The Passion of the Cruz. Or how Ted overcame his martyr complex.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, marks the start of his presidential campaign by giving the convocation address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Monday, Photographer: Jay Paul/Bloomberg

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz marks the start of his presidential campaign by giving the convocation address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Photographer: Jay Paul/Bloomberg

Good morning Austin:

Ever since Ted Cruz was booed off the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, I have thought that Cruz had a martyr complex.

Sure, he would have preferred to have received a thunderous ovation and have the convention, swept up in his oratory, change its mind and, by acclamation, nominate him instead of Donald Trump.

But short of that, I suspected he took a certain pleasure in all that negative attention and all those boos, for having all that abuse heaped upon him for having the courage to deliver this seemingly innocuous, unassailable line.

Please, don’t stay home in November. If you love our country and love our children as much as I know that you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience. Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.

I have told people about my Cruz martyr complex theory and no one seems to agree that Cruz took any pleasure in being booed.

But I’m not ready to let it go.

I mean here is a man who has built his political and Senate career on being a man apart, the lonely courageous Ayn Rand hero, one pure voice, one Godly individual, one courageous constitutional conservative, standing alone against the forces of evil, and, if necessary, paying a dear and painful price for his steadfastness.

Sure, he would have to figure as the boos rained down on him, the next few months would be tough, but hey, martyrdom has its price.

And, when it was all over, he would be the last man of conscience standing.

It had the makings of the perfect presidential ad for 2020.

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The ad would open with Cruz’s noble words about conscience, the cascade of boos and hoots of derision, the deep-voiced narrator intoning, “At a time when other politicians were taking the easy, opportunistic path, Ted Cruz told the truth and stood tall for constitutional conservative principles and Christian values. He invited the scorn of his own party, but Ted Cruz never wavered.”

Nice.

But that ad is now on the scrap heap. Doesn’t really work if you stood strong  for a sum total of two months before casting conscience to the wind and bowing down and pledging obeisance to the same false idol – an idolator short and a day late.

As of Friday, Cruz’s time on the cross has ended. If he had a martyr complex, he’s worked through it and overcome it. With a Facebook post he announced he was endorsing Trump and explained why.

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Ted Cruz shakes hands after his appearance at the Texas Tribune Festival Saturday

From Erica Grieder at Texas Monthly under the headline, Ted Cruz Caves:

First, both of the reasons Cruz gave for his decision, in a statement he posted on Facebook Friday afternoon—that he signed a pledge and that Hillary Clinton is unacceptable—are demonstrably ridiculous. Even if you agree that Clinton is more “unacceptable” than Trump, and that a pledge made to the Republican National Committee should take precedence over one’s oath of office and one’s repeated promises to work for the 27 million people of Texas, it remains the case that Cruz signed the pledge last year and could have known, months ago, that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. If those are his real reasons for endorsing Trump, in other words, he would have done so at the Republican National Convention, in July. In fact, he would have done so in May, at the Republican Party of Texas convention instead of refusing to do so in our interview.

His answer effectively precluded him from endorsing either Clinton or Trump; I noted that at the time, and he didn’t disagree. Beyond that, multiple sources close to Cruz confirmed to me, last week, that he was considering an endorsement. Every single one of them cited external pressure. There was some disagreement about the source of the pressure, but none of them had changed their minds about Trump, and none of them suggested that Cruz had done so. In other words, Cruz’s assessment of Trump’s merits relative to Clinton’s hasn’t changed; what’s changed is his assessment of the relative risks of refusing to endorse Trump.

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In an appearance at the Texas Tribune Festival, Cruz elaborated on his thinking. From my story.

Cruz said it was not the threats or entreaties of the powerful that persuaded him to endorse Trump.

“I’ve heard from a great many grass-roots supporters across the state, Republicans and tea party activists, people who are good, principled, honorable patriots who are tearfully begging me to support the nominee,” Cruz said. “If people from Washington are smacking me with a stick, that doesn’t bother me. To be honest, it actually tells me I might be doing something right. But I tell you, when you hear the voices of the grass-roots activists who believe with all their heart in the principles I believe in, those are the voices that have moved me. “

That’s leadership by followership.

While Cruz kept saying that he could not now, in good conscience, not support Trump over Hillary Clinton,  his description here is not of an act of conscience but an act of political self-interest.

It’s as if Jesus, when confronted with the mob about to stone the woman caught in adultery, had said, “You know, I was going to say that “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” But, after talking to y’all, who believe with all your heart in the principles I believe in, I’ve done some soul-searching, and if you think it’s best to stone her, well, fire away. Anyway, she’s a loser.

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The point here is that Ted Cruz’s relationship with Donald Trump has from the get-go has been about Cruz’s political self-interest, and it was only when that self-interest no longer fit with a fawning relationship with Trump, that Cruz found Trump to be morally offensive.

Because there is really nothing we know about the essential Donald Trump that wasn’t apparent from the day he announced for president – nothing except the fact that he would prove so successful.

But Ted Cruz, alone among Trump’s opponents, repeatedly flattered and praised and came to Trump’s defense, until Trump turned on Cruz with a vengeance.

Only Cruz, among Trump’s rivals, found his announcement statement with his talk about Mexican rapists pouring into the country, edifying.

“When it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific. I think he’s brash. I think he speaks the truth,” Cruz said during an interview on Fox and Friends in late June.

 

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And Cruz stood alone the next month when he refused to criticize Trump for mocking John McCain’s credentials as a war hero.

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From CNN on July 18.

For his part, Cruz told reporters he considers McCain “a friend” whom he respects and admires.
“Not only did he sign up to defend our nation, putting his life in harm’s way, but when he was a POW, he was imprisoned, tortured, and most incredibly, he was offered the opportunity for early release, he was offered the opportunity to go home, and he turned it down because he believed it would be dishonorable to accept that.”
But he declined to speak ill of his presidential rival, with whom he met earlier this week in New York after becoming the most notable 2016 hopeful to side with Trump over his controversial remarks on immigration. Instead, Cruz on Saturday blamed the media for trying to pit Republicans against each other.
 “You know I recognize that folks in the press love to see Republican-on-Republican violence, and so you want me to say something bad about Donald Trump, or bad about John McCain or bad about anyone else,” he said. “I’m not going to do it.”

From Bloomberg TV:

Mark Halperin: I’m trying to understand what separates you from some of the others who feel this is sort of beyond the pale.

Cruz: I’m not going to engage in the media’s game of bashing another Republican candidate.

OK, so the plan was to run for the Republican nomination for president without criticizing his rivals? Really?

This is Ted Cruz, whose essential identity was the man denouncing virtually every other Republican in the Senate, with the exception of Mike Lee, as RINOs, Quislings and quitters, who plotted the demise of House Speaker John Boehner, and who, within a week of the statement above about not refusing to speak ill of another Republican, was calling Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor.

The Cruz-Trump bromance, which Cruz so assiduously cultivated, lasted a long time.

Until Trump crossed a line, and aggressively went after Cruz on the question of whether his Canadian birth might disqualify him from serving as president. (Cruz was not so concerned about the infinitely more far-fetched questions Trump had raised for years about Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president.)

 

In other words, Donald Trump jumped the shark when he did to Ted Cruz what he had done to every single other rival, back when Cruz thought Trump was “terrific.”

But, what really ripped it for Cruz were an unflattering photo of his wife, Heidi, that Trump retweeted.

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And, especially, Trump’s insinuation, on the day of the Indiana primary, that Cruz’s father, Rafael, was linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, based on a ridiculous National Enquirer story.

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But, let’s look back at that moment.

This is Rafael Cruz in Indiana:

I exhort every member of the body of Christ to vote according to the word of God and vote for the candidate who stands on the word of God and on the Constitution of the United States of America.

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And I am convinced that that man is  my son, Ted Cruz.

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The alternative could be the destruction of America.

 

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Trump, who is on the phone as this tape is being played for him, is asked by Fox host Ainsley Earhardt, “Does that resonate with the folks in Indiana?”

TRUMP: I think it’s a disgrace that he’s allowed to do it. I think it’s a disgrace he’s allowed to say it. You know I’m backed by, you look at Jerry Falwell Jr., you look at so many of the ministers backing me, and they’re backing me more so than they are backing Cruz. and I’m winning the evangelical vote and it’s disgraceful that his father could go out and do that, and so many people are angry about it, and the evangelicals are angry about it and the way he does that, and there’s a whole thing. And you know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald.

And, you know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. I mean they don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it. But I think it’s horrible. I think it’s absolutely horrible that a man can go and do that, what he’s saying there.

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Right. There was a picture out there that reportedly shows Rafael Cruz standing with Lee Harvey Oswald —

TRUMP: I mean what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting? It’s horrible.

KILMEADE: Crazy.

Crazy indeed.

But, keep in mind, the morning of the ultimately decisive Indiana primary, Trump, thin-skinned narcissist and world-class hyperbolist, is confronted with only the latest evidence that Rafael Cruz is going around the country telling evangelical Chrisitans that God wants them to vote for Ted Cruz, and that if they vote for Donald Trump, God may destroy America, and Trump, the renowned counterpuncher, counter punches.

I mean which is more out there – that Rafael Cruz knew Lee Harvey Oswald or that God will destroy America if Ted Cruz is not elected president?

 

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This from Brieitbart’s Dan Riehl on April 19, on a Rafael Cruz interview with Stephen Bannon, who is now the CEO of the Trump campaign.

Rafael Cruz: Donald Trump ‘Would Be Worse Than Hillary Clinton, But He Cannot Beat Hillary Clinton

Citing GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s long history of supporting “ultra-liberal” Democrats, Rafael Cruz, father of Ted Cruz, told Breitbart News Daily SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon that as president Donald Trump “would be worse than Hillary Clinton, but he cannot beat Hillary Clinton.”

“We’ve got to realize, Donald Trump is more of a Democrat than a Republican,” Cruz said. “He has been funding Democrats like Chuck Schumer, like Harry Reid, like Anthony Weiner, like de Blasio and many others. For forty years he has been supporting all these ultra-liberal politicians. He would be worse than Hillary Clinton, but he cannot beat Hillary Clinton.”

“It’s very simple. All they have to do is look at the polls,” he said in response to those who think Trump might be a stronger candidate against Hillary Clinton. “Poll after poll after poll after poll after poll shows that if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, he loses to Hillary Clinton by double digits. Donald Trump cannot beat Hillary Clinton. That would be the dream ticket for Hillary Clinton because all the polls show that Donald Trump would lose and would lose by a landslide.”

As for the convention and the GOP nomination, Cruz predicted his son will win on a second of third ballot once delegates sent by voters to Cleveland deserted Trump. “I think that this is going to go to the convention. And if Donald Trump does not get 1,237 — and I don’t believe he will — he will lose at the convention. I believe that my son will get the nomination, if not by the second ballot, maybe by the third ballot.”

“As we get into the convention and delegates are released, we’ll see Sen. Cruz’s support increase more and more. And I am convinced that he will get the nomination,” he continued.

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He also went on to make the general case for his son versus “dealmaker” Donald Trump at length.

“Liberalism is not the answer and neither is Donald Trump. We need to realize that we are in the problems we are today because of all these corrupt politicians. We don’t really need a deal maker. We are where we are in America today because of all the corrupt deals that have been made behind closed doors at the expense of the American people. And Donald Trump represents the other spectrum of that. Donald Trump is the one, or one of the ones that have been funding all these corrupt politicians. He is the other end of the corruption. He is the ultimate crony capitalist,” he said.

“We don’t need a deal maker. We don’t need a bully. We don’t need another imperial president like we have today. We need a statesman. We need someone that will take America back to the Constitution, to the rule of law, to limited government,” he said. “We need, more than anything else, we need a servant of ‘we the people.’”

“If there’s one thing Sen. Cruz understands, it’s servant leadership. He understands that he would go to the White House to be a servant to every American,” he added.

 

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And, from Rosie Gray at BuzzFeed on the last day of Cruz’s campaign.

INDIANAPOLIS — Ted Cruz has almost reached the bottom of his bag of tricks.

Casting the primary as literally a battle between good and evil, Cruz has pulled out all the stops ahead of Indiana, naming Carly Fiorina as his running mate, making a non-aggression pact with John Kasich, and aggressively barnstorming the state in the final hours, much as he did in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses.

Cruz has hung on in the Republican primary longer than anyone predicted, emerging as the last viable alternative to Donald Trump and the unlikely figurehead of a movement of anti-Trump Republicans hoping to stop the billionaire’s rise. But for those anti-Trump Republicans, tonight will be a reckoning — and after this, there may not be any options. Should Trump win on Tuesday night, as he is expected to do, it’s very likely he will be able to clinch the nomination outright in California next month.

“I believe in the people of the Hoosier state,” Cruz told an audience in La Porte on Sunday night. Cruz has repeatedly said that the primary is a pivotal moment on which the entire campaign rests, raising the stakes for himself. “I believe that the men and women gathered here and the goodness of the American people, that we will not give into evil but we will remember who we are and we will stand for our values.”

Unlike Trump, who has relied on constant media attention and large stadium rallies, Cruz’s team focuses on the more nuts-and-bolts building blocks of a successful presidential campaign — delegate hunting, data, get-out-the-vote organizing. Outside of Indiana, his campaign has focused — often successfully — on picking off delegates wherever they can in an effort to hold Donald Trump below the magic number of 1237. They’re resourceful, even cutting a deal with Kasich to cede Oregon and New Mexico to him in exchange for Indiana after facing the reality that a contested convention was their only hope for the nomination.

But in recent days, many of Cruz’s hallmarks — his carefully calibrated message against Trump, his willingness to talk about the process of winning, and his ability to pull out an incredibly effective surrogate when needed — have faded.

Cruz has elevated his rhetoric against Trump, turning toward the moral case against the frontrunner, particularly after Trump suggested that Cruz’s father may have had something to do with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“I’m gonna tell you what I really think of Donald Trump,” Cruz told reporters in extended comments on Tuesday. “This man is a pathological liar.”

Cruz went on to call Trump “amoral,” saying “morality does not exist for him,” and said of Trump that “we are staring at the abyss.” The language is jarring compared to Cruz’s refusal to criticize Trump earlier on in the primary process, when his only response to Trump’s questioning his eligibility for the presidency was a tweeted Happy Days video

But that was then. Hillary Clinton is now a bigger, or I guess deeper, abyss than Donald Trump, and Cruz said Saturday at the Texas Tribune Festival, that while Trump has not apologized for what he retweeted about Heidi Cruz and said about Rafael Cruz, Cruz and his father and his wife have agreed to forgive Trump, clearing the way for an endorsement.

From the Blaze:

For Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), the decision to endorse Republican nominee Donald Trump wasn’t an easy one.

Although for the former Republican presidential nominee’s supporters the decision seemed to be sudden and rash, Cruz told KTRK-TV Friday that the decision to support Trump didn’t come as a result of a political deal, but rather it came after several months of thought and prayer.

And, it would seem, Trump’s improved standing in the polls.

But what of those, like Cruz until Friday, who felt that Trump held a special peril for the Republican Party, for America, for the planet?

From Eric Grieder:

I remember, from our conversation in May, how genuinely distressed he seemed at the realization that Trump would be the Republican nominee. I believe he was sincerely convinced that a Trump presidency would put the country, and the Constitution, in real peril. And I suspect that Cruz, in the privacy of the voting booth, may not tick the box for Trump in November.

At the same time, I’m aware that even before today’s news, it was tricky to persuade anyone to consider giving Cruz the benefit of the doubt about anything—and after today, it will be impossible. Either his endorsement is a pack of lies, or his speech at the RNC was: they can’t both be true. And though it’s possible that “Lyin’ Ted” might still one day become president, the odds, in my view, are now vanishingly narrow. We’ve all heard it a million times: “Everyone hates Ted Cruz.” And now he’s given this faceless “everyone” plenty of reason to do so.

And, the exact same day that Cruz announced he was backing Trump, the Houston Chronicle reported that Heidi Cruz was going back to work for Goldman Sachs:

Heidi Cruz, who left Goldman Sachs Group last year to help her husband Ted Cruz in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, is returning to the bank in a newly created role in the Houston office.

Cruz, 44, will concentrate on helping to win new clients, focusing on strategic relationships, according to a memo to staff Friday from Tucker York, global head of private-wealth management for the New York-based firm. She’ll report to David Fox, head of the southwest region for the wealth business.

Goldman also provided a crucial loan to Cruz’s Senate race, which he didn’t originally report. The Goldman name is not golden in tea party – or for that matter Bernie Sanders – circles.

From the Wall Street Journal today:

Millions of Republicans are agonizing over their presidential vote given the flawed main-party choices, and we know how they feel. Then there’s Ted Cruz, whose lane-jumping over Donald Trump is reminding Republicans why the Texas Senator lost to the New Yorker when he finally got the one-on-one primary showdown he wanted.

On Friday Mr. Cruz announced on Facebook that, after much “prayer and searching my own conscience,” he will vote for Mr. Trump after all on Election Day. He offered two reasons: “First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word”; and, second, Hillary Clinton “is wholly unacceptable.”

Those reasons are less than persuasive as both were also true two months ago when Mr. Cruz so ostentatiously refused to endorse Mr. Trump in his speech at the Republican convention. That non-endorsement was all the more striking because Mr. Cruz had helped Mr. Trump by kissing up to him for months during the primaries when the businessman might still have been defeated. He challenged Mr. Trump only when it was too late, and now he flips again to endorse him.

What has changed since July is Mr. Trump’s standing in the polls. Then it looked like he could lose in a blowout. Mr. Cruz was positioning himself as the principled conservative who could say he had warned Republicans so he could get a jump on the 2020 nomination. This was the post-convention line from the entire Cruz coterie.

Mr. Cruz’s problem is that the transparent calculation of his Cleveland speech alienated more Republicans than it won over, including many of his major campaign funders and Texas conservatives. Mr. Trump has since made it a close race, so Mr. Cruz risked getting some of the blame if the New Yorker loses. The polls show Mr. Cruz could also face a serious 2018 primary challenge from former Texas Governor Rick Perry or House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul. Friday’s reversal thus looks more like damage repair than political principle.

Mr. Cruz’s machinations won’t matter much in November but they are worth keeping in mind after the election. If Mr. Trump loses, the GOP will have to rebuild from the rubble of a third straight presidential defeat. Mr. Cruz is already planning his 2020 campaign and he will try to cast himself as the only true conservative. The Texan’s shape-shifting regarding Mr. Trump reveals his true political character.

Mr. Cruz’s calculations are also relevant for governing in the next Congress. If Mr. Trump loses and Republicans hold the House, they will need to stay united to eke out policy victories in a Hillary Clinton Presidency. Mr. Cruz will make that unity difficult by using his talk-radio and Heritage Foundation echo chambers to claim that any compromise with a President Clinton is an ideological sellout, even if it modestly advances conservative goals.

Republicans of good conscience can differ on the Trump candidacy given his sometimes incendiary comments and his changeable policy views. The way Mr. Cruz has handled the choice is a clinic in political cynicism.

As to Cruz’s talk-radio and Heritage Foundation echo chambers, it can well be argued that they laid the groundwork for Trump’s rise.

From the Texas Tribune Festival:

It’s too late to consider what-might-have-been, but it’s too bad Cruz couldn’t have gotten a gig a la his former communications director Rick Tyler at MSNBC, or Trump’s former campaign manger Corey Lewandowski with CNN, and been on the air tonight as Fox’s debate expert, offering his forensic analysis of the Clinton-Trump showdown. That could have been great.

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