From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:
Who Says Political Conventions Are Boring? Ted Cruz Shocked the World.
The delegates in Cleveland wanted an endorsement. The crowd expected an endorsement. The crowd believed an endorsement was coming.
And Ted Cruz, the guy who’s proven again and again he’ll do what he thinks is right, whether people love it or hate it, for better or worse… refused to give them one. And the reaction was apoplectic.
Now, we can argue whether that was the right thing to do in that time and place. I’m surprised by the number of people who think this was a political calculation on Cruz’s part, to set up some 2020 ambitions. By almost any measure, Cruz’s life and future ambitions are easier if he follows some version of the Scott Walker and Marco Rubio path, to say he has some serious differences with Trump, but the Republican nominee is better than Hillary Clinton, so now is the time for all Republicans to unite, etcetera.
And yet he didn’t. There shouldn’t be that much wild speculation about Cruz’s motive. Occum’s razor: Ted Cruz doesn’t think Trump has earned his endorsement, feels endorsing him would be a lie, and he’s not willing to go in front of the country and tell them to vote for a man he thinks is unworthy of the presidency. You can say, “but the GOP primary voters decided he is” until you’re blue in the face, and Cruz won’t agree.
He’s Rorschach from the Watchmen – “Never compromise, not even in the face of Armageddon.”
But why is everyone so surprised? Trump nicknames him “Lyin’ Ted,” argues he’s a Canadian ineligible for the presidency, retweets an image mocking his wife’s appearance and suggests his dad had a role in killing JFK, and never apologizes for any of it… and the Trump team is surprised Cruz didn’t endorse him?
Why were they and the RNC so surprised by a text they saw beforehand? Trump’s chief strategist, Jason Johnson, contends they weren’t. “Since it’s obvious the shock is contrived, let me ask: What the Hell did they expect from the son of the man who killed JFK? Lighten up.”
The reaction has been fascinating. People who can’t stand Ted Cruz or weren’t fans are saying they have to give him credit; people who voted for him are declaring on Twitter they’re ashamed of their vote. I keep hearing people say Cruz’s decision was selfish. The problem with this assessment is that it only pays off for him under one scenario. If Trump wins the presidency, Cruz’s life in the Senate is going to be miserable. If Trump loses narrowly, Cruz turns into the face of the GOP holdouts and he becomes a convenient scapegoat. Only in a scenario where Trump loses badly, and the party broadly agrees that nominating him was a terrible mistake, does Cruz look like the guy who was trying to take away the keys from a drunk driver.
Wednesday night is going to be one of those nights that political junkies talk about for a long time. Ted Cruz’s decision was bold, reckless, politically stupid, brave, principled, divisive, gutsy and vindictive, all the same time. If you’ve spent the last couple years complaining that all politicians are spineless hacks who only follow the weather-vane and refuse to stand on principles, you’ve got no reason to complain this morning.
Newt Gingrich came out moments later, and actually tried to explain that Cruz had really made an endorsement of Trump. No, Mr. Speaker, see, we actually saw and heard that speech, and we didn’t miss any subtle subtext. It wasn’t the Dead Sea Scrolls.