Paul Ryan and Donald Trump

House Speaker Paul Ryan, shown here shaking hands with President Trump on Dec. 20 following passage of the GOP tax bill, said amid the outcry over Trump’s immigration remarks: "I read those comments later last night. So, first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.” PHOTO BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

Manuel Balce Ceneta

Donald Trump is a racist, as he has repeatedly demonstrated. The controversy surrounding his recent remarks regarding immigration policy highlights the extent of his racism. Much of the media focus with regard to those remarks was on the vile language he reportedly used in decrying immigration from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations. But the far more telling aspect of Trump's ranting and raving was the juxtaposition of the president's open disdain for immigration from countries where the vast majority of the people are black or brown with his enthusiasm for immigration from overwhelmingly white Norway.

Trump’s constant apologists — who, in so many senses, are more troublesome than this unstable president — made the usual excuses.

That was bad enough.

But the most unsettling responses were those of the Republican career politicians who obliquely recognized that Trump had said something horrible but sought to diminish the consequences of a presidency echoing the crude politics of the neo-fascist movements that are on the rise in Europe. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, was, as usual, the most atrocious of the quibblers. Ryan, who has failed miserably as a leader on immigration reform, said amid the outcry over Trump’s remarks: "I read those comments later last night. So, first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.”

“Unhelpful”? That’s what you say when someone forgets to clear their place at the table.

People can debate whether Ryan seeks to downplay the damage done by Trump’s words because he is sympathetic to the sentiments but disapproves of the president’s language, or because he has some broader objection. That debate will go on because Ryan refuses to call out the president he serves so faithfully.

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Ryan has made it his mission to cover for Trump even in the worst of circumstances. Even when Trump’s racism is on full display. It is sickening that a representative from Wisconsin would be so subservient, yet this is what Ryan chooses to contribute to the national discourse at a critical point.

Former state Rep. Mandela Barnes, who last week entered the race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, got to the point when he said: “Until the likes of Paul Ryan and Scott Walker condemn Donald Trump, he not only speaks for them, he speaks in chorus WITH them.”

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