WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday decried ugliness and divisiveness in American politics, delivering a veiled but passionate rebuke to GOP front-runner Donald Trump and to the nasty tone of politics as played on both sides of the aisle.
‘‘When passions flare, ugliness is sometimes inevitable. But we shouldn’t accept ugliness as the norm,’’ Ryan told an invited audience of congressional interns on Capitol Hill.
‘‘If someone has a bad idea, we tell them why our idea is better. We don’t insult them into agreeing with us,’’ he said.
The Wisconsin Republican never mentioned Trump’s name or that of any other candidate, Republican or Democratic. But his targets were clear in a campaign season that’s featured insults, sucker punches, and near-riots as often as substantive policy debates.
‘‘We are slipping into being a divisive country,’’ he said. ‘‘If we’re going to keep this beautiful American experiment going, we’re going to have to stay unified.’’
Some of Ryan’s comments nearly echoed remarks last week from President Obama, who voiced dismay at the violence and ‘‘vulgar and divisive rhetoric’’ of this presidential race, and issued a plea for civility.
Still, Democrats wasted no time in criticizing Ryan’s speech, noting that while remaining officially neutral in his party’s presidential primary, Ryan has repeatedly promised to back the eventual GOP nominee. The speaker has also avoided any outright denunciation of Trump even while criticizing several of the businessman’s more extreme positions, such as barring Muslims from entering the country.
In the most striking part of his speech, Ryan was self-critical, saying that he should not have referred to the “makers and takers” in society when he was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012.
“As I spent more time listening, and really learning the root causes of poverty, I realized I was wrong,” said Ryan, who has made attacking poverty a central goal of the House.
Muslim communities react to Cruz call for patrols
ANAHEIM, Calif. — A few miles from Disneyland is a place most tourists never see. The signs along the thoroughfare suddenly switch to Arabic script advertising hookah shops, Middle Eastern sweets, and halal meat.
At a run-down strip mall in the neighborhood known as Little Arabia, flags from a half-dozen Muslim countries flap in a stiff breeze. Flying above them is a giant American flag.
After Senator Ted Cruz called for law enforcement to be empowered to ‘‘patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,’’ many people in this community and others like it either challenged the Republican presidential candidate or dismissed his comments as mostly meaningless rhetoric.
Ahmad Tarek Rashid Alam, publisher of the weekly Arab World newspaper and one of the immigrants who helped build Little Arabia, said anti-Muslim statements are ‘‘nothing new.’’
‘‘This has been going on in every Islamic neighborhood for years,’’ he said. ‘‘But now our kids are in the police, in the Army. Are they going to watch us?’’
Muslims groups including the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Anti-Defamation League condemned Cruz’s statements, which were made in reaction to the terrorist attacks in Brussels Tuesday. Many Muslims said that the extremist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and the intensifying rhetoric of the presidential campaign, have steadily ratcheted up animosity against them.
The criticism of Cruz’s comments also extended to some corners of law enforcement, particularly in New York City, where Cruz campaigned Wednesday.
“He doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about, to be frank with you,” New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said on “CBS This Morning.’’ “I have almost a thousand Muslim officers in the NYPD. Ironically, when he’s running around here, we probably have a few Muslim officers guarding him [Cruz].”
Collins having little luck getting hearing for Garland
BANGOR, Maine — Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine acknowledged Wednesday that she’s not having much luck in swaying members of her own party to hold a hearing on President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. But she’s hopeful they'll come around.
Collins said she’s encouraged that Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley agreed to meet with Judge Merrick Garland.
‘‘I hope that as time goes on, and as people sit down with Judge Garland and talk to him one-on-one, that perhaps there will be a shift in the position of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee,’’ she told a Maine Public Broadcasting Network call-in program. She reiterated her view that the Senate should follow the ‘‘normal process.’’
Led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Grassley, Republican of Iowa, most Republicans say the late Justice Antonin Scalia won’t be replaced until the next president picks a nominee.
Collins said the president has followed the Constitution in making a nomination and that it’s ‘‘not fair and not right’’ for senators to refuse to give consideration to Garland.
Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania became the latest GOP senator to say he'll meet with Garland but said he’ll tell him the Senate won’t fill the vacancy until a new president is elected.