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Paul Ryan won’t defend Donald Trump, but he is still endorsing him

The leading issue in American politics right now is Donald Trump, and whether his history of racism, corruption, misogyny, and ignorance renders him unfit for the presidency. Paul Ryan’s view on this has long been “no comment,” and it sounds like after this morning’s big conference call with members of the House Republican caucus, that’s still his approach.

Ryan says that he won’t defend Trump and he won’t work for his election, but he is still endorsing Trump and presumably will vote for him and hope he wins the election.

As for his caucus as a whole, Ryan says that members of Congress should ignore questions of morality and the national interest and focus instead on short-term political expediency.

Public policy has not really been at the center of the 2016 campaign, but under the heading of A Better Way, Ryan and his House GOP leadership team have hammered out a policy agenda that they expect a Trump administration would sign into law. Its centerpiece is a large tax cut whose benefits would almost entirely accrue to the wealthiest Americans. It is financed through a series of cutbacks to the social welfare state, with low-income Americans receiving less assistance in buying health care services, food, and other such things.

In addition, the Ryan/Trump policy agenda would broadly push for less regulation of financial institutions and allow fossil fuel extractors to generate more air pollution.

This agenda is distinct from Trump’s main agenda of deportations, police impunity, and trade protectionism but broadly compatible with it, and Trump has, at various times, signaled his alignment with Ryan’s priorities. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, would not really go along with any of Ryan’s main Better Way ideas.

Under the circumstances, you can see why Ryan would want to see Trump elected even if he also doesn’t feel like putting himself out there as a defender of all the various things Trump has said and done and will continue to say and do.