On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a speech to a group of Capitol Hill interns that cast the GOP as the party of hope and opportunity.
“We don’t resort to scaring you, we dare to inspire you,” Ryan told the young people. “We don’t just oppose someone or something. We propose a clear and compelling alternative. And when we do that, we don’t just win the argument. We don’t just win your support. We win your enthusiasm. We win hearts and minds. We win a mandate to do what needs to be done to protect the American Idea.”
It was a nice speech, well delivered. It also felt roughly one billion miles removed from the sophomoric battle playing out even as Ryan was speaking between the two top GOP presidential candidates.
This was a week that began with an anti-Trump super PAC pushing out a picture of a scantily clad Melania Trump to discourage Utah voters from backing Donald Trump. It was one that ended with Ted Cruz denying a National Enquirer report that he had engaged in at least five extramarital affairs. In between? A Trump tweet threatening to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife, Cruz calling Trump a “sniveling coward” and Trump retweeting an image that featured a less-than-flattering photo of Mrs. Cruz.
It’s worth mentioning here that this is also a week that saw 31 people killed and hundreds more injured in a terrorist attack in Brussels. And that Cruz’s answer to that tragedy was to propose increasing policing in Muslim neighborhoods - a position he attempted to shuffle away from as the week went on.
For a Republican Party now three years removed from a remarkably frank autopsy of what it did wrong in the 2012 campaign and how to fix it, this week – and, in truth, much of this presidential campaign – was a total disaster. More juvenile antics, less serious policy proposals or solutions. More sixth-grade than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Politics can be a battle of ideas, not insults,” Ryan insisted in his speech. “It can be about solutions.”
Not this week.