It wasn't precisely an act of moral courage, but House Speaker Paul Ryan's comment that he's not ready to support presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump was at least ... something.
Whether it's a start or a finish remains to be revealed, but it would seem that we're witnessing the beginning of the end. To wit: A Republican friend, who has abandoned her behind-the-scenes work of getting conservatives elected, called me recently to express her condolences. "I feel sorry for you," she said, "because you (given your job) can't ignore the collapse of Western civilization."
Now a renegade from the nominating process, she is like so many others disillusioned by the Trump movement who've slipped the noose of politics in search of meaning beyond the Beltway. But Trump's triumph, though most insiders thought it impossible, should have surprised no one. He was inevitable not because he was The One but because he's a shrewd dealmaker with deep pockets and unencumbered by a moral compass. Both his platform and style were crafted to fit the findings of extensive polling he commissioned before announcing his run.
In other words, Trump didn't write a book you loved; he wrote the book you said you'd love. If people were outraged about immigration, why then he'd build a wall. If they were upset about manufacturing jobs lost overseas, well fine, he'd kill the trade agreements.
Trump was never about principle but about winning, the latter of which he kept no secret. What this means, of course, is that his supporters have no idea whom they nominated. He simply paid to read their minds and then invented a drug that would light up the circuit boards corresponding to pleasure and reward.
"Believe me," he crooned to the roaring crowed.
"I'm not there right now," said the speaker, crossing himself in the sign of the cross.
Poor Ryan -- a man of conscience in an unconscionable time. He wants to support the Republican nominee, but, at the end of the day, he has to answer to a higher authority. Trump, the party's standard bearer, isn't bearing the standard, Ryan said.
But what Ryan expressed as the basis for a desired meeting of the minds isn't about those standards, except the hope that Trump will behave better in the future. You know, act presidential and all that. Otherwise, Ryan is standing by the phone to hear that Trump will unify the party. How, pray tell? What would satisfy the Ryans of the party? For Trump to say, Hey, I was just kidding?
The problem, as with all relationships, is that certain words, once expressed, can't be taken back. No amount of backtracking can erase memories of what Trump really thought and said in a particular moment. It isn't only that his wildly conceived and frequently revised positions are at odds with those of leveler heads, but Trump has embarrassed those who can still be embarrassed.
Among those with either the gumption or nothing to lose by expressing no-support for Trump are both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. Neither will endorse the Republican nominee. Laura Bush, a consistent voice of sanity, recently hinted at a "Women in the World" conference that she'd rather see Hillary Clinton as president than Trump.
This is utterly treasonous to most Republicans. Not only is Clinton a Clinton, notwithstanding her Rodham-ness, but the next president likely will select up to four Supreme Court justices. Republicans magically think that at least Trump would pick good justices.
But upon what shred of fact or fiction do they base this assumption?
Still other Republicans are expressing disapproval by vowing not to attend the party convention in July. These include the last two GOP presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, though McCain is on record saying he'll support Trump, which can be viewed as loyal or merely sad.
The "sads" have it.
McCain seemingly has forgiven Trump's remark that he was a war hero only because he was captured. "I like people who weren't captured," said the anti-hero who managed to avoid service and once compared his navigation of the sexually risky 1960s to "sort of like the Vietnam era."
This is the man who would become commander-in-chief.
Meanwhile, we're told, the party that adopted Trump without really knowing him is suffering an identity crisis and facing a moment of truth.
Phooey. The GOP began digging its own grave years ago and dropped one foot in when McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. With Trump's almost-certain nomination, the other foot has followed.