I have been traveling a lot since Wednesday and so have not been blogging and only occasionally catching up with news. This sporadic blogging will continue until I return home.
When I found time to catch up recent events, the big news politically was of course Ted Cruz’s extraordinary speech at the Republican National Convention where he not only refrained from endorsing Donald Trump, he went so far as to urge people to ‘vote their conscience’. By itself, voting one’s conscience is what anyone should do in any election so it should not be controversial. But in this context, it was clearly meant to suggest that people not vote for Trump, a curious call at an event that was meant to be a springboard to propel the party candidate towards the general election.
The strong reaction to that speech cast a long shadow over Trump’s acceptance speech the next day. It was hardly surprising that Cruz was booed and his wife even had to be escorted by security out of the convention hall.
Cruz’s rebuke ignited a hot scene around the senator as soon as he left the stage. People averted their eyes from Cruz and his wife as they walked with their security detail on the skybox level of boisterous Republicans.
On the donor suite level, people approached Cruz and insulted him, a source told CNN’s Dana Bash. One state party chair reacted so angrily that they had to be restrained.
Cruz, who has long sought the support of GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, was turned away when he tried to enter Adelson’s suite.
So what drove Cruz to do what he did? To understand it, we can safely start with the assumption that seems to be manifestly supported by his entire life and that he is a man of immense ambition and ego and arrogance. He clearly thinks that he should be president and so we have to analyze his moves in that light.
He has clearly gambled that Trump will lose the general election and he is hoping that he will lose big. In the event that happens, he must have calculated that the ruthless post-mortem that accompanies big defeats will have the party agree that Trump was a poor candidate who not only was reckless and ran an awful campaign but that he was not a true conservative. He must be hoping that the party will then turn to a real conservative who not only came second this time but was not willing to abandon his conservative principles in order to support Trump, thus distinguishing himself from potential rivals like Marco Rubio and Chris Christie and the others who swallowed their pride and endorsed Trump after being ridiculed by him.
But there is a danger in that strategy. The party might rue having chosen Trump but they might feel that Cruz’s betrayal was partly responsible for the loss. Cruz has few friends in the party establishment as it is. But now he would also have earned the deep enmity of Trump’s anti-party establishment supporters and it is likely that they will harbor grudges against him. Of course, if Trump does win, he is unlikely to forgive and forget Cruz’s betrayal since Trump’s history suggests that he also turns against those who turn on him.
Cruz did have the option of simply lying low and doing nothing and simply hoping for Trump’s campaign to crash and burn. To not speak at all at the convention would have been a safer strategy. So why did he actively seek out a prime convention speaking slot, knowing that he would be angering pretty much everyone in attendance? Here I have to think that Trump’s highly personal attacks on him, his wife, and his father really did get under his skin and the desire for public revenge on Trump overcame a more prudent strategy of quietly undermining him. His post-speech comments seem to support that view.
Ted Cruz on Thursday strongly defended his refusal to endorse Donald Trump during his Republican National Convention speech, saying he’s not “in the habit” of backing politicians who attack his family.
“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Cruz said at a morning meeting where he faced sharp questions from the Texas delegation in Cleveland.
Cruz stood by his decision in a remarkable 25-minute back-and-forth with his own constituents, defying appeals from his own Texas delegation to put the party above his inhibitions and back Trump.
A more puzzling question is why Trump’s team allowed Cruz to speak at all without getting a prior endorsement from him. They seemed to be blindsided by his speech which suggests that Cruz must have given them the impression that at least a lukewarm support would be forthcoming. And since all speakers have to submit their speeches early to be vetted and have it included in the teleprompters, did no one notice what Cruz was going to say? Sometimes the written word can be made to sound something different by the way it is delivered. Were Trump’s speechwriters so busy putting out the plagiarism fire started by Melania Trump that they did not pick up on the nuances in Cruz’s speech?
Whatever the case, Cruz has burned even more of the few bridges that he had left with the party. Even his former big backer Sarah Palin has condemned him, calling his speech ‘career ending’. If Cruz is to have a political future, he must now set about making sure that his re-election campaign for the US Senate in 2018 is not imperiled by a primary challenge within the party.