The Donald Trump/Ted Cruz rally we saw on Monday night in Houston would have been inconceivable two years ago. But it happened, and so did the apex of Ted Cruz’s agonizingly long public humiliation.
At the 2016 Republican National Convention, Cruz took a gamble. Like Mitt Romney, who months before issued a blistering attack on then candidate Donald Trump, Cruz thought the odds were nearly nil that Trump would win the general election. And so, when Cruz assumed the lectern at the RNC, he memorably refused to endorse the man who had just defeated him in the primary. Rather than criticize Trump outright, he told Americans to vote their conscience in November, which earned him a shower of boos from convention attendees.
It was an extraordinary moment when the vanquished candidate declined to support his party’s nominee. However, it was more than fitting. Trump had lobbed unprecedented personal broadsides against Cruz and his family. Not only did Trump castigate “Lyin’ Ted,” he implied Cruz’s father was involved in President Kennedy’s assassination, and basically called Cruz’s wife Heidi ugly. Trump also threatened to “spill the beans” about her, baselessly conjuring up the vaguest possible innuendo for public consumption and speculation.
Trump wasn’t going to be president. That’s what everyone including Cruz believed; hence his non-endorsement, no doubt with an eye toward 2020 and a possible bid against Republicans’ erstwhile bugbear and she-devil Hillary Clinton. There, Cruz could play the role of a principled conservative and independent man who had done something unpopular among his own party in order to assuage his conscience and uphold his family’s dignity.
But a funny thing on the way to “Cruz 2020”: Trump won.
Then, just like Mitt Romney, Cruz changed his tune on Donald Trump. His home state of Texas voted for the walking Big Mac fart by nine points. Cruz saw the writing on the wall. It’s one thing to buck your party when your de facto leader is Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, or some other eggplant in a suit. It’s quite another when it’s the president of the United States and a man who, with a single tweet can sic legions of cult-of-personality brownshirts on any enemy. With Cruz up for reelection in 2018, maintaining such an anti-Trump stance would have devastating political consequences, not the least of which would be a surefire primary challenge from a pro-Trump Texan who could very well receive the political backing of Trump and access to the GOP’s massive fundraising apparatus. Opposing Trump would make Cruz a dead senator walking. Ask Bob Corker and Jeff Flake about that.
So Cruz did what ambitious politicians with no principles do when faced with a choice between maintaining their dignity and kissing a ring.
Cruz kissed the ring.
Monday’s rally was the peak of Lyin’ Ted’s three-year-long humiliation at the hands of Trump. This once seemingly proud Texan by way of Canada who had called Trump “a pathological liar” and emphatically demanded that Trump “leave Heidi the hell alone,” warmly embraced his family’s former tormentor at a rally in Houston on Monday night as he’s trying to fend off a feisty Democratic challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
“I am honored that President Trump is here endorsing and supporting my campaign,” Cruz fawningly bellowed. “And I look forward to campaigning alongside him in 2020 for his reelection as President of the United States!”
The whole spectacle was embarrassing and emasculating. For those watching, it was easy to feel humiliated for Cruz.
Before departing for the rally, Trump was asked by a reporter if he regretted implying Cruz’s father Rafael was involved in the Kennedy assassination. The president replied, “I don’t regret anything, honestly. It all worked out very nicely.” In other words, Trump’s baseless smear had no negative consequences for him and he became president instead of Cruz. Therefore, there’s no regretting anything, let alone apologizing. To regret is to introspect, and Trump does none of that.
As loathsome as Ted Cruz is, he’s owed an apology by Trump for the comments he made about his wife and father, who are also owed apologies. Cruz won’t get one, nor will he expect one. It is said, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” It would seem this goes double for public humiliation.