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Ryan: 'Disheartening' politics risks distrust of government

Posted at 6:37 AM, Mar 23, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — This year's political campaigns are discouraging and risk alienating people from government and dimming their hopes for the future, House Speaker Paul Ryan says in a speech aiming to describe "what politics can be."

The remarks by Ryan, R-Wis., come amid campaigns for each party's presidential nomination that have been particularly overheated on the Republican side. GOP front-runner Donald Trump and his party rivals have repeatedly belittled each other with personal insults, while the Democratic contest between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been less confrontational.

"Looking around at what's taking place in politics today, it is easy to get disheartened," Ryan says in excerpts released by his office ahead of a Wednesday speech. "How many of you find yourself just shaking your head at what you see from both sides?"

Ryan said that while skepticism is beneficial, "When people distrust politics, they come to distrust institutions. They lose faith in their government, and the future, too. We can acknowledge this. But we can't accept it. And we can't enable it either."

The speaker has remained officially neutral in his party's presidential contest so far, even as other GOP leaders have openly searched for ways to prevent Trump from clinching the nomination before the party's July convention in Cleveland.

He has publicly criticized Trump on three occasions without mentioning the billionaire's name: for calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants, failing to strenuously disavow his endorsement by a former Ku Klux Klan leader and fueling anger at political events.

Ryan, his party's 2012 vice presidential nominee, has said he is not interested in running for president should the current candidates falter. He said the same thing last fall but was eventually talked into becoming speaker after John Boehner, R-Ohio, was hounded from the post by conservatives.

In the excerpts, Ryan said he preferred to focus on "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," he said.

Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said congressional interns from both parties were being invited to the speech, "young minds getting their first taste of politics."

Ryan was scheduled to deliver his remarks from the hearing room of the House Ways and Means Committee, which he chaired briefly before becoming speaker.