Party she controls. The former was all the rage in the Democrat-aligned mainstream media; the latter, relegated to the back pages.
Let’s understand something — NBC had the video, and it was leaked to the Washington Post. You will not find two major media entities in America more demonstrably friendly with the Democratic National Committee than NBC and the Washington Post. That some loyal Democrat at NBC would have leaked the video to the Washington Post for publication in time to negate the effects of the massive WikiLeaks dump is hardly difficult to recognize.
But by Tuesday, it was somehow Ryan’s fault. You see, former George W. Bush aide Dan Senor, who now works for Ryan and happens to be married to Campbell Brown — who worked at NBC from 1996 to 2008 — tweeted vigorously about the video and how it disqualified Trump as a presidential candidate.
So obviously it was Ryan who dunnit. Through Senor and his bride, with her aged NBC connections.
The people touting this stupid theory have yet to present any cogent reason why the House Speaker, who, again, still endorses Trump, would deliberately release material that would not only damage the Republican nominee’s chances for victory, but also cause chaos among the GOP base and make it more difficult for Ryan to hold a Republican majority in the House. Somehow Ryan is “Republican establishment” and therefore “afraid of Trump winning” — words spoken by former Arkansas governor and two-time failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee this week.
Look, you don’t have to like Ryan. I don’t particularly like him either. He’s not the devil, although he’s also not off to a great start as House Speaker. But if you listen to him at all, his motivation is pretty simple — Ryan has an economic and political agenda that emanates from the writing and advocacy of people like Jack Kemp and Peter Ferrara, who advanced conservative policies to reform entitlements, spark economic development in depressed areas like inner cities, and encourage small business formation. Ryan has been working on those kinds of “opportunity society” initiatives all his adult life, and they’re the reason he’s not just in elective office but occupying his current position.
You can call that agenda naïve, and you can say it’s thin gruel amid much larger problems for both the GOP and the country at large, and you might not be wrong. And you can decry Ryan’s failure to rally Republicans in the House to fight battles on fundamental issues outside of Ryan’s chosen agenda, and you’d have a quite valid critique.
But does anyone think Ryan will make Jack Kemp’s long-suffering policy dreams come to fruition with Hillary Clinton in the White House? Do you believe Ryan thinks that’s more likely with Hillary, or with a Donald Trump who clearly lacks a well-defined domestic policy agenda and can latch onto Ryan’s agenda-in-a-box by simply signing it should Ryan drag it to his desk?
He endorsed Trump for a number of reasons, but one of them clearly is that Ryan believes he has a better shot at getting private Social Security accounts, for example, with Trump than with Clinton. Because Ryan is not an imbecile, you see.
But according to the Internet and Twitterverse, Ryan nevertheless is responsible for the Access Hollywood bomb. Because Ryan is apparently a glutton for punishment who relishes the idea of being called a “traitor to his party” and worse by Republican voters, for leaking a video that helps Democrats beat Republicans and remove him from his speakership in favor of Nancy Pelosi.
This is where we are, four weeks from Election Day. Trump, the polls say, is dead in the water as a result of the video leaking on Friday; even a relatively convincing win in Sunday’s debate doesn’t seem to have significantly altered the race’s momentum. The Senate, which two weeks ago looked like it would stay in Republican hands, is now very much in doubt. And the House, which has long been a bridge too far for Democrat ambitions, is coming under question.
It’s a potential electoral rout, and Republicans are at each other’s throats thanks to (1) politicians running for the hills in the wake of evidence that Trump is the misogynist frat-star ogre Republicans have been unfairly caricatured as for years and (2) Trump and his followers treating the political reversal from the Access Hollywood video as an opportunity to lash out at the party’s establishment.
This, when the WikiLeaks disclosures from Friday (and another batch on Monday) show a level of corruption and disdain for the American people not previously seen among Democrats, or anyone else in major American politics, the full examination of which would make that party’s nominee patently unelectable in a normal cycle. In a column later this week we will delve more fully into just how terrible the WikiLeaks product is in indicting the Democrats as a threat to the republic.
In the meantime, David Catron’s piece at this site earlier in the week, lamenting the colossal missed opportunity by running a presidential candidate so incapable of cementing the Republican coalition and quelling the internecine hatred so perfectly ginned up by the other side, is required reading.
At this point, all we can really do is give reluctant congratulations to whichever Democrat activist — because it was a Democrat activist, and if you can’t see that it’s time for you to take up parapsychology or ufology as a hobby rather than politics — spearheaded the release of the video. By doing so the Democrats have shattered, perhaps irretrievably, the Republican coalition and forced its most loyal members to defend an indefensible candidate while driving others away from the party altogether, while setting the two against each other.
The video didn’t win the presidential election for Hillary Clinton. That was increasingly apparent as next month’s result. Without an unforeseen and exceedingly welcome turn of fortune, it’s now merely set in rapidly-drying cement.
What it did was to make the process of rebuilding the party nearly impossible for the time being, and the work far more perilous and painstaking. The time in the wilderness will be difficult, and the country’s decline, already in an advancing state, will only accelerate under the guidance of the hopelessly corrupt political savants who in the past week have had their way with both Trump and his critics on the Right.