Column: What is Paul Ryan thinking?

This is the kind of behavior from a likely nominee for the presidency that U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan has endorsed with his announcement that he’ll be voting for Donald Trump:

A candidate who tosses the cherished concept of judicial independence to the wind with his brash suggestion that someone “ought to look into” the federal judge who is hearing a civil case against him.

A candidate who believes that a private corporation, the PGA, that has chosen to move a tournament from a Trump-owned golf club in Miami to Mexico City in 2017, should face sanctions for making what appears to be a purely market-driven decision.

A candidate who believes that journalists are sleazy and “dishonest” for doing the standard vetting of a man who could well be the next president of the United States.

A candidate who subscribes to widely debunked conspiracy theories about, among other things, the current president’s citizenship and the tragic death of White House aide Vincent Foster that have rightly been consigned to the fringes of civilized conversation.

And, perhaps, worst of all, a candidate whose radioactive rhetoric about Latinos and other minorities has forced an otherwise capable and talented employee of the Republican National Committee, who happens to be Hispanic, to resign her position.

With his announcement, Speaker Ryan has also endorsed a travel ban on Muslims, the construction of a fanciful border wall on the southern border with Mexico, and a fantasy tax cut plan that would add $10 trillion to the deficit.

“I’ll be voting for @realDonaldTrump this fall. I’m confident he will help turn the House GOP’s agenda into laws,” Ryan tweeted on Thursday, after Hamlet-ing around for a month on whether to back the real estate mogul and presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

Ryan told his hometown newspaper Thursday that he and Trump had spoken at length about “how, by focusing on issues that unite Republicans, we can work together to heal the fissures developed through the primary.”

“Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall,” Ryan said.

But not all Republicans are backing Trump - notably 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

And the prospect of a unified GOP coalescing around his candidacy, either before the party’s national convention in Cleveland in July, or in its wake, seems optimistic, at best.

And it would be one thing if Ryan were just some rank-and-file member of Congress.

But he is not.

In addition to being the head of House Republicans, Ryan is chairman of the Republican National Convention. And he is a man who sits second in line, behind only Vice President Joe Biden, to the presidency of the United States of America.

The Wisconsin Republican speaks with an outsized voice.

So Ryan’s singular act of appeasement in the face of the Trump juggernaut sends a loud and clear message about the kind of rhetoric that Republicans are willing to accept in trade for hanging onto the House of Representatives and securing their thin margin in the United States Senate.

Instead of breaking with other establishment Republicans, Ryan, threw in with a man who has pushed what used to be racist, dog-whistle language from the darkness where it belongs, to the center of our civil debate.

Ryan has thrown in with a man who, with his support for a travel ban on the members of one of world’s largest religions, has cast aside the very religious freedoms that Republicans claim to staunchly defend.

And he has thrown in with a candidate who believes the separation of powers enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, are merely a suggestion.

And all this for the chimera that is party unity?

Paul Ryan, what were you thinking?

John L. Micek is an award-winning political journalist, the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at jmicek@pennlive.com.