Paul Ryan has pretended he doesn't pay attention to Trump's reckless, incoherent, often dangerous tweets. But now that he's leaving Congress, and Trump will no longer be his problem, the truth comes out.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, headed for the exit from Congress, has suddenly discovered that he can comment on Trump's Twitter account.
On Wednesday, after Ryan announced he is not running for re-election this fall, Trump tweeted that Ryan "is a truly good man" and praised his so-called "legacy of achievement."
Ryan tweeted, "Thank you Mr. President," in response.
It was a reversal for Ryan, who tries to avoid responding to Trump's unhinged and incoherent Twitter rantings by claiming he hasn't seen them, no matter how much attention they get.
Trump uses his social media account as his primary vehicle for getting out his message, using it to attack critics, spread lies, and to repeatedly embarrass America.
But even before Trump took office, Ryan made it clear that he would ignore it — or at least pretend he was ignoring it.
After the election, for example, Trump promoted the debunked conspiracy theory that millions of votes were cast illegally for Hillary Clinton. The complaint was in response to his popular vote loss to Clinton.
Despite the serious allegation, Ryan refused to weigh in.
"I'm not really focused on these things," he said on "60 Minutes," adding, "Who cares what he tweeted, you know, on some Thursday night, if we fix this country’s big problems?"
Feigning ignorance became Ryan's go-to strategy after that.
He even joked about it, noting at the Al Smith charity dinner, "Every morning I wake up in my office and I scroll through Twitter to see which tweets I will have to pretend I didn't see later on."
Unfortunately, Trump's tweets have the power to affect national and international policy. They move markets and affect decisions and diplomacy that impact the lives of billions worldwide.
They are no longer simply the rantings of a cartoonish reality television performer. They are, according to the White House, official statements from the president of the United States.
And yet Ryan, second in line to the presidency, has insisted he pays no attention to those reckless and often unhinged statements and does not consider them important.
Now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress and to no longer feel the weight of the constitutional duty of oversight he has ignored during Trump's term, he suddenly feels free to acknowledge Trump's tweeting.
Light rebukes on rare occasions don't absolve him of the moral vacuum he allowed to grow and grow.