WASHINGTON, July 21, 2016 — If Texas Sen. Ted Cruz thought he was going to be his generation’s Ronald Reagan, that notion is in history’s rearview mirror. Floor fights on Monday engineered by his delegate supporters and his continued refusal to honor his pledge to endorse the eventual nominee helped fuel the thunderous booing that hurried his exit off the convention stage.
Republican officials and convention delegates were filled with righteous anger, derision and disappointment after Cruz avoided giving the GOP presidential nominee a political thumb up. Trump’s family at the convention was visibly disappointed, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort said the Texas senator showed “very bad judgment.”
Cruz’s former friend and ally Roger Stone reviled the Texas senator’s conduct, calling him a “treacherous prick,” according to Politico. Other convention speakers were less strident but equally disappointed. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani labelled him as a “disloyal Republican,” while conservative radio host Laura Ingraham called Cruz’s speech “a shame.”
The narrative is of class vs. classlessness. Trump showed class by refusing to attack Cruz, holding his all too familiar Twitter fire. But Cruz and his political presidential 2020 ambitions were sent to the showers.
It could have been very different if Cruz had used his remarkable debating skills to litigate the case for Trump and against Hillary Clinton, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did. He missed his 1976 Reagan moment to demonstrate political strength by displaying grace as Reagan did to President Ford.
Instead, Ted Cruz dissed Trump at Trump’s convention, showing everyone the petulant adolescent at his emotional core. He could not rise above the primary battleground to ascend to a position of party leader, as Reagan so masterfully did when he unified the party with his 1976 convention speech.
Cruz, who had been in a self-imposed, preconvention timeout corner was still steamed that Trump had trumped his 2016 presidential ambition. Rather than follow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Christie, Dr. Ben Carson and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to endorse Trump, Cruz remained defiant.
On Thursday he claimed he was not going to back down from his previous rebuke of Trump. He told the Texas delegation at breakfast that he would never be a “servile puppy dog” while attesting that he did not utter a “single negative word” against the GOP presidential nominee.
But the thing that ignited the explosion of convention boos was what Cruz did not say, not what he actually said. He fully understands that presidential politics is political hardball. If his ego and his feelings were going to be bruised, he should have pursued a different life goal. This is the big leagues. The ability to stand the heat in the presidential primary kitchen would have benefited a future run if he had not decided to fold his tent as he did on stage.
Well Cruz, no political brownie points for you. Your silence is a betrayal of your pledge.
The day after his political implosion Cruz said, “”I’ll tell you the day that pledge was abrogated was the day this became personal—I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.”
Cruz’s love for his wife and father are wonderful, but his words ring hollow; he waited until the day after his unprofessional display of resentment against Trump to make that case. It would have been better to refuse to speak at the convention and retain some shred of his alleged principles.
He wanted to have it both ways. He grabbed the primetime limelight of a convention speech, then used the opportunity to smirk at the delegates with his refusal to endorse Trump. The result is that he and his actions appear disingenuous and laced with narcissism.
Cruz’s childish behavior was smoothed over by the next speaker, Newt Gingrich. The former speaker of the House performed a public service for those confused Cruz supporters who were left hanging by the Texas senator.
Gingrich claimed that Cruz’s non-endorsement of Trump was an endorsement. He said, “Now, I think you misunderstood one paragraph that Ted Cruz, who is a superb orator. And I just want to point it out to you. Ted Cruz said you can vote your conscience for anyone who will uphold the Constitution.”
Gingrich went on, “In this election, there is only one candidate who will uphold the Constitution. So, to paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the Constitution of the United States, the only possible candidate this fall is the Trump/Pence Republican ticket. That way we have a Republican ticket to impose Republican principles in Washington.”
Nice save, Newt. Perhaps he should be secretary of state. Trump, are you listening?