Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are set to meet this week on Thursday following Ryan’s measured expression of a reluctance to endorse, and the Trump campaign’s response that Ryan is unworthy of his office and ought to resign. We debated it all this weekend on Face the Nation.
While we were doing that, Trump was on NBC and ABC voicing his willingness to raise taxes and the minimum wage – but also repeating his expression of surprise that Paul Ryan would be reluctant to support him, given their pleasantly congratulatory conversation in the wake of his New York victory a few weeks ago.
In an interview with NBC News’s Chuck Todd, Trump explained, “I like Paul Ryan. I think he’s a very good guy. He called me three weeks ago, and he was so supportive. It was amazing. And I never thought a thing like this. I got blindsided by this.” Ryan “couldn’t have been nicer” during their conversation, according to Trump.
Except that according to Ryan’s office, that conversation never happened. Ryan hasn’t spoken to Trump since early March – not just before New York but also before Florida – and in a call initiated by Trump. It seems to be a similar situation to the reports about Marco Rubio, who also was supposedly having phone conversations with Trump that his office claims didn’t happen.
Neither of these men really matter in the situation currently – their endorsements will not affirm or deny any significant number of general election votes to Donald Trump – so what is Trump’s motivation to lie about talking to them? It’s not the falsehood that is odd, it’s the purposelessness of it: why does Trump keep saying something so pointless? Is it just an attempt to make politicians in his own party look weak and hypocritical? To what end? They’re not running against him.
It’s possible this is just a feature of Trump’s total lack of interest in uniting the party. He’s expressing more publicly the view that he can beat Clinton without a united GOP. It’s also possible he just doesn’t want to do the work necessary – as easy as it would be – to unify the GOP behind him. It’s possible he wants to keep up the duality of the reminder that it’s not a conservative party and that “You are not a conservative if you don’t support Trump.”
But perhaps there’s something worse going on that we have to consider. We all remember the Koch prank call to Scott Walker many years ago. Is it possible that Donald Trump is getting punked by someone to think he’s talking to people he isn’t? It’s an absurd possibility, of course, hardly the sort of thing one expects outside shock jock radio shows. But the alternative – that the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party is just casually lying about complimentary phone calls to make his fellow Republicans look bad, and to achieve no clear benefit to himself or them – is just inconceivable.