Cruz holds his nose but can’t en­dorse Trump

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ruth Mar­cus

— 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-

CLEVE­LAND

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 ruth­mar­cus@wash­post.com.

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