I find it nothing short of hilarious how so many seasoned political journalists (including many of my colleagues — and betters — at Fox) are visibly shocked and appalled by what Cruz did last night. Ever since I was a kid, the political press — left, right, and center — has whined that there’s no drama at conventions any more. It’s all scripted. It’s just an infomercial. It’s just such a shame.
Well here comes Ted Cruz providing exactly the sort of drama they yearned for and many of these same voices are aghast at Ted Cruz’s effrontery. The word has gone out across the land: This is an outrage! Not since Caligula appointed his horse to the Roman senate has a political figure showed such contempt for decorum and the solemnity of politics! Last night and this morning, across the news channels, I’ve watched many people I respect — and a great many more I don’t — talk about what a sore loser Cruz is.
There are two things to say about that. First, many of these people are willingly buying into Manafort’s stagecraft. The Trump team knew about the speech beforehand. The outrage on the floor may have ended up being genuine, but it started out manufactured. I understand that Chris Christie will spew whatever fake outrage his masters instruct, like a trained seal barking for another herring. But I don’t see why so many supposedly seasoned political observers are volunteering for service.
Second, what the hell are people talking about? This is part of the corruption of Trump. He called Ted Cruz a liar every day and in every way for months (it used to be considered a breach in decorum to straight up call an opponent a liar, never mind use it as a nickname). The insults against his wife, the cavalier birtherism, the disgusting JFK-assassination theories about his dad: These things are known. And yet the big conversation of the day is Ted Cruz’s un-sportsmanlike behavior? For real? But forget Cruz for a moment. For over a year, Trump has degraded politics in some of the most vile ways. His respect for the Republican party as the home of conservatism is on par with Napoleon’s respect for churches when he converted them into stables.
But that’s okay because he’s Trump. He’s a “winner.” And now that he’s the nominee, the Smart Set and the Mob is telling me that Cruz is the outrageous violator of norms and good manners. Let’s all look down our noses at the sore loser everybody, as we bend the knee and make every apology possible for the sorest, most ungracious winner in American history. When I watch Trump’s kitchen cabinet of yes men rise from their “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” prostrations just long enough to talk about Cruz’s self-interestedness, I have to laugh. Where’s your shinebox, Governor Christie?
Ted Cruz has never been my favorite politician. And I am not so naïve that I don’t recognize the gamble Cruz is making.
But if the choice is between forgiving Ted Cruz’s obvious political calculation to become the standard bearer of an authentic conservatism or Donald Trump’s lizard-brain narcissism where no principle or cause outranks his own glandular desire to be worshipped like a conqueror atop the carcass of conservatism, I choose Ted.
If the choice is between, say, congratulating the Boy Scoutish obedience of Mike Pence as he sells off bits and pieces of his soul like jewels from a family heirloom just to survive another day or Ted Cruz, who took the tougher road and refused to join the mewling mobs of toadies, apologists, human weathervanes, difference-splitters, and vacillators, I choose Ted.
If the choice is between suspending the rules of decorum, decency, and civility for Donald Trump as he casually badmouths his own country to the New York Times just as he secures the presidential nomination of the Republican party or accepting that we are in dark and uncharted waters and conscience must light the way, I choose Ted.