This commentary originally appeared on The Hill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is the second most powerful figure in American government. Having worked for the House Democratic leadership under Speakers beginning with Tip O'Neill, I know better than many the balancing act Ryan must achieve between the interests of our country, the Republican Party, and his House Republican Conference.
Ryan has had a Trump problem for many months, but when Donald Trump said in Wednesday's presidential debate that he was not ready to state whether he would accept the results of the election, he was precipitating a major crisis for Ryan and other Republicans in the House and Senate.
Ryan is a highly principled conservative faced with a nominee who repeatedly violates core principles of true conservatism. He is a genuinely serious man trapped by his party's standard-bearer, who regularly says things that are neither true nor serious. He is a man of deep faith confronted by a presidential candidate who appears on tape bragging that he committed sexual aggression that is anathema to all religions, whose defense is that he was lying when he bragged about abusing women.
Considering the competing interests he must juggle as Speaker, in my view Ryan has acted intelligently and honorably up to this point. He has made his doubts about Donald Trump clear, refused to defend Trump on matters he finds disagreeable or reprehensible, and said that he will vote for the nominee of his party to be president.
It is easy for columnists and editorial boards to demand that Ryan completely renounce Trump and announce he cannot in conscience vote for him. But it is excruciatingly hard for a Speaker to go against a presidential nominee of his own party as the presidency, control of both houses of Congress and a Supreme Court majority hang in the balance.