WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) -- House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized the rhetoric and tone of American politics in a speech Wednesday, saying Americans cannot lose faith in their government.
Using the House Ways and Means Committee meeting room, where he served as committee chairman before becoming speaker, Ryan, R-Wis., used generalities to denounce the distrust between the executive and legislative branches, as well as the chaotic Republican presidential race. Although he has been critical of GOP candidate Donald Trump's actions, notably his call for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States, Ryan carefully avoided naming names in his speech.
"Looking around at what's taking place in politics today, it is easy to get disheartened. How many of you find yourself just shaking your head at what you see from both sides? Now, a little skepticism is healthy... (but) when people distrust politics, they come to distrust institutions."
"I have made it a mission of my speakership to raise our gaze and aim for a brighter horizon. Instead of talking about what politics is today, I want to talk about what politics can be. I want to talk about what our country can be."
Ryan has been seen by some as the conservative antidote to the unorthodox Trump, though Ryan is not a candidate and has distanced himself from any consideration for the GOP nomination should delegates to the Republican National Convention fail to determine a candidate on the first ballot.
Taking questions Wednesday after his speech from an audience composed largely of younger government staffers, he slammed "politics that is degrading, that's going to the bone" and talked of using leadership, including that of Congress, to "raise our game" and "talk about ideas (and) not trade insults." He also praised his Washington mentor, former Rep. Jack Kemp, for his "passion and optimism."