As Trump Pans Republican Party Unity, Palin Targets Paul Ryan

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Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Holds Wisconsin Campaign Rally
Like it or not, it's now Trump and Palin's GOP.Photo: Daniel Acker/© 2016 Bloomberg Finance LP

In addition to disregarding part of his tax plan on Sunday, presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump also suggested on Sunday morning that he wasn’t all that concerned about the need for Republican party unity heading into the general election. “Does [the party] have to be unified?” Trump asked on ABC’s This Week. “I’m very different than everybody else, perhaps, that’s ever run for office. I actually don’t think so.” And on Meet the Press Sunday, Trump insisted he was “blindsided a little bit” by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s comments last week that he wasn’t ready to endorse the businessman’s candidacy just yet, though the pair have scheduled a meeting for this week to try and clear the air.

Meeting or not, key Trump ally Sarah Palin declared on Sunday that Ryan’s “political career is over” after he “disrespected the will of the people” regarding Trump. Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, she said that Ryan should thus be “Cantored” for his decision not to immediately back Trump’s candidacy, meaning that Ryan should be kicked out of office by a primary challenger, as former congressman and GOP Establishment darling Eric Cantor was by a tea-party candidate in 2014. To that end, Palin vowed to do whatever she could to help Paul Nehlen, Ryan’s primary opponent this fall, in his efforts to unseat the speaker. “Paul Ryan and his ilk, their problem is they have become so disconnected by the people whom they are elected to represent,” Palin claimed. For his part, Trump additionally indicated on Meet the Press that he wouldn’t rule out trying to remove Ryan as chair of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland if he continues to withhold his support. There’s also a mini-feud playing out between the Trump and Ryan camps over whether or not Ryan called Trump to congratulate him after his win in the New York primary.

Of course, such a demonstration of Republican disunity is just the latest turbulence within the party over Trump’s impending nomination, though it’s been somewhat difficult to keep track of where some party heavyweights stand in their heart of hearts. For instance, Palin’s former running mate, Senator John McCain, was recorded saying at a fundraiser last month that, “If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life.” But McCain seems to be following through on his promise to support whoever becomes the GOP nominee, albeit not very passionately. Also appearing on State of the Union, McCain alluded more to fearing Trump voters than respecting the man himself, noting that Republicans would be “foolish” to ignore the Republican rank-and-file who had chosen Trump. “I think that he could be a capable leader,” McCain hedged with regards to Trump, who had previously said that McCain — who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam — wasn’t actually a war hero because he allowed himself to be captured. Regarding that earlier attack, McCain added on CNN that he wouldn’t help Trump’s campaign unless the candidate first “express[ed] his appreciation for veterans, not John McCain, but veterans who were incarcerated as prisoners of war.”

Nonetheless, while Trump may or may not actually value Republican party unity, he told supporters at a rally on Saturday said that former rivals Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham, who have both publicly stated that they will not vote for Trump, were not “honorable” people as a result of breaking their pledges to support the GOP nominee. Speaking of honor among Republicans, to recap: The last two Republican presidents (George Bush I and II) and the last Republican presidential nominee (Mitt Romney) have all rejected Trump, but the last Republican vice-president (Dick Cheney) is supporting him. The current speaker of the House and last Republican vice-presidential nominee (Ryan) is withholding support for now, while the previous vice-presidential nominee (Palin) is trying to end his political career because of that, and her running mate in 2008 (McCain) seems to be offering as lukewarm a Trump endorsement as is humanly possible. Meanwhile, crucially, the last Republican presidential candidate to face off against a Clinton, Bob Dole, is apparently all aboard the Donald Trump Express. And it hasn’t even been a full week since Trump secured the nomination.