Ryan's ridiculous and restrictive convention rule
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanZaid Jilani: Paul Ryan worried about culture war distracting from issues 'that really concern him' The Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes GOP establishment's lack of power The Hill's 12:30 Report - Senators back in session after late-night hold-up MORE (R-Wis.) has made it official with these words: "Let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination for our party."

Now, he said the same thing about being Speaker of the House, but this time he supposedly means it. For some, the Ryan "candidacy" was intended to be the ultimate "Stop Trump" and "Stop Cruz" move. The Ryan boomlet was blunt recognition that Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been a real live candidate from the start, has no realistic chance of ever getting enough delegates to become the actual nominee of the Republican Party. Now, whether Ryan actually holds to his pledge not to be the nominee is fodder for future comment.


The GOP convention starts on July 18 in Cleveland. There is time for Ryan to dramatically change his mind before that date. Or more likely, if no candidate gets the required 1,237 delegates on the first ballot and there is "chaos in Cleveland," Ryan could enter the fray as the providential savior.

But I am not going to use this valuable space to speculate on Ryan's inner motives or potential strategies.

What concerns me is his other pointed remarks about the role and purpose of the Republican delegates who will vote at the GOP convention. Before I get into that, it must be stated that Ryan will be presiding at the convention as its chairman. That position requires that he be neutral about the deliberations in which the delegates partake. His statement on Tuesday that he would push for a rule that delegates must vote for someone who ran for president is absolutely absurd.

There are already enough restrictions on the delegates' freedom of choice; Ryan's proposed restriction further reduces their role as free agents and profoundly diminishes their status and position. Sorry, I have this dreamy concept that a delegate to any political convention make his or her decision based on individual free will, comparable to members of the U.S. House or Senate.

Some weeks back, I wrote a column suggesting a swath of names that could be considered for the Republican nomination. I asked Pete Teeley, former GOP strategist and former press secretary to Vice President George H.W. Bush and Senator Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.), if he could think of anyone not in the mix. He confessed he could not. So be it.

Maybe there is a 2016 version of 1940 GOP nominee Wendell Willkie, an enlightened titan of commerce with no visible sins who could be recruited and drafted to run.

But back to Ryan's terrible suggestion that delegates be bound to only those who have run. Would that mean that the delegates could only vote for the remaining three candidates, even if no candidate gets the required 1,237 on the first ballot? On each successive ballot, their choices would only be Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden tries to erase Trump's 'America First' on world stage Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot MORE (Texas) or Kasich. That's ridiculous!

Ryan is not performing the role of party statesman. He should stop making recommendations that stipulate delegate behavior. Get out of the way, don't meddle or interfere and let the delegates make their choices without limitations of any kind! I believe Ryan wants, above all, not to anger the people who voted for Trump and Cruz. But that should not be his goal or function. Stop pandering to one constituency; let the cards fall where they may. The convention is a distinct phase. Let it play out in its own time and way. A GOP convention that asserts its own distinct purpose would be a wonderful thing to watch.

The delegates are not, and should not be, robots or potted plants. They are players and participants in democracy. Don't stifle them.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.