Paul Ryan Praises Trump’s Foreign Policy, Criticizes his Charlottesville Response

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has had a sometimes tempestuous relationship with the Trump administration and in a recent Town Hall event sponsored by CNN and hosted by Jake Tapper, and that trend continued during the Town Hall.

First the good, Ryan praised President Trump’s Afghanistan speech, calling Trump’s foreign policy perspective “principled realism.”

I think I heard a new Trump strategy, or a doctrine, so to speak. Principled realism I think is how he described it. 

So I think it’s important when it comes to our blood and our treasure and soldiers and our safety that we actually have a comprehensive doctrine that we apply. And I think he spent the last six months working on that. And I think that you just heard a big flavor of it tonight.  

Jake Tapper: So, we’re going to get to a whole range of topics. But first of all, obviously, President Trump just gave a very important address about Afghanistan and the way forward there. He didn’t give any troop numbers, but we’re told by senior administration officials it should be about 3,900 additional troops. What’s your reaction to the new policy? 

Paul Ryan: Well, I’ve been briefed on it already. So (inaudible) policy. I was briefed on it a couple of times. 

I’m pleased with the decision. I’m actually pleased with the way he went about making this decision. It was described to me recently by one of our military planners that, for the last 16 years, we — our comprehensive Afghanistan strategy was 16 one-year strategies. So we have had a convoluted strategy with respect to Afghanistan. 

And I think it’s high time we had a more comprehensive strategy. And there are a couple of points that he made that I totally agree (inaudible) strategy, not a timetable. I think it telegraphs to our enemies to wait us out. 

And I think we have to recognize the fact — and here’s why it matters to us as Americans, why this is in our national security interest. We cannot allow another safe haven for terrorists to materialize again. Look at what was happening in Mosul, in Syria, with ISIS. We can’t afford to allow that to happen again. And that is why this matters to us. 

And I think we’ve learned some good lessons in Mosul, in Syria, lessons that are being applied right now. And I think they’re carrying over those lessons learned to Afghanistan. 

So I also think what I heard tonight for the first time — this is what I wasn’t briefed on — is I think I heard a new Trump strategy, or a doctrine, so to speak. Principled realism I think is how he described it. 

So I think it’s important when it comes to our blood and our treasure and soldiers and our safety that we actually have a comprehensive doctrine that we apply. And I think he spent the last six months working on that. And I think that you just heard a big flavor of it tonight. 

I’ve been to Bagram. I’ve been to Kandahar. I’ve been to Helmand, to Kabul. And I have seen what our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, our Marines do there. It is incredible. The sacrifice that they’ve given for us — 235 from Wisconsin alone — it’s amazing. And I want to make sure that it is not for naught, that it is for a good reason, which is to preserve peace and security for us here at home so that we don’t allow terrorists to have a safe haven to come and strike us again.

Now, for the bad. When Tapper asked Rep. Ryan about Charlottesville and the President’s response, Ryan responded that Trump “messed up” while trying to respond to the violence in Virginia.

First of all, the president and I spoke on Monday morning about the need for moral clarity, about the need at this very difficult time in our country to have a morally clear message, to absolutely and singularly condemn this repulsive bigotry. He agreed with that. And he did that later that day on Monday. And I thought his speech on Monday was pitch perfect. 

Then, the next day, I think it was in New York on an infrastructure press conference, in answer to a question, I think he made comments that were much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing. And I do think he could have done better. I think he needed to do better. 

I actually think what he did two days ago in commending the peaceful protests against the hate in Boston was a good start. And I think just what I heard, I don’t know, 25 minutes ago, was exactly what a president needs to say and what we needed to hear. So I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday, when it — it — it sounded like a moral equivocation, or at the very least moral ambiguity, when we need extreme moral clarity

Question: Hello, Speaker Ryan. You’ve come out and forcefully condemned bigotry and racism, but you have not come out and — oh, I’m sorry. Are you willing to come out and forcefully condemn Trump’s statement, such as Bob Corker and Mitt Romney have?

Paul Ryan: Yeah, so let me — let me get into this. Man, I was looking forward to this moment right here that Eric had this conversation with you. 

First of all, the president and I spoke on Monday morning about the need for moral clarity, about the need at this very difficult time in our country to have a morally clear message, to absolutely and singularly condemn this repulsive bigotry. He agreed with that. And he did that later that day on Monday. And I thought his speech on Monday was pitch perfect. 

Then, the next day, I think it was in New York on an infrastructure press conference, in answer to a question, I think he made comments that were much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing. And I do think he could have done better. I think he needed to do better. 

I actually think what he did two days ago in commending the peaceful protests against the hate in Boston was a good start. And I think just what I heard, I don’t know, 25 minutes ago, was exactly what a president needs to say and what we needed to hear. So I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday, when it — it — it sounded like a moral equivocation, or at the very least moral ambiguity, when we need extreme moral clarity. 

Let me just back up for a second and make one or two other points. It should not be about the president. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. This shouldn’t be about some voting Congress or some partisan issue. This is so much more important than that. 

This issue speaks to humanity, our country, our society, our culture. And so the point that I think is bigger than getting into a spat with other people, on — for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter if you’re pro-life or pro-choice, it doesn’t matter if you want to be drilling for oil or leave it in the ground or you want big government or smaller government, every single one of us needs to unify and stand up against this repulsive, this repugnant, vile bigotry. That is so important. 

And so that’s the kind of unity and that’s the kind of moral clarity that each and every one of us need to display, including — and, of course — the president. I think we heard that this evening. 

But all of us have got to do more. What I worry about in this situation is that we get numbed to this, that we sort of start to lose our sense of outrage against these white supremacists and these neo-Nazis, that we see it over and over on TV and we think, oh, yeah, just that again.

Onan Coca

Onan is the Editor-in-Chief at Romulus Marketing. He's also the managing editor at Eaglerising.com, Constitution.com and the managing partner at iPatriot.com. Onan is a graduate of Liberty University (2003) and earned his M.Ed. at Western Governors University in 2012. Onan lives in Atlanta with his wife and their three wonderful children. You can find his writing all over the web.

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