Cruz holds his nose but can’t endorse Trump
— Ted Cruz, vanquished presidential candidate, coughed up the name of the man who defeated him for the Republican nomination precisely once in his convention speech Wednesday night. “I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination,” the Texas senator managed to choke out. Then, in a line not contained in the prepared text, “And like each of you I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November.”
From there, Cruz’s speech was notable not for the predictable attacks on President Obama and Hillary Clinton — indeed, by the lock-herup standards of the Repub-
lican convention here, Cruz sounded positively, uncharacteristically mild — but for its resounding silence on his party’s nominee, a man he had described as a “pathological liar,” a “narcissist” and “utterly amoral.”
If anything, the speech was pregnant with implicit noseholding, if not tacit condemnation, of Trump.
As in: “We’re fighting, not for one particular candidate or one campaign, but because each of us wants to be able to tell our kids and grandkids ... that we did our best for their future and our country.” Um, so would that be voting for President Trump?
As in: “We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect, from everybody.” Um, so Trump lived up to that standard, or not?
As in: “And to those listen- ing, please, don’t stay home in November. If you love our country and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.” Um, so would you include Trump in that, Sen. Cruz?
Magnanimous this was not. Graciousness is not a quality normally associated with Cruz, but, then again, Trump’s primary campaign behavior, baselessly insinuating that Cruz’s father was associated with Lee Harvey Oswald, was so despicable as to evoke that rarest of sentiments: sympathy for Cruz.
Yet if Cruz’s inability to go beyond the most perfunctory of congratulations was understandable, more befuddling was the Trump campaign’s willingness not only to tolerate this behavior but also to feature it in prime time. Indeed, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort told reporters earlier in the day that while he hadn’t yet seen Cruz’s remarks, “his words will leave no doubt that he wants Donald Trump to be president of the United States.” Not exactly.
This convention has been notable for the awkward lukewarmness with which party leaders have treated Trump. Still, the Cruz nonendorsement was a remarkable departure from standard operating procedure for a defeated candidate.
Compare and contrast the remarks of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who preceded Cruz: “A vote for anyone other than Donald Trump in November is a vote for Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Compare and contrast even the video remarks — make that video snippet — from “Liddle Marco” Rubio. “The time for fighting each other is over,” the senator from Florida said, ticking off the fundamental policy differences between Trump on one hand and Clinton/ Obama on the other.
Except you don’t have to be Machiavelli to understand that President Trump taking the oath of office in January 2017 would interfere with the prospect of President Cruz doing the same four years later. It was impossible to watch him as he prepared to speak Wednesday night and not imagine the thought bubble hovering above his head: “Coulda. Shoulda. Maybe still could.”
At the start, the delegates seemed to love it. By the time Cruz got to his call to back candidates up and down the ticket without a mention of Trump, boos had erupted in the hall. If Cruz had imag- ined a reception akin to what greeted Ronald Reagan when he non-endorsed Gerald Ford at the 1976 convention but hailed the party platform of “bold, unmistakable colors,” he was sorely disappointed. Mr. Popularity in the Senate wasn’t winning that contest in Quicken Loans Arena either.
The morning after, Cruz wasn’t any more conciliatory. “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” he proclaimed, which raised the question: so what we he doing there, exactly? And, again, what were the Trump people thinking, to allow this to happen, and upstage the message of their vice presidential nominee? This was an episode in which both sides — Cruz and Trump — lost.
From my point of view, not a bad outcome.
Ruth Marcus is a syndicated columnist. Contact her at email@example.com.