Ted Cruz did it. The final capitulation. The heat down in Texas must have been unbearable on Senator Cruz. The threats of primary challenges in 2018 stood as an obstacle to his ultimate ambition of running against President Clinton in 2020. So Ted Cruz endorsed the man he quite accurately labeled a pathological liar--the man who humiliated his wife and slandered his father--showing again that the bounds of ambition exceed the bonds of family.
He cloaked his perfidy within the longest Facebook post imaginable. A tweet would have sufficed. Instead, Cruz went on... and on... falling back, ultimately, on the binary election logic that felled his compatriots. Marco Rubio laid it out eloquently when Rubio endorsed the man he had accused of being a con man: better a con man who stands for nothing than the Hillary Clinton that has been so diligently demonized by the Republican Party for so long. "By any measure," Ted Cruz declared--his famous ability to against the tide of Republican opinion escaping him--"Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable."
Some, like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, have convinced themselves that the man who envisions tax cuts estimated to cost between $2.6 and $5.9 trillion, while committed to massive increases in defense and non-defense spending, would nonetheless embrace the Ryan Plan budgets. Others assure themselves--with no evidence to support it--that when the time comes, Trump's thin skin and quick twitter finger will give way to a presidential demeanor and better judgement.
And so it is now with Ted Cruz. In his Facebook manifesto, Cruz points to the six key issues that made his choice necessary. The Supreme Court, of course is number one. Donald Trump has hung the Court over the GOP like a cudgel. Cruz was accurate in his assessment of the dangers Trump poses to the Republic, but all that is set aside in deference to Trump's promise "to appoint justices 'in the mold of Scalia."' The rest of Cruz's manifesto is little more than standard Republican talking points. Obamacare. Unleashing America's energy sector. Immigration. Terrorism. And finally, in the ultimate irony of a man issuing his political manifesto on Facebook, Internet freedom.
Cruz concludes with an Orwellian summation. "Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president... and Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way." Manifest unfitness to serve. This is an odd place for Cruz to stand his ground, as polling has consistently suggested that 60% of the public deems Trump unqualified to serve as president, while a comparable percent say Clinton is qualified. After many months of contemplation and prayer, it seems evident that Ted Cruz has decided to set aside his higher duty to the nation, and join that share of the electorate that is choosing to vote for a man they believe is unqualified to serve.
In the days before Ted Cruz offered his long-winded rationale for his final capitulation, another Republican holdout reached a different conclusion. Speaking with members of a board on which he serves, former President George H. W. Bush indicated that he would be voting for Hillary Clinton. Bush '41 is a forgotten man in the Republican pantheon. A patrician of the northeastern Republican tradition, he was part of, but never a true believer in, the Reagan Revolution. He opposed his son's military adventurism back when Donald Trump still supported it. But, most importantly, he was, and clearly remains, a believer in America and its role in the world.
It is in the international arena that Donald Trump presents the greatest risk for America. Perhaps he will surprise the world as President. Global adulation was over the top for Barack Obama, and he failed to live up to the unreachable hopes and dreams that were laid on his shoulders, and now global apprehension regarding a Trump presidency might be similarly beyond the bounds of reasonable pessimism. Perhaps, as in the upcoming debates, Donald Trump can only exceed expectations as President because the bar will be set so low.
But for George H. W. Bush, it is not enough to hope and pray that Trump is not who he appears to be--as many Republicans are doing today. Bush is enough of a realist to judge a man by his words and stated aspirations, and Donald Trump's words suggest a bleak future for the New World Order that George H. W. Bush did so much to create.
The first President Bush was among the principal architects of the world order that Donald Trump is running against. Bush worked in Washington during the Cold War, and imagined a world where the west and the nations behind the iron curtain would compete economically instead of through nuclear brinksmanship. And that is the world that has come to be, and one that has changed the face of our nation. Jeb Bush spoke his father's words in the Republican primaries, celebrating the globalized world and the energy that immigration brings to our country, while embracing the stern, pre-Trumpian GOP mantra that in this new world order workers and families facing economic competition must pull themselves up by their bootstraps, go back to school, and do whatever it takes to make the lives of the next generation better, if the current generate faces hardship.
President Bush could not buy anything that Donald Trump is selling. The fomenting of anti-immigration resentments, the victimhood of the core Trump electorate, the bleak portrait of America being sold by the New York billionaire, perhaps the blatant courting of radical right, and--more than anything--the mercantilist perspective that abdicates America's leading role in the world.
By all appearances, Ted Cruz capitulated to Donald Trump out of his own political self-interest, and yet it seems inevitable that in abdicating his principled stance, and showing political weakness and venality, he will be punished over time. Should Donald Trump lose, the repercussions within the GOP will be fierce, and Cruz's capitulation will cost him. Should Trump win, Cruz will become irrelevant to the party, to say nothing of being vulnerable to whatever vengeance Trump chooses to exact on him for his slanderous words. Trump is a man from the world of Jimmy Breslin, after all, a world where revenge is a dish best eaten cold.
Ted Cruz looked all the worse against the backdrop of Bush '41. George H. W. Bush was never appreciated as a man of principle, yet in this toughest of moments for Republicans, he showed his convictions. Cruz, on the other hand, has carefully cultivated his image as a man of principle, standing against the expediencies of the moment. He was facing was a lose-lose situation, and perhaps it would have cost him either way he played it. But if he didn't cry no mas as he did this week, at least then he could have moved on with his integrity intact.
Artwork by Jay Duret. Find him at jayduret.com.